Once you have gone more than four weeks without getting your acrylic nails filled or you have a missing or broken nail, you will likely need to remove your current set before putting on another. There are many do-it-yourself approaches found online, but many of them involve forcibly removing the acrylic nail. This process can also remove layers of your natural nail along with the acrylic nail causing your nails to become thin and weak. Salons often hastily remove them with a drill leaving unsightly indentions. Fortunately, there is a safe way to remove acrylic nails at home.
Trim your nails
You want to start by trimming your acrylic nails to make them shorter. If you look at the underside of the acrylic nails, you can see where your natural nail has grown. You can trim just to the tip of the natural nail or trim your natural nail as well. If you don't have a nail trimming tool, you can use nail clippers and clip them on each side at the length you would like them to be. Next, proceed to trim small pieces off of the tip until you reach where you clipped them. You may find it easier to use toenail clippers since they open wider than regular nail clippers.
Soak in nail polish remover
The main purpose here is to remove the nail polish to allow the acetone you will be using in a later step to soak into the acrylic more quickly. You can use regular, non-acetone nail polish remover for this step to limit the amount of time you need to soak your nails in acetone. Many people find acetone to be very drying, so this will allow you to spend less time exposing your skin to it. Non-acetone nail polish will loosen the glue that holds the acrylic to the nail bed, but it doesn't dissolve the acrylic the way acetone does. Because of this, non-acetone nail polish can't remove the acrylic nails without damaging the natural nail. Soak your nails for five minutes.
Remove the nail polish
Acrylic nails often have a base coat, two or three layers of polish, and a top coat resulting in a heavy build-up of polish. This is because nail polish bonds more strongly to acrylic nails than natural nails. The added layers won't chip off of acrylic nails as easily as natural nails. Gently rub the nail polish with a cotton ball or makeup remover pad until it comes off. Because there is usually a large amount of it, you may need to soak the nails a second time to remove all of the polish.
Buff the surface of the acrylic
The next step is to buff the top of the acrylic surface with the rough side of your nail file or nail buffer. The purpose of this step is to make deep creases in the acrylic surface to allow the acetone to penetrate as much as possible. This will speed up the removal process and minimize the soaking time. You can also spend some extra time buffing to remove more of the acrylic, so the remaining layer is thin. Buff in all directions making the surface as rough as possible.
Soak nails in acetone
Before putting your skin in acetone, protect it by putting a liberal layer of petroleum jelly all around the nail bed. Use 100% acetone, which will dissolve the acrylic. You can soak your nails in a bowl or, to use less of the acetone, soak your nails in the corner of a resealable plastic bag. Acetone may dissolve some plastic bowls, so make sure to use a metal, ceramic, or glass bowl. To protect your skin, even more, soak cotton balls in acetone and place them over the acrylic nails. Then wrap foil around them to allow the acetone to soak into the acrylic nails. Soak for five minutes.
Scrape off the soft acrylic
After the acrylic has soaked in acetone, it will become very soft. Use a tool like a nail scraper, or just a wooden cuticle remover, and gently scrape the acrylic off of the nail. It should come off easily. If the acrylic starts to harden, resoak it until it is soft again. Do one hand at a time, so the acrylic doesn't harden while you are still trying to finish your first hand.
You will continue to repeat this process with each finger until you remove all of the acrylic. It should only take a few times soaking and scraping to get it all off. The advantage of this approach is that you aren't pulling the acrylic off of the nail bed, but gently scraping it away as it dissolves. Once you have gotten most of it off of one hand, start the process over again on your second hand.
Buff surface of nails
After you have finished repeating the process of soaking and scraping the acrylic off of your nails, you may notice small bits of acrylic still left on your nail beds. Rather than continue to soak and scrape, you can remove these residual pieces of acrylic by filing with your nail buffer. This time, file using the smoother side of the nail buffer and gently buff until your nail surface is smooth.
Apply cuticle oil
Once you have finished buffing, wipe off the petroleum jelly, apply cuticle oil to your nail bed, and buff it in. This will help moisturize your nails after using the acetone. Apply more cuticle oil to your cuticles and the skin around your nail bed and massage it in. If you don't have cuticle oil, you may use coconut oil or even olive oil or vegetable oil.
Once you are finished removing your acrylic nails, it might not be a good idea to put another set on right away. Instead, you can just put a top coat of clear nail polish or a nail strengthener. You can certainly use colored polish as well, but you should give your nails a couple of days of rest before putting on another full set of acrylic nails.