I’m a diehard fan of nail polish but I almost never wear it. The biggest reason? That gross nail polish remover that comes with it. My mom always taught me that no polish is better than chipped polish, and nothing gets rid of flaky tips quite like acetone polish remover. So I stopped using polish altogether in order to avoid the fumes and chemicals that accompany traditional remover. But it turns out you don’t really need to go that far. There are DIY nail polish remover alternatives—cheap, natural ones at that—that you probably already have on hand (pun totally intended). Here’s how to remove nail polish without nail polish remover.
How to remove nail polish without nail polish remover
Before we dive in, let’s talk about nail polish remover for a second. What makes it so nasty? Well, it comes down to acetone and its cousins, butyl acetate, ethyl acetate and isopropyl acetate. Acetone is most often used as a paint thinner – and that’s exactly what makes it so great at removing nail polish. But it’s also super harsh, especially when it comes in contact with skin.
Sporadic use can cause skin to become red and irritated. But chronic exposure removes a lot of natural oils from your skin, leading to red, dry, cracked fingers and toes. It’s also been shown to cause headaches, dizziness and eye and throat irritation if you use it in an enclosed space.
All in all, while occasional use is fine (think once or twice a year), if you paint your nails a lot you might want to switch to a gentler alternative.
DIY Nail Polish Remover
Now, let’s just get something out there: natural alternatives will take longer than conventional methods. I mean you’re not chemically melting the paint off your fingertips, so it’s bound to take a bit of elbow grease. Personally, I’m fine with DIY nail polish remover if I get to skip the headaches, dizziness and eye irritation that comes with sniffing paint thinner.
Here are some of my favorite ways to remove nail polish without nail polish remover.
Straight alcohol helps to break down the polish much like acetone, except without the harsh chemicals. Reach for either 80+ proof vodka or straight rubbing alcohol and a few cotton balls. Then apply it to nails like you would regular remover. If needed, let it soak into nails for a few minutes to soften the polish, then scrub away.
White Vinegar + Lemon
An alternative to alcohol, the acid in vinegar is said to soften nail polish while the lemon juice boosts its effectiveness and gives a fresh(er) scent. Pour some vinegar into a small bowl and add the juice of 1-2 lemons. Use a cotton ball to apply and gently scrub away at the polish. If needed, gently file off any remaining specks of paint.
A dollop of toothpaste (especially the baking soda kind) is all you need to get rid of lingering polish. Simply dab a pea-size amount onto nails and buff in a circular motion using a paper towel. As you scrub, the paint will slowly wear away until you’re left with perfectly clean nails.
In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide with ¼ cup hot water and soak for 10 minutes. Once the polish has softened slightly, gently scrape off the polish as best you can. Use a nail file or buff block to remove any stubborn bits.
Peel it off
This isn’t the most mind-blowing of methods, but sometimes the easiest thing to do is just peel it off. Personally, I love this method because it’s even a little fun, if you’re into that sort of thing. If your polish won’t peel off in large chunks, go ahead and add another coat of paint. The solvents in nail polish will soften the old coat, making it easier to peel or wipe away.