Artificial nails are easy to use, and they help you look polished and sleek in minutes. You simply glue them on top of your natural nails, and you’re good to go — until you get some nail glue on your skin. Nail glue can be hard to remove, unless you do it correctly.

Nail glue contains cyanoacrylate, the same chemical found in many types of household super glue products. Despite this, nail glue and household super glue can differ in viscosity.

Unlike household glue, some formulations of nail glue may contain specific ingredients designed to support nail growth. Both superglue and nail glue are designed to dry quickly and will adhere tightly to nails. Both are also waterproof and turn clear when dry.

Glues that don’t contain cyanoacrylate, such as silicone adhesives, epoxy glues, wood glue or craft glue, may not adhere as well, or at all, to nails. Polyurethane-based glues can stain skin, and are messy to use. These are designed for heavy-duty construction projects, not artificial nail bonding.

What you need to remove nail glue

Getting artificial nail glue off skin requires specific items you may already have at home. They are:

  • nail polisher remover containing acetone
  • toothbrush, nail file, or nail buffer
  • container for soaking
  • any type of oil, such as olive oil, or baby oil, or petroleum jelly
  • warm, soapy water
  • cotton pads or balls

How to remove nail glue from skin

There are a number of techniques for removing nail glue from skin, but all require acetone. Not all nail polish removers contain acetone, so make sure you have the right kind before you begin. Here’s an effective technique you can try:

  1. Immerse your skin in warm soapy water. The warmer the better, just don’t scald yourself. Make sure the water is sudsy and soak for around 15 minutes. This will help loosen the nail glue from your skin.
  2. Gently scrub the area with a clean toothbrush, emery board, or nail buffer to help lift off bits of raised glue. Don’t rub or pull.
  3. Immerse the area in acetone-based nail polish remover, if possible. If not, soak a cotton ball or pad in the acetone solution and place onto the area. Hold for around 10 minutes. The combination of the acetone and the heat will help break the bond of the glue. Acetone can sting, so make sure to avoid any areas of open skin, such as paper cuts or hangnails.
  4. Gently brush the area again to remove any remnants of glue.
  5. Since acetone is drying, rub the area generously with oil or petroleum jelly. This will moisturize your skin and may help rub away any glue residue that remains.

Here’s an alternative method that also works well:

  1. Boil water and pour it into the bottom of a large basin.
  2. Place a small container of acetone-based nail polish remover into the basin of hot water, immersing it almost to the top to warm it. Make sure the water doesn’t get into the acetone solution, as this will dilute it, making it ineffective.
  3. Soak your skin in the warmed acetone solution for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Gently buff or brush off the loosened glue.
  5. Apply oil or petroleum jelly to the area, and gently rub off any glue remnants that remain with a circular motion.

What not to do

The harsh chemicals in artificial nail glue and acetone can weaken or damage your nails. Consider using fabulous fakes only for special occasions or emergencies. If you can’t do without them, try to take some breaks as often as you can so your own nails can breathe.

When removing nail glue from skin, resist the urge to pull or force it off. This can result in ripping your skin or cuticle.

Don’t remove nail glue from lips, eyes, or eyelids with an acetone-based product. If you get nail glue on these areas, soak with warm water and see a doctor.

The takeaway

Getting nail glue on skin can happen easily when applying artificial nails. The chemicals that make nail glue strong also make it hard to remove. Acetone is the best at-home removal option. Make sure to use acetone-based products correctly, so you don’t rip your skin or dry it out.