You may be wondering how to remove water based nail polish. Many people who try water based nail polishes find them difficult to remove. I would like to share with you some tips and tricks that I have learned.
Water-Based and Solvent-Based Nail Polish Are Fundamentally Different
First of all, when removing water based nail polish, use a remover intended for use with water based nail polishes. These removers are often water, soy, or corn alcohol based. Acetone based or similar removers are not likely to work on water based polish. Let me explain why.
Water based and solvent based nail polish are fundamentally different at a chemical level. Regular solvent based nail polish is made from nitrocellulose dissolved in volatile solvents such as butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, or even toxic toluene. Regular nail polish is in the form of a solution, meaning that the nitrocellulose is evenly distributed throughout the liquid solvents. When regular nail polish is painted onto nails the solvents quickly evaporate and leave behind a hard film of nitrocellulose. Regular nail polish can later be removed by reversing this process. Nail polish removers containing the same or similar solvents as regular nail polish once again dissolve the nitrocellulose and lift it off of your nails.
In contrast, water based nail polish is made out of an acrylic polymer emulsion. A polymer is simply a substance that has a molecular structure consisting of repeating units.1 The fact that it is an emulsion means that the tiny particles of acrylic are suspended in water. However, the acrylic polymers are not actually dissolved in the water. After the water based nail polish is painted onto nails it slowly dries. The water gradually evaporates into the air or soaks into the nails. The tiny acrylic polymer molecules touch each other and join into longer polymer chains. These bonds hold the acrylic polymers together much more tightly than the nitrocellulose in regular nail polish is held together. Water based nail polish that has fully cured cannot simply be dissolved with mild solvents the way that regular nail polish can. Instead, the bonds of the polymer chains must be broken. This is why water based nail polish that has been worn for a long time can be difficult to remove.
Removing Peel-Off Water-Based Nail Polish
If the water based nail polish is a peel-off formula it should be easy to remove. Soak your nails in warm water for five minutes or remove during a bath or shower. Loosen the polish near your cuticle and peel the polish off in one piece. If it is difficult to peel off or is damaging your nail plate, you probably left the polish on your nails for too long. Peel-off polishes should only be worn for one or two days. If the polish is sticking too strongly to your nails, follow the directions for removing non-peel-off formulas.
Removing Non-Peel-Off Water-Based Nail Polish
If you want to remove wet polish from your skin or nails before it has dried, simply use water or a toothpick dipped in water.
Water based nail polishes become more difficult to remove after 5 or 6 days of wear. If you leave water based nail polish on your nails for more than 1 week it may be best to let the polish grow out.
For removing water based nail polish within one week of application, the key is to use a remover meant for water based nail polish. Most brands of water based nail polish sell their own remover. However, since there are similar ingredients in most water based nail polishes, the removers should work on multiple brands of water based polish.
Steps for removing:
- To start with, the best time to remove water based nail polish is right after a bath or shower. The nail polish will have absorbed water and be easier to remove. Alternatively, you can start the removal process by soaking your nails in warm water for five minutes.
- For removal, it is important to use cotton rounds or fabric that have some texture to them. Plain cotton balls do not have enough texture to grab onto the nail polish.
- Soak a cotton pad in remover and swipe the remover across each nail. Allow the remover to soak in for about one minute.
- With a cotton pad soaked in remover wipe each nail for a bit, alternating nails.
- If the polish still is not coming off of your nails, try soaking your nails in warm water for another five minutes.
- Continue wiping nails with remover.
- If only a little bit of polish is left on the sides of your nails you can scrape it off with a wooden cuticle stick while your nails are submerged in warm water.
- Wash your hands with soap and water and dry them.
- Moisturize your hands with jojoba oil or a hand lotion.
Tips for extremely stubborn nail polish:
- Alternate using nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol to wipe off the polish.
- Apply jojoba oil or another type of cuticle oil once per day while wearing the nail polish. This will help the polish to not adhere too strongly to your nails.
Removing Particular Brands of Water Based Nail Polish
For information regarding removing particular brands of water based nail polish see the following posts:
What has your experience been with removing water based nail polish?