How do I grow out acrylic nails?
February 15, 2012 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Sister Mefites, how do I gracefully grow out acrylic nails?

I keep them short and lightly polished, but I wash my hands a zillion times a day and so you can imagine the havoc that's created between my natural nails and the acrylics. My nail person says that it's just too damaging (and ouchy) for her to pry them off. How do I grow them out without looking sloppy? Light- colored polish? Darker polish? And once they're grown out, has anyone had any luck with over the counter remedies? I can't take the oral medicine for nail fungus. Thanks for any advice for the icky question.
posted by puddinghead to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I used to have acrylics, and removed them two ways:
1) soaked them off in some sort of something at the nail place. Not sure what I was soaking them in, but it dissolved the glue or whatever, and then they can be taken off
2) I peeled them off myself after about 6 weeks.

The nails underneath were a mess, of course, but that's eay enough to color.

And over the counter remedies for what?
posted by brainmouse at 5:32 PM on February 15, 2012

I have no idea whether this is actually possible, but it might be worth checking into whether you could cut your nails/the acrylics short and then have someone skilled in uv gel-manicuring essentially use the gel as a stop-gap on your natural nail to create a smooth nail surface between your real nail and the acrylic while they're growing out.

I get uv-gel manicures which is essentially a thick layer of gel-polish on the nail giving it a smooth look (it doesn't add length at all, I think of it as like an extra-thick nail polish). The most common brands are Shellac and Harmony Gelish. So my thinking is that perhaps you could use the less-damaging gel to make the difference between your natural nail bed and the acrylic less obvious while it grows out. You would probably need to have it re-done every two to three weeks. It is possible to damage the nail with gel nail polish if you peel it off rather than having it removed by soaking it off at the salon though, so this may not be ideal - and like I said, I have no idea whether it's really even feasible, but it might be something to ask the salon about.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 5:36 PM on February 15, 2012

What? You nail person REFUSES to remove your nails? That is not something I've ever experienced at a salon. The removal of acrylic nails is not the damaging part. The acrylic nails + glue are what's actually damaging your nails. Go to a place that will remove the nails and give you a regular (NOT shellac, it's just about as damaging) manicure. They can file away the superficial damage for a while until your healthy nails grow back.
posted by two lights above the sea at 5:41 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I didn't do this right.

I guess that they're not acrylics, they're the kind that have to be filled in every couple of weeks. And there are a couple of discolored patches under the nail that look like fungus that I'll have to treat when these grow out (sorry, I didn't make that clear at all). And lastly, my nail tech didn't refuse to chip them off, she strongly discouraged it.
posted by puddinghead at 6:19 PM on February 15, 2012

That makes sense. It sounds like you have sculptured nails? Either way, I think the best thing to do is get them removed and heal the nails. You can even get them to do the whole manicure (including the filing to smooth the nail bed) and just not put on polish. There are cuticle moisturizers that can help grow out the healthy nails. I like this Burt's Bees one a lot. You are lucky that our nails grow outrageously fast; with any luck, you'll have your normal nails back in a few months! Good luck!
posted by two lights above the sea at 6:28 PM on February 15, 2012

Oh, and I know that the gel-type manicures are damaging based on personal experience. The manicure lasted a while, but by 2 weeks my nails had grown out so much that it looked bad. Upon removal of the gel, my nails were destroyed. This was in early-mid January. The damage is mostly gone now, and should be totally gone by mid-March.
posted by two lights above the sea at 6:30 PM on February 15, 2012

Go to the drugstore and get a bottle of acetone. It's in the nail section. Make sure it's acetone. The other stuff won't work. Acetone is the stuff they soak your nails in at the salon. Pour enough in some type of non-plastic container that's large enough to put your nails down into. Put your nails down in the acetone and let it dissolve the acrylic/gel. You can pull them out every now and then; they'll look like gelatin as they dissolve. You can use a paper towel or a nail file to scrub off what's dissolved. If it's still there, put your finger tips back in, wait and repeat. Repeat on each hand until they're off.

The black under your nails is mildew. It's when the acrylic/gel lifts from your nail or you get tiny hairline cracks on the edges and water gets under the acrylic. If your nail has lifted (either because you've waited too long between fill-ins or you've accidentally damaged them), it's better to just soak the nail off and go and get a refill, repair or replacement. Using superglue to reattach them only results in the mildew. The black will disappear from your nails over time as sunlight and air kill the mildew. Don't let them try to file it off, it's just weakening your nail.

In my experience the Gelish and other gel polishes (that are set by UV light) just peel off with virtually no damage to my nails. Acrylic and the other type of gel are the ones I have to soak off.

My nails are rather fragile and I've found the nail tech does more damage trying to peel or flake off the acrylic than just letting me sit and soak. They hate the sit and soak b/c it takes too much time. So I do it at home.

Finally, when you get really good at wearing the nails and don't have accidents, you can get away with longer than two weeks if you wear polish colors that are closer to your skin or nail bed color.
posted by elle.jeezy at 8:05 PM on February 15, 2012

I'll keep this short because it doesn't really seem relevant anymore but two lights above the sea, I think it's a matter of each person's nails and perhaps removal method but the only time I've had issues with gel manicures messing up my nails is when I get impatient and peel them off myself. When I go and have it removed at the salon or use 100% acetone to do it myself I've never had any problem, and I get this manicure all the time.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 9:30 PM on February 15, 2012

I agree that you can just soak them off with 100% acetone, which you can buy at the drugstore. It really shouldn't damage your nails more to remove them, though it's possible that they are already damaged from the application process.

I'm not sure how to treat the discolored patches (though dark polish would certainly cover it up).

I don't wear artificial nails myself, but when trying to grow out my nails, I used the 3-piece Sally Hansen Artificial Nail Rehab system . It's about $10, and available at most drugstores. It will form a protective coating on your real nails, and it doesn't build up like regular nail polish - you can just keep applying coats daily. I felt like it really helped my nails get stronger.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:38 PM on February 15, 2012

Whatever kind of nail enhancement you have, chipping isn't the way to remove it. Your nail tech is right - prying it off is damaging to your nailbed and will hurt.

If you don't want to sit with your fingernails in acetone (I don't have the patience) soak a cotton ball in acetone and wrap it in place over your fingernail with a bit of aluminum foil. Let it sit that way for ten minutes or so and the gel/acrylic will soften enough to remove without damaging your nails.

I can't recommend a specific over-the-counter antifungal because it's been ages, but I know I've used a polish-based one in the past and it did work. Hope that helps!
posted by Space Kitty at 10:45 PM on February 15, 2012

Oh, I tried the acetone method this summer and it drove me insane -- I still had to peck and scrape and peel, even after sitting with my nails in acetone for hours. Removing my gel nails took three hours and even then damaged my nails. Be warned. It can take forever.

They'll be weak and very thin, and they will take a long time to grow out. I love the look of gel nails, but I'm just not going there again.
posted by jrochest at 12:07 AM on February 16, 2012

You're gonna need acetone, two non-reactive bowls (like a glass one), a nail buffer (or a really fine grade pumice stone), and a regular nail file. You'll also need gentle soap and water, a good thick moisturizer (like avocado butter), lemon juice, two plastic bags, and a good movie. Eventually you'll want vinegar and baking soda.

1. Put on the movie. Fill the bowls with the acetone. Get comfy. Start soaking your nails. Chill out for a while -- say the first half of the movie -- and then check on your nails. You should be able to peel off your fake nails.

2. Pause the movie. Go wash your hands. When you get back, get comfy, and then start buffing your nails. This is going to take a bit, so put the movie back on.

3. When you're done buffing, your nails should be pretty smooth -- probably a little thin, though. :( Go ahead and shape them, using a regular nail file. They won't be as long as they were, but remember, you're sacrificing length for health.

4. This part is gonna sting like a motherfucker. Splash some lemon juice on your nails. Let it sit. Yeah, I know.

5. Go rinse off your nails, scratch anything that needs scratching, lather your hands up in butter, paying particular attention to your cuticles, then stick them into the bag.

6. Watch the rest of your movie. Hooray!
posted by spunweb at 12:25 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, I forgot about the vinegar and baking soda. In a couple weeks, you'll want to use that to clean your nails to make sure you don't have a fungus. You can use it on your toes too.
posted by spunweb at 12:26 AM on February 16, 2012

For a nasty fungal infection on my toenail years ago a podiatrist recommended Selsun blue anti dandruff shampoo, had to be Selsun Blue not head and shoulders as it has a fungicide in it. He said it did the same job as expensive creams but you got more for the price. It worked for me no worries at all. Just rub it into the nail and let it sit for a while and I have horribly thick and gnarly toenails. One of the best things you can do is let your nails get lots of fresh air and sunshine if possible.
posted by wwax at 8:19 AM on February 16, 2012

Ok, so: I think I have the nails you're talking about. Do you have the kind with the powder that gets made into a gel?

1. What you're describing (the fingus?) has never happened to me and believe me, I let mine grow out like crrrrrazy. No solutions, just saying it's not normal and maybe examine how it could have happened?

2. Your nail tech doesn't need to chip them off. She can soak them off, as described above, and then use the little whirring electric sander she used to get your nails smooth enough when she applied them to get the remaining softened gel off. She should really know this and I'm curious that she doesn't.

3. You should not chip them off yourself. Just to be clear. You can soak them off yoursef as described above (if you're in the UK you can use this, it's amazing).

4. If you just want them to look ok while you're growing them off, you can buff down the ridge where the plastic meets your real nail as they grow off your fingers. It's boring and you will also need to file back the nail itself as they'll get unbearably long and catch on things. It's also not foolproof and close examination will show the join.

5. You can only grow them out so far before the plastic is only on your nail tips (the white section that's free of your nailbed) and at this point you need to soak them off or have them soaked off. You will catch your nails on everything, bend them forwards/back, damage the nail underneath etc.

I have made myself an expert on this as I love how my nails look when they're all strong and not-bitten, but I hate the process of getting them put on or taken off. My current manicure has lasted since early December and has finally gotten to the point where I need to sort it out before the weekend.

If you want to discuss the finer points in any more detail, feel free to memail me!
posted by citands at 10:26 AM on February 16, 2012

Thank you, everyone, this was very helpful.
posted by puddinghead at 11:04 AM on February 19, 2012

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