How to Safely Get Nail Glue Off Your Skin

Read this before you peel it.

How to Get Nail Glue Off Skin
Photo: Getty Images

You never fully appreciate your go-to nail technician until the first time you attempt to recreate an intricate nail art design you saved on Instagram.

Luckily, press-on nails exist. Not only are fake nails the easiest way to give yourself a professional-looking manicure at home, but they're also simple to apply. But press-ons have one learning curve: putting the right amount of nail glue on the right parts of the nail bed so the fake nails don't prematurely pop off.

However, if you find yourself getting a little overzealous with the nail glue, it's pretty easy to clean up. Ahead, two nail experts to share their tips for removing nail glue from the skin.

How Does Nail Glue Get Stuck on the Skin?

Rianna Basurto, a marketing associate at Bellacures, says it's as easy to get nail glue on your skin as it is to put the fake nail on.

"If you apply too much on the nail, the excess glue can seep out of the edges and get stuck on the skin," Basurto explains. "Nail glue can be difficult to remove because of the chemicals in it that make it a strong, long-lasting adhesive."

The same goes if you're using glue to add length, like gel or acrylic extensions. "When you cure under the light (for nail extensions), you don't want to cure the glue which can harden onto your skin," says Christina Kao, the co-founder of Le Mini Macaron. "It's the same as applying gel polish — we always recommend working with thin coats that you can build to avoid the polish curing onto your cuticles."

How to Prevent Nail Glue From Getting on Your Skin:

The best method to prevent nail glue from ending up on your skin? Practice.

"With any DIY nail application (whether gel polish or gel nail extensions, etc.), it's important to get used to the application process — it can take a few tries," Kao says. "We also recommend you always push back your cuticles to create space."

"Nail glue is very strong and a little goes a long way," Basurto confirms. "There are also nail glues that have a brush applicator, which makes it less likely for excess glue to come out."

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How to Get Nail Glue Off of Your Skin:

There are a few ways to get glue off your skin that don't require pulling or tearing at the skin.

  • Wipe it off: If the glue hasn't dried yet or hasn't been cured under a UV light, simply use a tissue or Q-Tip to wipe it off the skin.
  • Use acetone-based nail polish remover: Basurto says any product with acetone in it is great for removing nail glue from the skin. "Acetone is usually the best at dissolving the nail glue," she shares. "I recommend dipping a Q-Tip in the nail polish remover and gently rubbing it over the area of the skin that has glue on it."
  • Rub petroleum jelly on the glue: Alternatively, you can use petroleum jelly to dissolve the nail glue from the skin. "Apply it around the area that has the nail glue and rub/massage it into the skin," Basurto suggests.
  • Wash it off with soap and water: Use dish soap and water to scrub off the glue. Just be wary that this method may take longer than other options.

How to Care for Your Skin After Removing Nail Glue:

After you remove the glue, wash your hands with soap and water to ensure you've gotten rid of all of the residue along with whatever you used to get it off — especially if it's an acetone-based nail polish remover.

Acetone can be drying, so once your hands are clean, you should moisturize them. "Additionally, I'd recommend using a cuticle oil to moisturize the cuticles as well," says Basurto.

And if your nails are weak from using extensions, Kao suggests a gel nail recovery treatment like the one from Le Mini Macaron.

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