Shellac Nail Polish Removal

Shellac nails are amazing. I mean, there is virtually no drying time, they last for almost two weeks, and they barely chip. They are the new generation of manicures. Almost sounds too good to be true, right? Well, for such a great manicure, there are tradeoffs. In this case, the tradeoff for beautiful nails that last nearly two weeks is the difficult removal process.

Shellac nails cannot be removed with regular nail polish remover. In fact, even 100% acetone takes its time to work through the layers of gel. There isn’t a special polish remover for shellac nail polish available yet. So, when you are in a bind or don’t particularly feel like having someone charge you $5-$10 to have your polish removed, here is a way to remove your own shellac polish at home.

Supplies to remove shellac nail polish

What you’ll need:

  • 100% acetone (please note the one in the photo above is NOT 100% acetone. I realized this after I used it, but it still works for this purpose).
  • Buffer
  • Orange/cuticle stick
  • Cotton balls/pads
  • Aluminum foil (enough to wrap around all 10 fingers)

Cotton pads

Step 1. Break out the cotton! I had cotton pads on hand, so I cut them in half. Soak them in acetone until fully drenched. Then, wrap the pad around your nail, and secure the pad with aluminum foil.

Be prepared, acetone may start to drip down from your fingers, so you may want to use another cotton pad (or paper towel) to wipe it up.

Wrap fingers in cotton and aluminum foil

Step 2. Continue this process on all your nails. I highly recommend working one hand at a time. The process is too messy to work on both hands at the same time. Wait 10 minutes.

Flaking nail polish

Step 3. Has it been 10 minutes? Good. Slide your nail out of the aluminum form, and you’ll see something like above. Flaking polish. The more flakes, the better.

Step 4. Use the orange stick to gently lift and scrape the polish off your nails. Be careful, as this can lift the top layers of the nail if the polish hasn’t been loosened enough. If you notice your polish isn’t coming off easily, slide your finger back into it’s aluminum form and let the acetone work for a few more minutes.

Removed nail polish, all nails

Removed nail polish, zoomed

Step 5. Once your polish has been removed, it’ll look like above. Gross, right? Well, now is the time to buff and clean those nails up! Follow the steps on your buffer for the best results.

Fully buffed, ready to go nails

There we go, nails looking good as new again! In fact, they are ready for some nail polish if you like. The surface should now be smooth.


  • Using the aluminum foil method, rather than submerging the hand in acetone, helps ensure that the skin is not dried out. Acetone is a strong chemical, so it’s best to try the least damaging method for removal first.
  • The aluminum foil method can take a long time. It can take about an hour to fully remove the polish and buff all nails to perfection yourself. Keep that in mind. This remove process won’t happen in 15 minutes.
  • Find 100% acetone. I was able to get away with a product that was mostly acetone, but 100% acetone will work even better. You may have to read all the chemicals ingredients on the label, or you may need to venture into a beauty supply store to get the right stuff.

Do you have any tips for removing shellac nail polish? Please share!

52 thoughts on “Shellac Nail Polish Removal

  1. Your shellac removal worked like a charm! I went a little further and left acetone on fifteen minutes, plus I bagged my hand in a quart size plastic bag with a rubber band around my wrist to provide a little warmth. Polish came right off. I wouldn’t hesitate to do shellac polish again. Plus I did French style manicure, and it didn’t show nail growth so fast. Mine lasted 2 1/2 weeks!

  2. I tried it, too, and it worked great. Thanks for the post! I had the shellac removed at the salon a couple of weeks ago, but the tech was using these wraps, sort of like band-aids, that were designed by the shellac company. They did not work nearly as well as foil, and thus here I am a couple of weeks later trying to get the remnants of it off my nails. The foil keeps the acetone in direct contact with the nail, which is very important. Run away from those new-fangled band-aids and demand foil if anyone tries to sell you on them!

    1. Glad it worked well for you! The last time I talked to a nail technician, she told me there weren’t any perfect shellac nail polish removers on the market yet and that they still use acetone to remove shellac. Acetone + foil really get the job done!

  3. I haven’t had time to visit the salon to get it removed and was desperate for a good solution. I did this last night, using the exact same polish remover in your picture (already had it on-hand), and it successfully removed my shellac!! Thank you SO much for sharing this! It saved me time (and money) by doing it at-home!

  4. Thanks so much for posting this! I had my first shellac manicure a couple of weeks ago. I had no idea it didn’t come off like regular polish. I actually used acetone free polish remover, it’s what I had on hand, and it worked! I left it on for 15-20 minutes, though. Thanks again!

    1. Wow, I’m surprised regular nail polish remover worked for you since shellac is pretty difficult to remove, but I’m glad it did!!!

  5. This sounds like a great plan. I will be headed to the store shortly to get the supplies I need. Wish me luck! :)

  6. Thank you so much for your help,I havent tried yet but as far as I can see works for everyone and I will be doing this tonight!:)
    Come later tomorrow to let u know how well I done lol

  7. Thank you so much for posting this! The girl that did my nails last didnt do such a good job and one of the nails peeled off tonight. I was desperate for a way to get this shellac off! I’m waiting for hand #2 to finish up right now :) this technique worked wonders! I love shellac and now that I know how to remove it I will be getting it again! thanks!

  8. If you buff the shiny coat with a very fine emery board, so as to rough up the top coat, the acetone / foil trick works a little faster. Careful not to buff too deeply

  9. It worked! Awesomeness, thank you – I used nail varnish too, couldn’t find 100% acetone, and had to make do with cling film but now my nails look spangdangulous and I don’t have 2 1/3 week regrowth ruining the look.
    Thank you!

  10. I have Shellac on my nails as a French manicure, and love it. It was done eleven days ago and still looks great, even with growth. Don’t really want to pay to have it removed, as will work out really expensive. So reading all the advice and it sounds good, is brilliant. Thank you. Will let you know how I get on.

    1. Cool! I’ve never done a French shellac manicure before but I’m sure it looks fab! Hope that when the time comes, removal is a breeze with my tutorial!

  11. Hi there, You have done an incredible job. I will definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends.

    I am sure they will be benefited from this site.

  12. Love the tip thanks! I am lucky in that my salon remove for free, even when I don’t get a new shellac polish, but will use your tip for when we’re on holiday – 3 weeks of regrowth looks very wrong!

  13. Thanks for the help. I had my nails shellaced 4 weeks ago! They still look perfect with no chips at all – though they look bad because they’ve grown out. I’m going to take the Shellac off now.

    1. have never had shellac before till 3 weeks ago I am so impressed not a chip or mark on my nails and yes have 2 teenage kids so I am always washing up other than re growth they are still perfect

  14. Thanks for the info, I’m going to do it now. I had my nails Shellaced 4 weeks ago, and they’re still perfect apart from growing out. So that’s why I’m wanting to remove the Shellac.

  15. Thank you so much, it really does work…all this time I’ve been picking it off…what a time waster and ruins the nails! Thx again

  16. Thank you so much, it really does work…all this time I’ve been picking it off…what a time waster and ruins the nails! Thx again

  17. Thanks so much for this! I cunningly used a “normal” nail polish (of the same colour as the shellac to fill in the regrowth) so have had great looking nails for 9 weeks! Thanks to your page, its all off now though. :-) Excellent tips – thanks again!

  18. WORKED AWESOME. I was afraid do shellac a 2nd time because the first time was a nightmare to remove plus it was the glitter which made it even harder to get off. Needless to say I wrecked my nails. This time I did a solid color and followed these instructions and it worked and did not wreck my nails. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS PAGE AND EASY INSTRUCTIONS WITH PICTURES! ♥

    1. I’m so glad this worked out well for you! Hopefully now you aren’t afraid to get shellac on your nails anymore :)

  19. This is the third time I have done the shellac… never again! It has never lasted longer than a week. Starts peeling and chipping near my cuticles, then catches on everything. Three different nail salons, same result. I am so sad! I will be trying this tonight to get the rest of this off. My nails are more than embarrassing :(

  20. The tip worked a treat – but be careful not to get the acetone on your varnished wood table! It will also remove the varnish….

    1. So glad the tip worked for you! And yes, acetone can easily remove a finish on a wooden table (speaking from experience here!). Thanks for the tip!

  21. So I have tried three different times and even heated the acetone in warm water and this still will not come off. This was supposed to be a shellac manicure but it isn’t removing like one. Step one was filing the shine off and soak in 100% acetone for 10 to 15 minutes (tried both the bowl and wraps). Tried soaking longer and tried heating the acetone than soaking. The polish does not flake nor can it be loosened. Everything I’ve read suggests this should come off. Anyone have any idea as to what was used in my “shellac” manicure and other than filing the stuff off (which I am also doing), how it can be removed? I have had gel manicures in the past and have always been able to remove the polish using your method.

  22. This method sounds good and no doubt works well but I have an easier method that my niece told me about. Just peel the shellac off (use a cuticle stick to get started if needed), file and or buff them, and you’re done. Takes about 15mins to do both hands, and no need for nail polish remover. Was so easy, it’s ridiculous! If you do the dishes afterwards with no gloves on any glue remaining will disappear. My shellac lasted nearly 3 weeks without chipping, love it! :)

  23. I just peeled mine off like DI did. I didn’t have the acetone and was too lazy to go to the store. It took me about 5 minutes on each hand and then I buffed the extra glue off and washed my nails. I rubbed lotion into them too and they look fine. I do keep my nails short so maybe someone with long nails wouldn’t abuse theirs like peeling the shellac off but it saved me a trip to the salon, and/or store.

  24. Great post! Thank you. I also think I am going to try to put an old moist hot pack on top to see if that helps as I saw it done with a heating pad in the salon once.

  25. I wish I would have known this before I removed my shellac myself. I used a metal nail file, it did a lot of damage to the top layer of my nails. I still have a little bit left on my index finger, so I’m going to try this method. I did this before when I had a gel fill manicure with the white french tip and it worked, but I still had a lot of damage to my nails. I love the shellac compared to the gel fill. Any way I’m going to give this method a try to remove the last little bit and I’ll remember for future reference to do it this way instead of using a nail file, that was kind of painful.

  26. I have a question also. Do you know if this method would work for removing shellac from toes? I don’t want to go to a salon and pay money if I can do it myself.

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