How to Get Nail Polish off Skin

We’ve all needed to get nail polish off our skin at one point. Don’t fear; we’ve all been there. It’s practically a right of passage.

That’s the problem with doing our nail polish at home. It can get particularly tricky when you need to do your dominant hand. 

You’re lucky if you have a friend to help you out. But more than likely, you decided to pamper yourself while home alone. 

And if a bottle of wine and snacks were involved? Well, at least we can blame the messy manicure on the wine.

But fear not, we’ve got you covered. Below are 8 methods for removing nail polish from the skin. Many of them are households items too. You won’t have to rush to the store to get anything. 

We’ve also added a way to prevent future nail polish stains on your skin. It’s a simple and effective method, and you might be surprised that you didn’t think of it. We certainly were. 

What This Article Covers:

Nail Polish Remover

This is the most obvious option for removing nail polish from the skin. You can use acetone or a non-acetone nail polish remover. But it’s best to use a non-acetone remover for this. 

Acetone is a powerful chemical. It can irritate skin and the vapors can burn the sinuses and eyes. Our genius remover doesn’t contain any acetone. It’s completely safe to use on your skin.

how to get nail polish off skin around nails

You also shouldn’t use cotton balls for this. The nail polish remover will end up dripping onto your nails and ruin your manicure.

So, how to remove nail polish without cotton balls? Paper towels work better than cotton balls. It's sturdier and you can fold it too. You’ll be able to work around the nail with relative ease.

But you can also use a Q-tip for extra precision. There’s less chance of the remover dripping onto your fresh manicure with a Q-tip. 

Soak It

Soaking your hands in warm, soapy water is the gentlest method. For those with extra sensitive skin, this would be ideal. 

Soak your hands (or feet) for about 5 minutes and then gently rub the stained skin. You might need to do this multiple times. 

If it doesn’t work, you can gently scratch the nail polish off with your nails. The dried polish will be soft enough that it should come off easily with your nails.

This is how to get dried nail polish out of fabric too.

Alternatively, you can soak a paper towel in warm water. You can then use it to scrub the nail polish off your skin. 

Or, you can shower or bathe after your manicure. This works the same way soaking does.


White toothpaste makes a great homemade nail polish remover. 

Toothpaste contains ethyl acetate. This is a key ingredient in non-acetone nail polish removers. This makes toothpaste great for getting nail polish off the skin.

It’s mild too, which is perfect for sensitive skin.

Add a bit of toothpaste to a paper towel and rub it onto the stained area. Gently scrub the skin until clean. You might need to add more toothpaste as needed. 

You’ll need to wash your skin with soap and water once done. 

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol, or any alcohol-based product, is a good nail polish remover alternative. You can use this to remove nail polish remover from a wooden table as well.

If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, you can use hair spray, perfume, or similar products. 

These are weaker than acetate, and this is gentler on the skin. Soak a Q-tip in your chosen product and apply it to the stained area.

Scrub the area gently until it’s free of nail polish. You might need to do this multiple times until the area is clean.

Remember to wash your hands with water and soap once you’re done. You will need to clean any traces of the product off. 

Remember that alcohol-based products can dehydrate the skin. Rub some creme, or oils into your skin to rehydrate it.

how to remove nail polish off skin

Fun fact: you can use clear spirits like vodka and gin too. This is obviously a last resort. No one really wants to use their liquor as a stain-remover.

Baby Wipes

Baby wipes work best with still-wet nail polish. 

The oils contained in the wipes are great for dissolving all sorts of stains. If you’re a parent then you know that baby wipes work for everything.

We use them to clean sticky fingers and faces, and even dirty countertops. And let’s be honest about that spilled juice on the floor too. 

how to get nail polish off skin without ruining nails

Because these wipes are created for babies, it's perfect for sensitive skin. But if the nail polish is already dry, you’ll have better luck with a different method.

Vinegar and Lemon Mix

This all-natural stain cleaner is a great way to remove lacquer nail polish. 

Most households use vinegar and lemon mix to clean their houses. We use it to clean our stovetops, counters, and even burned pots.

Soak a paper towel or Q-tip in the mix and use it to gently scrub the stained skin. 

It’s milder than rubbing alcohol so you will likely need to repeat the process a few times.

You are going to want to wash your hands thoroughly after this. While effective, the vinegar scent can sink into the skin. Vinegar-smelling skin is not pleasant.

Use soap and water to remove the excess vinegar and the scent. Vinegar is acidic too, so be sure to rehydrate the skin with lotion.

Coconut or Vitamin E Oil

how to remove gel nail polish from skin

This is another case of coconut oil proving its versatility. The oil has become popular for its hair and skin benefits. But coconut oil is a metabolism booster too, and can even relieve inflammation.

It shouldn’t be surprising that it can be used as a stain remover as well. 

Apply a little oil to a Q-tip and scrub the stained skin. It might take a while and you’ll have to add more oil as needed. 

If you don’t have coconut oil, you can use vitamin E or olive oil too. 

The great thing about this method is that moisturizes while it cleans. You might want to wash your hands to remove the excess oil.

Nail Polish

Applying a fresh coat of nail polish on the dried polish works too. 

Don’t believe us? Remember all those times when you added the second coat of polish and everything smudged? This is the same principle. 

The fresh nail polish will soften the dried polish. You will need to wipe it all off immediately to avoid a bigger stain. 

Use a paper towel to clean the polish off. A cotton ball will stick to the wet polish and cause a huge mess. 

Of course, you might be hesitant to waste your nail polish like this. It’s for this reason that it’s probably best as a last resort.


All right, we’ve given you the means to remove nail polish from your skin. But what about preventing the stain altogether?

It’s like they say: “Prevention is better than a cure”. 

There are two popular (and easy) ways to prevent nail polish from staining your skin. You can either use vaseline or white school glue.

We know. It seems kind of obvious now that you’re reading it. But don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Sometimes the most obvious solutions are often overlooked.

If you’re going to use vaseline, use a Q-tip. We’ve said this a lot in this article, but please...use a Q-tip. It improves your precision and prevents a mess. 

Outline the nail with vaseline, focusing on the cuticles and the skin around the nail. Once your nail polish is dry, use a clean Q-tip to remove the vaseline. 

Use the white glue in the same way. You’ll need to give it a few minutes to dry before applying your nail polish.  

Once your nails are dry, the fun part begins. And yes, it is fun. I’m sure you remember painting white glue on your palms during class just to peel it off. The same rules apply here. 

And voila! No more nail polish-stained fingers. 

Final Word

These methods are only for removing lacquered nail polish. They likely won’t work for removing gel nail polish.

With gel nail polish, prevention is really your best bet. In any case, not many of us use gel polish at home, preferring the salon. 

Most of the methods mentioned above are suitable for sensitive skin. But, it’s always a good idea to give your skin some love (unless you used coconut oil, of course).

Remember to wash your skin with soap and water. This is necessary if you used alcohol-based products or vinegar. Both can dehydrate the skin and leave a strong scent behind. 

Once your skin is clean, rehydrate with a moisturizer of your choice.

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