How to Remove Glitter Nail Polish

Nail pro Jessica Washick shares the best tips you've never heard.

How to Remove Glitter Nail Polish
(Image credit: Marie Claire)

We take a go-big-or-go-home approach when it comes to holiday nails—the more they resemble a disco ball, the better. But the downside of any party—be it in your home or on your hands—is the cleanup, even more so when there's glitter involved. We asked manicurist Jessica Washick (opens in new tab) to share her best tips for removing the most stubborn sparkle. 

1. Buff your nails to a shiny finish. "If you're applying regular nail polish, you want to buff to a matte finish so the nail is more porous, which allows the polish to adhere better and last longer, but glitter is a different story. Glitter polishes are made with a glue-like formula that seals the glitter into the polish so it doesn't just flake away while you're wearing it—that's why it's so difficult to remove. A high-shine buff makes it harder for the polish to adhere and therefore easier to remove," says Washick. 

2. Don't fight oil. Instead of removing cuticle oil with an acetone-soaked pad to dehydrate the nails before polish application, just use a paper towel to wipe it off. A little bit of oily residue will keep the glitter from bonding too strongly and protect the nail bed.

3. Swap out your regular base coat for a DIY Elmer's Glue version. Painting glue on your nails sounds scary, but if you remember Elmer's from arts & crafts class, you know how easily it peels off. If you mix it with a bit of water and brush it on before your polish, it'll make the removal process painless. But, says Washick, this is a trick that works best if you want you change your manicure up every couple of days, as regular showering and hand-washing will break down the glue quickly.  

4. Apply two coats of the base. "This will make removing it slightly easier because it's creating space between the naked nail and the polish," says Washick, who adds that it's most effective when done in conjunction with the buffing and oiling. 

1. Buff to break the seal. Too much buffing can damage the nail, but you want to get the first layer off and rough up the polish a little.

2. Treat glitter like it's gel.  "I like to break off small pieces of a cotton ball or thin, felt-like material, saturate it in nail polish remover [it doesn't have to be acetone; try Zoya Remove 3-in-1 Formula (opens in new tab) and place it directly on the nail. If you're in a hurry, you can wrap your fingers in tinfoil and go in the sunlight or hold the foil-wrapped nail in the palm of your hand, as the heat will speed the process up. After three to five minutes, pull the cotton ball off your nail and the glitter should mostly be gone."

3. Hydrate and repair. If your nails feel a little more sensitive than usual, apply a strengthening treatment coat like Essie Millionails (opens in new tab) and work cream or oil into the cuticles. 

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Alexandra Tunell
Alexandra Tunell

Alexandra Tunell is the Senior Digital Beauty Editor at Harper's BAZAAR, where she writes beauty features and covers industry news, health, fitness and wellness trends. She began her career in the Lucky beauty closet, then went on to work at Allure. When she's not testing the latest skin care treatments, the Los Angeles native is searching the city for the best Mexican food, binge-watching Bravo and escaping to the beach as often as possible.