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How to Get Hair Dye off of Acrylic Nails

06 Sep 2023
How to Get Hair Dye off of Acrylic Nails

Home hair dye’s having a bit of a moment - COVID forced many of us to start using boxed dye instead of the salon, and a lot haven’t switched back. But while a home dye job is both inexpensive and easy to fit into your schedule, it can mean staining both the bathroom and your gorgeous manicure.

Wondering how to remove hair dye off acrylic nails? How do you avoid a salon visit to get your nails removed? The expert team at NotPolish is here to answer all that and more in this blog post.

A Bit of Science

Before we move to how to get hair dye off acrylic nails, let’s take a look at the science. It helps explain why nails, both natural and acrylic, are so attracted to the pigments in hair dye.

Hair Dye

Hair dye comes in temporary, permanent, and demipermanent. The difference among the three is whether and by how much they open the hair cuticle, the layer of dead cells that covers and protects every hair strand. While every kind of hair dye can stain acrylic nails, some dyes also contain additional harsh chemicals.

Permanent and demipermanent dyes open the hair cuticle so their dyes can penetrate into the cortex of the hair, where most of the pigmentation is stored. A strong alkaline substance is needed for this job - many hair dyes use ammonia.

Most permanent hair dyes also contain a certain amount of hydrogen peroxide, even if the shade is darker. This is to make sure that the pigment looks the way it should in your hair.


Natural fingernails are uniquely susceptible to hair dye. This is because the main protein in both hair and nails is keratin. So, dyes that are designed to work well on hair are also going to work well when it comes to staining your fingernails.

Even if you are wearing acrylic nails, some of your natural nails may show through, especially if you need a fill appointment soon. Even if the hair dye doesn’t affect your tips, your bottom cuticle could still be stained.


Acrylic nails are made of a material called (poly)methyl methacrylate. This is a polymer formed by creating the conditions for the molecules in a monomer (the nail liquid) to link up with each other. The result is a hard, durable plastic.

We actually know a lot about how PMMA stains. This is because it’s also common in dentistry. Many dental studies have shown that PMMA can be quite susceptible to staining, though less so than other materials.

Acrylic nails are unlikely to be affected by the ammonia and peroxide used in hair dye, but how to get dye off acrylic nails can be a problem.

How to Get Hair Dye off Acrylic Nails

There are a few different ways of how to remove hair dye off acrylic nails. Some are gentler on your skin and nails, while others are quick and easy.

Baby Oil

Yes, baby oil can help remove stains from your acrylic nails! Actually, it can be any oil - feel free to use coconut oil, tea tree oil, or even petroleum jelly.

Simply apply the oil to a cotton ball or cotton square and gently rub at the stain. Oil works best for fresh stains that haven’t really settled in yet. If a few wipes haven’t helped, you may want to move on to another cleaning technique.

Soap and Water

Soap, water, and perhaps a nail brush are all you need to get surface stains off your acrylic nails. You can use the hand soap in your bathroom or even a dish detergent.

Wet the stained nails, then use a brush or a cotton swab to apply the soap and scrub. Apply a little pressure, though obviously not enough to break the nail.

This method is relatively gentle and relies upon things you already have at home.


The alcohol present in hairspray can act as a weak solvent - powerful enough to get the stain off but gentle enough to not damage your acrylics.

Simply pump the hairspray a few times into a cotton ball or cotton pad. Then, gently wipe your nails with the cotton. You may need several wipes to get all of the dye off.

Alcohol Wipe

An alcohol wipe works just as well as hairspray for the same reasons. You can use any alcohol wipe you have - ones meant for your hands or your glasses work well!

Be careful to wipe just the nail, not the hand. While alcohol is a mild solvent, it can start to loosen your acrylics at the point where they meet your natural nails. Be careful to keep the alcohol wipe from your cuticles to avoid drying them out, too.

Non-Acetone Polish Remover

Non-acetone polish remover, like alcohol, falls in the category of solvents that are strong enough to take off hair dye without damaging the nail underneath. But polish remover, like alcohol, will weaken the bond between the acrylic and natural nail, so be careful to only clean the dye spot on your nails.

This is only safe to do with non-acetone polish remover - acetone is strong enough to damage your acrylics. The only time you should use acetone is if you’re ready to remove your nails.

What about White Nails?

Bright white acrylics can be even more challenging to keep clean, especially around hair dye. But there are a lot of household products that can help. In addition to alcohol and non-acetone polish remover, you can use lemon juice, baking soda, and even whitening toothpaste to keep your nails looking great.

In fact, you can use lemon juice or whitening toothpaste on a regular basis to clean the undersides of your white acrylics, even if no dye stains are present.

To help keep your white nails looking great, keep a separate top coat that you only use with your white polish. This helps to keep it perfectly clear.

How to Get Hair Dye off Gel Nails

This is an article about how to remove dye off acrylic nails, but other kinds of nails are worth a mention, too.

If you have gel nails, you can use most of these tips to clean off your nails, too. You can also use a paste made of liquid detergent and baking soda to clean your nails.

How to Get Hair Dye off Natural Nails

If it’s your natural nail that’s stained, the technique is quite similar. Soak a cotton ball in non-acetone polish remover or isopropyl alcohol and use that to clean the dye off.

If that doesn’t work, you can make a paste of baking soda and water and use that to scrub your hands and nails. The stains should come off.

If you get dye at the edge of your natural nail, you can also simply take the stain off with a pair of nail clippers. Unless you know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t try this with your acrylics, though.

How to Avoid Staining Your Acrylics

The best way to deal with stains on your acrylics is to not get them in the first place. A few tips can help you keep your manicure looking fabulous.

Use High-Quality Products

The best way to avoid stains is to use high-quality monomers, powders, tips, and glues. Even the best products can stain, of course, but the harder and tighter the acrylic that’s formed, the less likely it is to get stained.

Using products from the same acrylic system is always a good idea, and it will also help you to create a manicure that’s more resistant to staining.

Wear Gloves

It can feel awkward to hair gloves while dying your own hair or someone else’s, but it’s the only way to really protect your manicure. If you’re not satisfied with the gloves provided in a box dye kit, try to find another style of gloves that works for you. You can look for gloves online or at your local beauty supply store.

Gloves are a great idea for other messy tasks, too, not just hair dyeing. They’re a good choice when cooking, especially with heavily pigmented foods like beets, turmeric, or paprika. Rubber gloves are great for washing dishes and heavy housework.

Be Aware of the Sun

Exposure to UV light can yellow acrylic nails, which can make other stains (like hair dye) look even worse. For most people, the yellowing happens so slowly that it’s not an issue. By the time the problem is bad enough, you probably need new acrylics, anyway.

But UV yellowing is something to be concerned about if you spend a lot of time outside or tanning. Wear gloves for these activities, if feasible, or just be aware that yellowing will probably occur.

Apply Top Coat

Top coat is designed to form a protective barrier between your nails and the world. Throughout the course of a regular day, it slowly wears down, leaving your nails vulnerable to chipping and staining.

Try to reapply a thin layer of top coat every few days or at least once a week. That will help protect your nails from stains and other damage in between salon visits. If you have an LED or UV lamp, you can even use a top coat that can cure under the light.

Removing Acrylic Nails

If your nails are stained badly enough, you may want to remove them and start all over. While the safest way to get your acrylics removed is to go to your salon, you may need to get them off right away before you can make an appointment.

If that happens, there are a couple of ways you can take your nails off.


The most effective way to remove acrylic nails is with acetone. The way to do it with the least acetone-to-skin contact is to dip a cotton ball in 100% acetone and use tin foil to keep it secure around the fingertip.

This way can be a little tricky to do on yourself, but it helps ensure the nail is in contact with the acetone without involving your skin. Your nails should be loose enough to scrape off with an orange stick after about 30 minutes.

Need it done faster? You can heat up your acetone by holding it under a warm running faucet for a minute or two. (Never EVER heat up acetone in the microwave or on the stove - it’s extremely flammable.)

Then, pour the acetone into a bowl wide enough for you to tip your fingertips in. Your bottom cuticle should just barely be covered. This will get your nails soft enough to scrap off in only 5 minutes.

Non-Acetone Polish Remover

If you don’t have an acetone polish remover available, you can use a non-acetone variety for either of the techniques mentioned above. Ethyl acetate, the solvent used in lieu of acetone in most non-acetone removers, isn’t as effective at dissolving acrylic as acetone.

That means you can expect the process to take longer. And while ethyl acetate isn’t as drying or irritating to skin as acetone, it’s still a heavy-duty chemical.

Warm Water

If you need to remove your acrylic nails at home and want the process to be gentle, the best way is just a bowl of warm water, perhaps with a little bit of hand soap. Simply leave your hands in the bowl for 20-30 minutes, then check to see if the nails are loose enough to push off with an orange stick.

If the nails are still on tight, pop your hands back in the water for another 10-20 minutes. This may be a lengthy process, but it’s the least damaging to your hands.

Get Great-Looking Acrylics with NotPolish!

Whether you work as a nail tech or just do your own, you want your manicures to be durable enough for daily life. They should resist stains and also be strong enough to stand up to at-home stain removal if needed.

NotPolish’s complete acrylic systems help you build nails that last. Come and check out what we have!
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