No Nail Polish Remover? Here’s How to Remove Nail Polish Without It

October 26, 2023
Jordan Julian
By: Jordan Julian | by L'Oréal
Essie Here to Stay Base Coat and L’Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Extra Strong Hold Unscented Hairspray collaged on a blue and green graphic background

Have you ever been ready to remove your chipped, weeks old mani, but you realize you don’t have any nail polish remover? As annoying as that can be, there’s no need to stress. When you’re in a bind, it is possible to remove nail polish without acetone or nail polish remover. Even better, you probably already have the supplies you’ll need at home. We tapped Jin Soon Choi, JINsoon founder and editorial manicurist, and Julie Kandalec, celebrity manicurist, to share their expert tips on how to remove nail polish without nail polish remover, so the next time it’s time to refresh your manicure, you’ll be ready.

How To Remove Nail Polish Without Nail Polish Remover

Clear Nail Polish

As counterintuitive as it may seem, you can actually remove your nail polish by adding a layer of clear polish, like the Essie Here to Stay Base Coat. “If you apply clear nail polish over [your nail polish], let it emulsify the color beneath for a few seconds (five to 10), and swipe off with a lint-free pad, it’ll take the polish off,” says Kandalec. “You’ll have to repeat the steps a few times if the color is dark or has many layers.” If your nail polish is especially thick, gently file the top layer and use this method on the bottom layers. 

Choi also recommends this technique. “Applying a thick coat of base, top coat or light-colored nail polish and quickly wiping it off with a paper towel or a piece of cotton worked relatively well for me,” she adds. Repeat until the polish is completely removed.” Pro tip: Use old nail polish to avoid wasting a newer one.

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Essie Here to Stay Base Coat

Soaking and Peeling

If you’ve ever gotten a gel manicure, you know that the way gel polish is removed is by soaking it off. You can also do this with regular nail lacquer. “Soak your nails in hot, soapy water and gently peel off the polish with an orange wood stick, similar to removing gel polish,” says Choi. “Finish by gently buffing with JINsoon Buff & Shine for a smooth result.”

Rubbing Alcohol

Believe it or not, rubbing alcohol can double as nail polish remover in a pinch. It acts as a solvent to break down the polish. Simply soak a cotton ball or pad in the substance and wipe your nail polish away.


Yes, hairspray. “Among the various substances I experimented with, like alcohol, peroxide, vinegar, hand sanitizer toothpaste, baking soda and hairspray, hairspray worked best for me,” Choi explains. Repeat spritzing the hairspray and gently wiping your nail polish until it has all been removed. (If you’re in the market for a new hairspray, we love the L’Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Extra Strong Hold Unscented Hairspray.)  

L’Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Extra Strong Hold Unscented Hairspray

File or Buff

“If you lack the items mentioned above, gently file or buff off the polish,” says Choi. “Be cautious and gentle, avoiding filing off layers of your natural nails.” To ensure that your nails are staying healthy and strong, follow this process with a nourishing cuticle oil, like the JINsoon Primrose + Honeysuckle Healing Cuticle Oil or the Essie On a Roll Apricot Cuticle Oil.

Design: Juliana Campisi

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