How to Get Nail Glue off Your Skin

Manicure process

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You need to be careful with nail glue when giving yourself a home manicure and applying faux nails. Nail glue allows you to stick on nails and enjoy them for at least a week or two. It is so strong that you can continue to do everyday activities like washing dishes and scrubbing countertops without worrying about the fake nails falling off.

Unfortunately, this also means that nail glue can be dangerous. If it gets on your skin, it can cause irritation and chemical burns. If you’re not extra careful, you may also glue parts of your fingers together.

Getting nail glue off the skin can be difficult because it has top-notch holding power. Thankfully, there are ways to get this strong adhesive off your skin.

Steps to Remove Nail Glue From Skin

Here are some suggestions for removing nail glue from your skin.

Acetone-Based Nail Polish Remover

Acetone-based nail polish remover is what you’ll use to remove glued-on fake nails, so it makes sense that it’s the best strategy for getting nail glue off of your skin. Only do this if you have no skin injury.

Supplies you’ll need: cotton swab or cotton ball, acetone

What to do:

  1. Use a cotton swab or cotton ball to apply acetone to the affected area.
  2. You’ll need to wait a bit for the product to soak through and dissolve the nail glue.
  3. You may also need to reapply. 

Warm Water and Soap

If you don’t have access to acetone and you’ve accidentally spilled nail glue onto your hands, you can try soaking your hands for 15 minutes. This will soften the glue and allow you to peel it off.  This method also works for removing fake nails.

Supplies you’ll need: Bowl, warm water, soap

What to do:

  1. Fill a bowl with warm, soapy water.
  2. Soak your hands for at least 15 minutes.
  3. A longer soak may be needed, depending on the strength of the glue.

Petroleum Jelly

You can use petroleum jelly to help remove spots of dried glue that are attached to the skin.

Supplies you’ll need: Petroleum jelly, soap, and water

What to do:

  1. Rub petroleum jelly on the spot of dried glue. Use a circular motion and massage it well for a few minutes.
  2. When the glue softens, breaks up, and is easily detached from the skin without pulling, wash your hands with soap and water.
  3. Apply a light layer of petroleum jelly to keep the moisture on your skin.

If petroleum jelly doesn’t work on its own to detach the glue, apply a cotton ball soaked in acetone-based nail polish remover. To keep the cotton ball on the glue spot, wrap the finger in aluminum foil and wait five minutes to see if it has worked.

Petroleum jelly can be used after using acetone to remove the glue as it will help the skin and nails retain moisture that acetone will remove.

Precautions and Warnings

It’s important not to pull off nail glue that accidentally gets on your skin. If you pull it off without softening or dissolving it, you may rip off some of your skin.

Other nail glue injuries include:

Make sure to keep nail glue out of reach of children to prevent serious injuries. If you get glue on your eyes or lips, rinse the area right away and then visit the emergency room.

When to Call a Doctor

If you get nail glue on your lips or eyes, this is an emergency. If you have a chemical burn because of nail glue, you need to see a doctor.

If your lips or eyes are glued shut, a doctor will rinse the eye with a sterile saline solution and attempt to remove the glue with a swab of petroleum jelly. You may need to see a specialist if the eyes are involved.

A Word From Verywell

If you’ve accidentally put too much glue on your nail when applying fake nails, don’t be alarmed and rub it off. You might end up with glue on your skin that’s difficult to remove. When applying artificial nails, make sure you’re doing so carefully and methodically to avoid accidents. 

If you get nail glue on the skin of your hand, rinse it off and try to remove it with one of the methods mentioned above. A small amount of nail glue shouldn’t be a concern. You can wait for it to dry, and eventually, it’ll peel or fall off. 

If you’ve spilled a lot of nail glue, you may need to see a doctor. If you’re experiencing any pain or burning, visit an emergency room. Getting glue around your mouth or eyes is also considered an emergency. 

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Coles C, et al. Paediatric burns secondary to nail adhesives: A case series. Burns and Trauma. 2016;4. doi:10.1186/s41038-016-0048-6

  2. Brambilla E, Crevani M, Petrolini VM, et al. Exposure to nail and false eyelash glue: A case series studyInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(12):4283. doi:10.3390/ijerph17124283

By Steph Coelho
Steph Coelho is a freelance health writer, web producer, and editor based in Montreal. She specializes in covering general wellness and chronic illness.