Nail polish removers can be categorized into two types: acetone and non-acetone formulas. Acetone-based removers are generally faster at removing polish (and are required for taking off gels or acrylics). They’re especially effective at stripping your nails of polish quickly, but in doing so, they can also strip them of moisture.
If you have dry or brittle nails that are prone to peeling, you might want to opt for a non-acetone remover instead. Whereas a non-acetone formula may require a bit more patience (and rubbing) to get your polish off than an acetone-based one, they’re much gentler and less drying on your nails and the surrounding skin.
Beyond those two categories, there are a hundred and one options to choose from, so we’ll walk you through five of our tried-and-true favorites ahead.
1. Cutex Ultra-Powerful Nail Polish Remover
Best Acetone Remover
Formulated with a whopping 98 percent acetone, this potent remover was designed to obliterate stubborn glitter, gel and dark colored polishes that usually require extra muscle to take off. At two bucks a bottle, it’s also the most budget friendly pick here. (Some parting advice: Slather on hand cream afterwards to counteract any dryness from the remover.)
2. Olive & June Polish Remover Pot
Best Non-Acetone Remover
For an acetone-free option that’s especially handy, we recommend this little pink pot. To use it, simply dip each finger into the center of the pot and twist it around until the polish is completely removed. (Yes, it’s a satisfying experience every single time.)
And there’s more: A small sponge sits inside the lid to tackle old pedicures. With the cap closed, tilt the pot to one side to saturate the sponge with remover before twisting it open and using it to remove polish from your toenails.
3. Ella+Mila Soy Nail Polish Remover
Best Non-Toxic Remover
If, in addition to being acetone-free, you want a remover that’s also alcohol- and acetate-free, look no further than this fan favorite from Ella+Mila. The lavender scented pick is as gentle on your nose as the soy-based formula is on your nails.
Note: The removal process is slightly different when using this. For best results, you’ll need to saturate a cotton ball or pad with the remover, swipe it over your nails and give it 30 seconds to absorb before wiping away the remaining polish. You will have an oily residue leftover, but that’s not a bad thing if you’re concerned about dryness.
4. butter LONDON Nail Scrubbers 2-in-1 Prep & Lacquer Remover Wipes
Best for On-the-Go Removals
You know when you’re on the way to meeting someone and you realize a little too late that your mani is 60 percent chipped? These convenient little wipes are made for those moments. One single-use wipe will swiftly clean all ten fingers of old polish in the time it takes you to request an Uber (which is why we always keep one of these in our bags).
5. Zoya Remove+ Nail Polish Remover
If this were the Olympics of nail polish removers, Zoya would be Simone Biles, in terms of how decorated it was with awards. The gentle, but effective formula conditions nails and cuticles as it dissolves all traces of polish (even the glittery kinds), and it doesn’t have that nostril burning scent that many removers tend to have. We also appreciate the pump top, which prevents any accidental spills.