March 31, 2016

Glitter Removal: Which method is best?

Glitter polish.  It's a charm and it's a curse.  Glitter polishes can be so beautiful, fun, unique, and creative, but boy are they a pain to take off!  It's such a pain that many people avoid glitter polish.  I myself have a large collection of glitter polish - 91 of my 275 polishes have glitter in them, which is almost exactly 1/3 of my total polishes!  And yet, aside from swatching them wherein I wear them for only a few minutes, I've been avoiding my glitter polishes lately.  I have tried several different methods of glitter polish removal, with each new method being a tiny bit better and worse than the last.  This post will rank each glitter removal method to help you decide which method is best for you, and which method makes wearing glitter polish worth it the most!

I will be grading each removal method on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best score and 1 being the worst.  I'll rate each method on its mess factor, the amount of time it takes, how successful the glitter removal is, and I'll list its biggest con and give it a rating for that as well.  Then I'll average out the 4 different categories for an overall score!  The numbers might not make perfect sense, so just to be clear:

Mess factor: 1 = VERY messy, 10 = no mess at all
Time:1 = VERY time consuming, 10 = super speedy
Success:1 = 100% of glitter left on the nail, 10 = 0% of glitter left on the nail
Biggest Con: (description of the con) 1 = terribly unappealing, 10 = super appealing
Overall Score:1/10 = would not do again, 10/10 = will use this method until I die

**Note: no matter the method, glitter always ends up all over my hands and work surface.  Since this happens across the board, I'm not including that in my rating of the mess factor.  Instead, the mess factor is based on amount of trash generated.**

Nail-Aid No-Rub Acetone Power Gel

Mess factor: 2
Time: 3
Success: 4
Biggest Con: Sticky! 4
Overall Score: 3.25/10

I first heard about this stuff from Cutepolish on YouTube.  After seeing her video, I pretty much ran out to Wal-Mart as soon as humanly possible.  Predictably, I have never had as much success using this stuff as Cutepolish does in her video.  In her video, she has maybe a few pieces of glitter left over at the side of her nail when she first rubs the gel off.  I, however, usually still have about two thirds of the glitter left on my nails, even after letting the gel soak for 4 minutes.  So I use the gel again, and it works pretty well the second time.  This makes for a total of 16 minutes of gel-soaked fingers: 8 minutes per hand.  Then, the gel leaves my hands super sticky, and it doesn't just rinse off, so I actually have to scrub at my nails, cuticles, and fingertips with dish soap just to get it all off.  Sometimes, I even have to use the scratchy side of my dish sponge to get rid of the gel!  Oh, and it's so sticky that I also often get chunks of paper towel stuck to my fingertips as well.  Unpleasant. 

The Foil Method

Mess factor: 8
Time: 4
Success: 5
Biggest Con: Dry cuticles. 4
Overall Score: 5.25/10

The instructions for the foil method are a little bit more complicated than the gel.  You cut (or rip, as I prefer) pieces of tin foil, soak a small piece of cotton ball in polish remover, place the cotton on your nail, then wrap the tip of your nail with the foil.  Sit with the foil on your nails for 3-5 minutes, then remove it and in theory the glitter all comes off right away.  In practice? Nope.  About one third of the glitter stays on my nails when I do this method, and I have to scrub the rest of it off manually.  I do have a little bit more success when I use pure acetone rather than a special formula remover like Zoya's Remove+ (which is my remover of choice).  The downside of using pure acetone, of course, is that my cuticles are left super dry after soaking in acetone for 3-5 minutes.  That's not a huge deal breaker since I usually use cuticle balm after removing any nail polish, but it's still probably not great for my skin to get so dry.

Julep Party's Over

Mess factor: 9
Time: 6
Success: 6
Biggest Con: Expensive! 3
Overall Score: 6/10

Recently, I noticed on Julep's website that the Party's Over starter set plus refill kit was on sale for the same price as just the starter set ($28 instead of $38), so I pounced on it!  The starter set comes with ten rubber nail caps and five sets of ten removal pads.  The removal pads are infused with aloe to keep your cuticles moist.  The idea is pretty much the same as the foil method, but a bit simpler since the nail caps can be used dozens of times.  Plus, since the pads come pre-soaked and cut small enough to fit on one nail, that saves some time as well.  When I used these pads, I still had about one third of the glitter still stuck to my nail.  A bit better than the previous methods, but still not as good as I'd hoped!  My biggest problem with Party's Over is the price.  The set that I got makes removing a full, 10-nail manicure cost $2.80, which is the same cost as the starter kit alone.  Buying the same set that I did at full price makes it cost $3.80 per manicure.  The refill kit costs $10, and can remove 5 full manicures, so that's $2 per manicure removed.  No other method of glitter removal costs this much per use!  I can get a whole bag of cotton balls for $3 at the drug store, and a 16-oz bottle of pure acetone for $5 at CVS, for goodness' sake!  (Note: all Julep products cost a little bit less for Julep Mavens, which is a paid subscription.  I'm not a Maven, so the prices reflected are those open for the general public.)

Traditional removal method

Mess factor: 4
Time: 2
Success: 10
Biggest Con: Painful! 3
Overall Score: 4.75/10

Soak a cotton ball with remover, scrub glitter off.  It's that simple.  But is it really simple?  You practically have to dig each individual piece of glitter off of your nails.  It takes forever, and chances are your nail beds will be left in some amount of pain from all the pressure of being scrubbed for 2 minutes.  Technically, it does get all of the glitter off, but it requires much more effort than any of the previous methods.  At least with the other methods, you get to just sit back and watch TV for 3-5 minutes and let 1/3 to 2/3 of the work be done for you in a single swipe!  Sure, you'll eventually get all of the glitter off, but it definitely takes a lot more time, elbow grease, and cotton balls than the other removal methods.

Elmer's Glue peel-off Basecoat  

Mess factor: 10
Time: 10
Success: 10
Biggest Con: No staying power for the manicure! 2
Overall Score: 8/10

Holy super old photo, Batman!

Some time ago, I cleaned out an old polish bottle and filled it with about 2/3 Elmer's School Glue and 1/3 water.  Using this as a base coat allows even the most stubborn of glitters to peel off with ease.  The downside of this is that a task as common as showering and washing my hands often leads to an entire nail of polish sliding off at once!  For this reason, I only use my glue base coat when I'm swatching a polish, with the intention of taking it off right after taking photos of it.  For a manicure that lasts 2 days or longer, this just doesn't cut it.  I know that some commercial brands, like OPI, make a peel-off base coat, but I haven't tried them out.  Hopefully they have better staying power than glue!  If I ever decide to try out one of the professional peel-off base coats, I will most certainly review it on the blog.

Combo! Party's Over + Foil

Mess factor: 8
Time: 6
Success: 8
Biggest Con: Expensive (from Party's Over) 3
Overall Score: 6.25/10

On my right hand, I decided to combine methods.  I soaked cotton ball pieces in acetone, wrapped them in foil, and then stuck the Julep nail caps on top of that.  This was definitely the most successful method!  I got about 80-90% of the glitter off of my nails in one swipe.  And the remaining 10-20% of glitter rubbed off very easily using another cotton ball!  On my ring finger, I used a Party's Over pad instead of acetone, just to compare.  There wasn't too much of a difference compared to the acetone.  Which is pretty cool!  This means that when I run out of Party's Over pads, I won't worry too much about buying more.  For you readers, I'm sure there are some kind of nail caps available outside of Julep.  A quick Google Search shows dozens of different kinds of caps at pretty low prices!  I would guess that this is more successful than the foil method or the Party's Over product alone because of the extra wrapping.  The additional pressure from the tightness of the cap on top of foil really forces the remover under each layer of glitter, and I'm sure it helps to reduce the risk of evaporation as well.

In Conclusion . . .

So, moral of the story?  There really is no be-all, end-all method of glitter removal.  Each method has at least one inherent flaw.  Personally, I'm going to stick with the foil/Julep combo for a while and see how I like that in the long run.  You'll have to see for yourself which method you like the best!


  1. I so rarely wear glitter polish (almost never) that I didn't read every-every paragraph, but what a great article! Love your photos & tips! Glad to know about the glue peel-off method; that is great for swatching.

    I'd like to know how to clean out an old nail polish bottle for reusing. I imagine swishing acetone in the bottle repeatedly until it's clean? Does swishing/shaking clean the brush, too? This probably isn't enough to require a separate blog post, but hey, some of us (me!) appreciate dummy-proof step-by-step instructions. :)

    Which leads me to another request. I'm wondering if you'd consider doing a similar review of various brands of brush-on latex for protecting skin for nail art. Or your favorite latex vs Elmer's School Glue. (I did one sponging nail art using Elmer's, and it *did* the job well enough, but it peeled off in bits & pieces. What a mess!) Or... if you have one favorite brush-on latex brand that's easy to find, maybe just do a photo review of the product, showing how you use it for, say, a gradient sponging job?

    1. Yep, when I cleaned out the old polish bottle, I just swished acetone around in there repeatedly, and when I was satisfied, I rinsed it with water to avoid any acetone contamination in the glue mixture.

      A latex post would be a great idea! I do have some footage of using one brand (Ellagee, which I really like) sitting around, which will eventually become a tutorial video. And I have two different brands of latex, so, a comparison post might not be a bad idea... :)