Nails » How to Remove Red Nail Polish Stains from Your Fingers

How to Remove Red Nail Polish Stains from Your Fingers

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Nail polish is a fun way to express your personality. From picking bold, neon colors to incorporating nail art, there are endless possibilities for creative nail decoration. Yet, there’s a downside to nail polish — it can stain your skin.

DIY at-home manicures can help you save money, but things can get messy when you’re using your non-dominant hand to paint the nails on your other hand. In some cases, bolder hues, like red, can leave stains, especially when wiping up the drips. If you’re tired of those annoying stains on your fingers, these tips can help you get rid of them quickly.

Why does red nail polish stain your skin?

You might be surprised that nail polish is actually made using the same base ingredients as pressed and loose eyeshadow powders. Most brands rely on a few naturally occurring ingredients — either iron oxide or mica — to create the pigment or color you see. 

While lighter colors are less likely to create visible stains, bolder hues like red, black, blue, and green can leave stains depending on the pigment concentration. And keep in mind that your skin isn’t the only thing getting stained by polish. If you aren’t using a quality base coat before applying polish to your nails, your nails may look a bit pink when you remove that gorgeous red shade

Proven methods to remove red nail polish stains

Even if you don’t really struggle with DIY manicures, mistakes on your dominant hand can still occur. While red stains are annoying, they’re not dangerous and will fade with time. However, if you’re unwilling to wait for Mother Nature to take her time, these tips can help you quickly remove any unwanted color on your skin and get on with your life. 

Acetone to the rescue

One of the easiest ways to remove red polish stains is to use nail polish remover. This trick works best if you apply it quickly after finishing your manicure. For the best results, opt for acetone over acetone-free remover. 

You’ll also need cotton balls or precision-tip cotton swabs and cuticle oil. While cotton balls can work, they’re not precise. So, if you’re trying to remove stains without damaging your 10-set, you’ll want those precision-tip cotton swabs. Alternatively, if you can’t find the swabs, you can rip off bits of the cotton ball and twist them around a cuticle stick for similar precision. 

First, dip your swab or cotton ball in the acetone. Gently rub the swab along the stains — make sure to only touch the cuticle and avoid your nail. Once you’ve removed all the stains, follow up with cuticle oil, as acetone is very drying. 

The whitening toothpaste trick

Toothbrush, opened tube of toothpaste, and a smiley face made out of toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste is known for removing stains and can also be effective on your fingers. Grab your toothbrush and toothpaste for this beauty hack. This tip requires that your nails are completely dry — the last thing you want is to destroy your manicure with wayward bristles. 

Squeeze a small bit of toothpaste on your toothbrush and get to work on those cuticles. Follow up with cuticle oil or hand cream once you remove all the stains. 

A baking soda concoction

If you feel like performing a bit of spa science, this hack works in a similar manner as the toothpaste trick but requires a bit more prep. Here, you’ll create a paste using lemon juice, baking soda, and olive oil. 

Grab that toothbrush again and apply the mix to your nails. Remember, don’t try this hack unless your nails are completely dry. Finish by washing your hands and applying moisturizing hand cream. 

Give ‘em a soak

If you have the time and your skin isn’t sensitive, a simple nail soak in a slightly acidic liquid can remove stains. First up, mix lemon juice with water and soak your fingers in them for about 10 minutes. 

Alternatively, soaking your fingers in hydrogen peroxide for 10 minutes will also work. However, both lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide are quite acidic. So, before you start soaking, perform a patch test somewhere else on your body to ensure that prolonged exposure won’t irritate your skin. 

For a double dose on more stubborn stains, you can opt to follow up with a toothpaste scrub after soaking your nails. As with the other tips, be sure to wash your hands and use a moisturizing lotion after you’re done.

How to prevent future stains

Female feet sticking out from under sheets with red nail polish on

While there are plenty of ways to remove polish stains from your skin, the best option is to avoid getting polish on your skin. Just like your nails need a good topcoat before you apply color, consider investing in a peel-off protectant like Sally Hansen’s Big Peel Off Base Coat.

Although it’s primarily intended to be used on your nails for easy manicure removal, it can also work as a light application on your cuticles before you get to the color polish stage. Once your nails are dry, simply peel off the polish on your cuticle, and don’t worry about stains. 

Additionally, invest in quality nail polish, as cheaper options are more likely to stain your nails and skin than premium alternatives. However, if you do experience staining, these tips will have your hands looking like you got a salon-quality manicure in no time.