Can I Paint Over Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails have become an extremely popular nail enhancement technique, loved for their versatility in length, shape, and design. With proper application and care, acrylics can last between 2-8 weeks on natural nails before needing maintenance. Many acrylic nail wearers enjoy changing up the color and design of their manicure frequently. But is it possible to paint over acrylic nails without damaging them?

Can I Paint Over Acrylic Nails

An Overview of Acrylic Nails

Acrylic nails are a type of artificial nail created by applying a liquid monomer and polymer powder to the natural nails. The monomer and polymer form a doughy, adhesive mixture that hardens into acrylic plastic. Acrylic nails are applied using forms, tips, or sculpting over the natural nail.

Compared to other artificial nails like gel or silk wraps, acrylics are significantly more durable and long-lasting. Their customizable shape and length make them ideal for dramatically lengthening or shaping the nails. Acrylic nails also allow for detailed nail art and designs not always possible on natural nails.

However, acrylic nails require more maintenance than natural nails. Most acrylic fills or repaints are needed every 2-3 weeks as the product grows out with your natural nails. Occasional repairs may be required if the acrylic cracks or lifts. Overall, acrylic nails allow for more versatility and durability if properly cared for.

Can You Paint Over Acrylic Nails?

Yes, you can paint over acrylic nails without damaging them. However, acrylic nails cannot be repainted exactly the same as regular polish on natural nails. Special care must be taken to avoid overly softening or prematurely lifting the acrylic product.

When repainting acrylics, using the proper nail prep techniques and products designed for use on acrylic nails is crucial. Harsh chemicals like 100% acetone removers and buffers should be avoided as they can damage the acrylic and natural nails underneath. With the right approach, you can successfully repaint your acrylics as often as you like.

Preparing Acrylic Nails for Repainting

Proper preparation is the key to repainting acrylic nails without causing damage. Here are some tips for prepping acrylics before painting:

  • Push Back and Trim Cuticles: Gently push back and trim excess cuticle growth around the nail. Avoid cutting into the eponychium or proximal nail fold.
  • Use a Fine-Grit File: Lightly buff the shine of the acrylic nail using a 100/180 grit file. This helps the polish adhere properly.
  • Clean Nails: Remove any dust and oil from the nail plate using isopropyl alcohol or an acrylic nail prep cleanser.
  • Hydrate Cuticles: Massage cuticle oil into the nail folds and cuticles to prevent cracking or lifting.
  • Avoid Harsh Drill Buffing: Over-buffing with an electric nail file can cause too much heat and damage the acrylic.

Proper nail prep helps the new polish stick to the acrylic and avoids lifting or peeling. Always be gentle when working around the natural nails to avoid damage.

Acrylic-Safe Nail Polish Removers

To remove old acrylic nail polish, you must use a polish remover designed for acrylics. Harsh acetone-based removers will weaken the acrylic product and damage natural nails.

Look for polish removers specifically formulated for artificial nails, such as:

  • Non-acetone nail polish removers
  • Acrylic nail polish removers
  • Soy-based nail polish removers
  • Acetone-free nail polish remover pads

Soak cotton pads in the remover and hold on each nail for 30-60 seconds to dissolve the old polish. Gently roll or slide the cotton pad off to avoid lifting the acrylic. Always follow with a nourishing cuticle oil.

Step-by-Step Guide for Repainting Acrylic Nails

Follow these steps for safely repainting acrylic nails:

Remove Old Polish

  • Soak a cotton pad with non-acetone remover and hold on each nail to dissolve polish.
  • Once removed, use a stiff brush under running water to remove any leftover residue.

Shape and Buff Nails

  • Use a fine grit file (100/180) to gently shape free edges and lightly buff shine.
  • Avoid over-filing near cuticles or sides where acrylic meets the natural nail.
  • Cleanse nails to remove dust.

Apply Primer

  • Use a nail primer or bonding base coat made for acrylic nails.
  • Let the primer dry fully before painting.

Paint New Color

  • Apply 1-2 thin coats of regular nail polish, allowing drying time between coats.
  • Use polishes labeled “acrylic-friendly” for best adherence.
  • Limit coats to 2-3 to avoid excessive thickness.

Finish with Top Coat

  • Seal with 1-2 layers of a fast-drying top coat formulated for acrylic nails.
  • Finish with cuticle oil around the nail edges.

Acrylic Nail Painting Tips and Tricks

  • Avoid dark polishes, which show chips and growth more easily. Go for lighter nudes, pinks, and neutrals.
  • Use a glass nail file when shaping acrylics instead of a metal file. Glass files cause less damage to acrylics.
  • Rotate your nail polish choices to avoid excessive product build-up on the nails.
  • Change your look with nail art like polka dots, flowers, or French tips which are easy to do on acrylics.
  • Give nails a break with removable press-on nails when you need a polish change.
  • Keep cuticles hydrated with daily cuticle oil to prevent lifting and cracking.

Caring for Acrylic Nails In-Between Repaints

To help acrylic nails last between paint jobs:

  • Apply cuticle oil 1-2 times daily
  • Avoid excessive water exposure
  • Use rubber gloves for wet housework
  • Apply lotion after hand washing
  • Avoid opening cans or using nails as tools
  • Prevent chips and cracks with a protective top coat
  • Get regular acrylic fill appointments every 2-3 weeks

With proper care, you can get over 2 weeks of wear before needing to repaint acrylic nails. Avoid picking at polish chips as this can lift the acrylic product. Use nail glue or acrylic powder to quickly repair minor cracks or pops.

How Often Should You Repaint Acrylic Nails?

Most acrylic nails can go 2-3 weeks between polish changes. However, the repainting frequency depends on the condition of the acrylics:

  • If acrylics are still in good shape with minimal lifting or cracking, they can go 3 full weeks before needing a repaint.
  • If the acrylics show excessive growth, thinning, cracking or lifting, repaint them every 2 weeks.
  • Damaged areas will need patched and refilled before polishing if the lifting is severe.
  • Get regular maintenance acrylic fills every 2-3 weeks to prevent excessive growth and damage.

Repainting frequency may need to be adjusted based on your nail tech’s recommendations and how your acrylics hold up. Those with more physical jobs may require more frequent repaints.

Acrylic Nail Repainting FAQs

Can you paint acrylic nails with regular nail polish?

Yes, you can use regular nail polish on acrylics. Look for polishes labeled “acrylic-friendly” and limit coats to avoid excess thickness. Always use a primer first.

Do you need primer before painting acrylic nails?

Using a primer or bonding base coat formulated for acrylics helps regular polish better adhere to the artificial nail. Skipping this step risks the polish peeling or lifting.

Can I paint gel polish on acrylic nails?

Gel polish can be used on acrylic nails but is not recommended. Gel polishes usually require soaking in acetone remover, which can damage acrylics. Stick to regular polish or dip powders.

How long does a manicure last on acrylic nails?

With proper nail prep and an acrylic-safe top coat, a manicure can last 2-3 weeks on acrylics before needing replacement. Proper application helps extend the life.

Can you use nail strengthener on acrylic nails?

Avoid hardeners or strengtheners formulated for natural nails, as they can cause acrylic nails to become brittle and cracked. Use products specifically made for artificial nails.


While they require some extra care, it is possible to repaint your acrylic nails as frequently as you wish. Using non-acetone removers, primers, and acrylic-friendly polishes allow you to safely change the color without damaging the acrylics. Proper preparation and gentle handling keeps acrylics looking fresh between salon visits. With the right approach, you can enjoy creating a new look while extending the wear of your acrylic manicure.

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