How To Get Pen Off Acrylic Nails

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So you’ve gone through the time, effort prep, and expense to get yourself an acrylic manicure. Self-care is all too often neglected, so if acrylics are your thing – good for you! The thing with acrylics though, is that you have to be super conscientious about taking care of them to maintain that manicured look.

Considering we use our hands for pretty much everything, you’re bound to compromise your manicure at some point — even if you are being careful. If you find yourself with pen ink on your nails, you’ll want to know how to get ink off acrylic nails, without having to make another visit to the salon to get them fixed.

In this article, we are going to go over how to get pen off acrylic nails, based on the kind of ink you’re dealing with.

Getting ink on acrylic nails happens. Let’s figure out what to do about it!


Understanding Ink So You Know How to Remove It

Pen inks share two basic ingredients: a colorant and a water or oil-based liquid or solvent, which give the ink its writing characteristics…. and will determine what you need to use to remove it from your acrylics.

We are going to look at some of the most common types of ink used.

Ballpoint Pen Ink

This kind of ink comes from your standard “office” pen that comes 10 in a box. Ballpoint pen ink contains an oil-based solvent and a pigment. They come in blue, read, black and green.

The ink flows from a thin tube, through a small ball in the tip of the pen when you apply pressure to the ball. Ballpoint pen ink dries quickly because it is oil-based, so it smears easily when it’s wet.

Rollerball Pen Ink

Rollerball pens are similar to ballpoint pens, but use a water-based or gel ink and require less pressure on the rollerball tip to write.

The ink for these pens is thinner than oil-based ink and deeply saturates the paper, resulting in a darker color.

Gel Pen Ink

Gel pen ink contains colorful pigment suspended in a thick, water-based gel. Gel pen ink is thick and opaque and available in every color under the rainbow, including white bright neon, glitter, and metallic.

Fountain Pen Ink

Fountain pen ink is water-based and contains dye for color, but also contains a surfactant that controls the flow of ink when the nib comes in contact with the paper.

Felt Tip Pens

Felt tip pens are almost more like a very thin marker. The ink in felt-tip pens and fine liners can be water-based, alcohol-based, or oil-based. 

Toner Cartridge Ink

Most printer ink is made of a base of linseed or soybean oil, or a heavy petroleum distillate used as the solvent.

How To Get Ink Off Acrylic Nails

If you want to remove ink, you need to know if it’s water or oil-based. It should be noted that both these types of ink will be a lot easier to remove before the ink is dry. But chances are if you’re reading this and you have ink on your acrylics, the ink is already dry.

For Oil-Based Inks

There are no guarantees, but your best chances of removing ink from your acrylics if you have an oil-based ink stain is by using a few drops of rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab and rubbing it across the stain. Do not soak your acrylics in alcohol. This will damage your acrylic nails.

For Water-Based Inks

Water based ink may come off a bit easier, but also no guarantees as even though it’s a water-based ink, it’s meant to be permanent. Here are a few things you can try:

Soap and warm water

Try this first. Use a bit of hand or dish soap and try rubbing with a dish sponge or a washcloth, or anything that is soft but also a bit “scrubby”, so it won’t damage your manicure.


Apply a bit of non-gel toothpaste to the ink stain and leave it on for a minute. Then with a cloth and warm water, try to wipe it away.


If none of these work, grab a glass of wine, it will help!


You can try rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab to try and remove it, as suggested above. Alcohol is harsher than the other methods and may take the sheen off a super polished topcoat, so be aware of that. Try the other methods first, and if none of them work, then try the alcohol.

If The Alcohol Doesn’t Work

If you’ve tried removing ink from your acrylics with alcohol without success, then you may just have to either live with it until your next nail appointment or visit the salon for a touch-up.

Whatever you do, don’t go overboard with the alcohol because it’ll just end up ruining your manicure and you’ll have to get it fixed at the salon anyway.

Does Hairspray Remove Ink from Acrylic Nails?

If you Google “How to get ink off acrylic nails”, you will get a whole bunch of hits, most of which recommend using hairspray.

So why haven’t we mentioned hairspray above as a method to remove ink from your acrylics?

Why Hairspray Is Unlikely To Work

Once upon a time, hairsprays all contained alcohol to help make them dry faster. Alcohol makes the product dry faster, but it is also drying and damaging to hair.

Because of this, most hairsprays nowadays are alcohol-free. This hairspray hack may have worked with your mom’s hairspray from the 80s.

But it’s unlikely to work now as it’s not the hairspray, but the alcohol in the hairspray that would remove the ink.

Skip yourself a step and just use the alcohol on a cotton swab.

What About Perfume?

Incidentally, perfume is also one of the things that is often suggested to remove ink from acrylics. But like the hairspray, it’s the alcohol in the perfume, not the perfume itself that will remove the ink.

Don’t waste your perfume and save it for your next special occasion. Just use alcohol on a cotton swab.

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Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).