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How to Clean Up Nail Polish on Your Cuticles

How to Clean Up Nail Polish on Your Cuticles

If you take a look at the most popular nail art photos on Tumblr you’ll notice they all have one thing in common: meticulously clean cuticles. Look at these photos and see which one looks better to you.

Cleaning up my cuticles is now a regular part of my manicure routine, and there’s a few ways to do it. They are listed in my order of preference starting with my least favorite.


Probably the easiest route is to dip a q-tip into nail polish remover. However I find this method is clumsy and I often end up taking off more than I intended.

Nail Clean Up Tools

Another easy, but more expensive, option is a nail clean up tool. I have the Sally Hansen Quick Clean Up pen, which is filled with polish remover and comes with 2 extra tips. It costs $10 and as the tips get covered in polish you have to switch them out. I find this works ok, but the remover isn’t as strong as pure acetone so it takes a lot of work to clean up.

Orange Stick with Cotton

This is a technique I’ve seen done in a salon. You take the end of your orange wood stick and twirl it inside of a cotton ball until the cotton is wrapped around the tip. Then dip it in nail polish remover and run it along your cuticles. The pointed tip makes this a fairly exact way to clean up, but you can also use the other side too.  The best part of this method is that it’s cheap and you probably already have everything you need.


My favorite method of clean up is, by far, using a small stiff angled brush. I use a brush that came in a set of MASH nail art brushes I bought off Amazon, but you can find similar brushes in the art supplies section of a craft store for $2-3.

For this method, I pour some polish remover into the cap of the remover bottle and put down a small piece of tissue or paper towel. Dip the brush into the remover and gently blot off the excess on the towel before you use it. If you have too much remover on the brush it will flood your cuticles. As polish accumulates on the brush, wipe it clean on the paper towel. You might need to dip in the nail polish remover and repeat to get it all off.

This method is particularly good for cleaning up the rounded part of the bottom of your nail bed. Personally, I like a tiny gap between where the polish ends and the cuticle begins, and a stiff brush is perfect for smoothing out the line of the polish.

I hope this was helpful! The color on my nails is Essie Candy Apple.

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