Is Acetone a Safe Nail Polish Remover?

acetone and brittle nails

What’s the safest way to remove my polish?

How Safe Is Acetone? 

I’ve been told non-acetone is less harmful. Is that true?

MYTH: Non-Acetone Products Are Safer

The debate about polish removers is almost as heated as the debate about coffee’s health benefits. And we’re about to settle it for you.

Why Is Acetone the Better Choice?

Acetone evaporates quickly, thus the vapors do not exceed safe levels in salons or the home.

Scientists say that acetone has good ‘warning properties’ that limit over exposure. If there is ever too much in the air you will be aware of it and do something about it. Your body has it’s own alarm system and lets you know when any substance is dangerous.

Acetone is NOT suspected to cause cancer by any credible government or scientific agency.

Acetone can not pass into the dermis or basal level of the skin and none will pass through the nail plate. So clearly, it is NOT absorbed into the blood stream.

According to scientific information, Acetone is slightly safer than the primary ingredients in non-acetone remover, ethyl acetate & methyl ethyl ketone. Surprised?

Acetone and the ingredients in non-acetone remover are all safe solvents when used sparingly. 

And lastly, acetone dissolves polish faster than non-acetone removers.

What Is A Solvent?

Water is the safest solvent in the nail industry.

In fact, water is called the universal solvent because it dissolves more things than any other known substance. But if water dissolved nail polish, the nail industry would be dead.

The second safest solvent used in salons is acetone. That’s why it is sold for this purpose. It is true that there are much faster acting solvents, but they are not safe enough for use in the salon or the home.

But It Dries My Skin

Yes! Why?

Because if removers can dissolve polish, they also dissolve oil…your skin’s natural oils.

Let’s Look Closer

Your nails dry out because of evaporation. Oils and moisture travel from your nail bed, through your nail and evaporate into the air. Yes… the oil evaporates too.

Then you put polish remover on your nails, it evaporates almost instantaneously, much faster than water and takes your dissolved natural oils with it. Poof!

Removers can’t go into your nails or skin….they’re too busy evaporating. This is how they dry your skin.

What Should I Do?

Since acetone dissolves polish faster, it’s actually less drying than non-acetone! You’ll be scrubbing a lot longer with non-acetone removers.

Use an acetone formula containing olive oil and vitamin E or make your own recipe (see below).

When used only once a week, the drying effect is temporary and quickly corrects itself.

Rub some olive oil on your skin around your nails before removing your polish. The acetone will take that oil instead.

Rinse your hands after removing your polish. But wait an hour before polishing your nails again, so the water has time to evaporate from your nails.

Re-moisturize your skin and nails with a quality nail and cuticle oil after your manicure and then twice daily.

Suggested Products

Pure Nail and Cuticle Oil

DIY Acetone Remover with Emollients Recipe

  • Ten Parts Acetone
  • One Part Water
  • 2 to 10 drops of Olive Oil (counteracts dryness)
  • 2 to 5 drops of Vitamin E (fights free radical toxins)

What Do You Think?

Did this article change your thoughts in any way?

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18 Responses to Is Acetone a Safe Nail Polish Remover?

  1. Jessie December 4, 2012 at 7:37 am #

    Interesting! I’ve always thought that acetone was terrible, but this has made me think twice! Thanks for the article 🙂

    • Ana December 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

      I’m so happy that you found the article useful! I used to be the same as you, because of the marketing hype. Since I’ve switched, lacquer removal goes about twice as fast. And if you put oil on the skin BEFORE lacquer removal, your cuticles don’t get dried out. ~Ana

  2. liz March 11, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    I had gel removed from my nails by soaking them in acetone. Now the skin around my nails turned white, now two weeks later, they’re pink in color. What does this mean? And what can I use to get my natural color back?

    • Ana March 12, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

      Liz, Thank you so much for writing. This is an excellent question!

      What you are experiencing is severe moisture and oil dehydration from having acetone on your skin for 10-20 minutes, causing it to turn white. It’s a very easy fix, but no one in the nail industry has thought of it.

      If acetone is going to dissolve oil from your skin, give it more oil to dissolve.

      BEFORE you or your nail tech puts on the foil wrap, have them slather oil on your skin, 1/2 way up your fingers.

      If you’re going into a salon, I guarantee they’re going to think you are nuts, so you may want to take a small container of oil from your kitchen with you. Don’t put the oil on the nails, just the skin. Every time I do this, my skin comes out pink and even slightly oily. It’s fabulous!!! Hope that helps! ~Ana

  3. Bonni December 13, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    One thing you forgot to mention is that acetone is naturally produced by our own digestive system. It’s a by-product of mammalian life processes, so we have it in our bodies already. I’m not saying it’s okay to drink the stuff (clearly, that’s a bad idea), but it’s not some weirdly derived chemical mixed up in the laboratory of an evil genius or anything. We have far more dangerous chemicals in our bodies (hydrochloric acid, for example) and in our homes. So long as you have good ventilation (so you’re not inhaling large amounts of the fumes) and you’re not actually consuming it (acetone cocktails or something, heh), it’s safe.

    I have pretty much sworn off non-acetone nail polish remover now. I never liked it much, but when I started wearing glitter nail polishes (which we all know are horrible to remove), I thought it might be better to use that because of the long “soak” times (I use the method where you use kitchen foil to hold a saturated cotton ball to your nails to dissolve the polish). Big mistake!!!

    The actual fact is that the non-acetone polish remover is just as drying (or moreso, since it has to stay on longer) than acetone, AND it doesn’t do a good job getting glitter off your nails. I ended up badly damaging the surface of two of my nails because of stubborn glitter that wouldn’t come off and I had to scrub and scrape, and some of the nail came off with the glitter. The non-acetone remover was just simply not up to the task of getting larger hexagonal glitter polish off my nails!

    Since I’ve returned to using acetone (I use pure acetone tempered with glycerine and a bit of water to make the glycerine miscible), I’ve had no problems with removing glitter nail polish. Sometimes, I don’t even have to “soak”, I just hold the cotton ball on the nail to dissolve the polish. It works SO much better than the other stuff. Yeah, it’s drying (even with the glycerine, though that does help in the short term), but a good moisturising (I do use a jojoba-based cocoction that I make myself because I like shea butter and I use that) routine will sort that out pretty quickly and easily.

    So acetone it is! Oh, and a side note, you can buy a big container of pure acetone in a hardware store very inexpensively. I buy it by the litre and put it in Menda pump bottle dispenser and do the glycerine/water mixing right in the bottle, and it’s very economical (people can Google to find “recipes” for the glyercine acetone if they’re interested; it’s really simple to do).

    • Ana December 13, 2013 at 10:07 am #


      Thank you so much for your detailed comment!

      I recently published an article by my mentor Doug Schoon where he said the same thing as you.

      If you put olive oil on your skin before you remove your polishes, your skin won’t get so dry. I personally love the “Foil Wrap Glitter Removal” Method so I don’t try to scrape those glitter pieces off like a crazy woman.

      The topic of cheaper acetone at the hardware stores came up on Doug’s FB page. He said Home Improvement Acetone is allowed to have 5% of impurities—which can affect product adhesion—so he didn’t recommend it at all for nail professionals. ~Ana

  4. Melissa January 27, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    Ty I have heard acetone was bad I use it cuz polish comes off easier.I will be adding these ingredients to my acetone.

    • Ana March 3, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

      You’re welcome Melissa! <3 ~Ana

  5. Bonnie February 13, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    So interesting! I also had made the switch to non-acetone since everything I read made it sound so much better (and that acetone was so terrible!) I’m definitely going to stop using it and try your DIY recipe! I’ve noticed that the non-acetone really does take much longer to remove polish (especially, as others pointed out, glitter!) This article is great, thank you! I’ve learned so much from your articles already <3

  6. Mahogany September 17, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    I am so glad I came across this article.

    1. I don’t use glitters because of the difficulty in getting them off. I love them, but not enough to deal with the headache.
    2. I keep two dispensers. One with acetone, which I only used (until this article) to clean my nail stamping plates and the other with non-acetone which I use for removing nail polish from my nails.

    I never recalled regular nail polish being so difficult to remove back in the day as it is today using non-acetone nail removers. No doubt the formula probably has changed over the years getting weaker causing the consumer to purchase more of the product as with any product now a days. Nothing is the same. BUT, with a
    (1) nail treatment,
    (2) base coat, ridge filler,
    (3 – 5) 2-3 coats of nail polish,
    (6) top coat,
    (7) nail stamping,
    (8) another top coat,
    I am finding it just as difficult to remove a regular mani as much as I would if I had glitter on. There have been occasions, where I haven’t been paying attention and accidently use the acetone pump instead of the non-acetone pump and I swear, all those layers just glide off with no effort, but then I see the dreaded whitish film around my cuticles and skin I say oops! Wrong One. Because of the myths going around about acetone, I refuse to use it on my nails knowingly. Fear no more….lol… I will not purchase anymore non-acetone, because I go through half a pump bottle and numerous cotton balls anyway to remove a mani. Thank you for this educated information on this topic. I will go to Sally’s and purchase the biggest bottle of acetone I can find along with a bottle of glitter polish or two, because I don’t own any.


  7. Gabriela November 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    This site is amazing! It has everything we need to know, thank you!!

    • Cory December 12, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      You’re most welcome Gabriela. 🙂 ~Ana

  8. Susie B December 12, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    Hi, whenever I use acetone nail polish remover and use a nail lamp to cure my nails I end up with terrible splits that are unbelievably sore on the skin under my nails.
    I am meticulous with hygiene and whatever I do I end up with lovely looking nails but so sore! Any ideas please?

    • Cory December 12, 2014 at 10:57 am #

      Susie, it sounds like your nails could be too thin. Although I’m not sure without asking a bunch of questions and seeing your nails. You’re welcome to email me at anytime. ~Ana

  9. Amber October 4, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    I am SOOOO happy I found your blog through Simply Nailogical. You have such amazing information and your a pleasure to read. =]

  10. Ashley November 14, 2015 at 6:03 am #

    Thank you for this! Such an informative website, I can’t stop reading! This article confirms my suspicions. In the past I used ‘nail polish removers’ and they literally took layers off my nails, forcing me to go long stretches of no polishing so my nails could heal. When I switched to pure acetone the peeling ceased. And I’ve told everyone that from my experience acetone is better and they look at me like I’m crazy mostly. This gives me a real explanation for why exactly it IS better.

  11. Anastasia Hadjinicolaou March 19, 2016 at 6:45 am #

    This site is AMAZING with allthe knowledge I would need to know about I REALLY wanted to order some simply pure as i am trying to grow my nails out, unfortunately I live in Cyprus in Europe is there ANY possible way you can ship to me?
    Please email me with more information 🙂

    • Catherine Rifenberg April 12, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

      Hi Anastasia,
      Yes, you can absolutely order from us and ship to Cyprus! 🙂 Our website is, and we ship worldwide except to UAE. If you have any other questions, please email us at

      Kristin, Bliss Kiss Customer Care

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