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Beenaturals Blog

What are the Real Dangers of Acetone Nail Polish Remover?

by Simranjeet Sahni 20 Aug 2023

Like a lot of chemicals, you find in cleaners and cosmetic products, acetone is a naturally occurring substance.

Since it’s a very powerful solvent, it has a lot of uses in industry, especially as paint thinner. If you’ve ever used acetone to remove paint from furniture, you know how effective it is. 

It’s also one of the most common ingredients in nail polish remover. It has a very strong smell, and for some people, it can be quite irritating. It can also cause some damage to the nail bed and the nails themselves.

While the dangers of acetone nail polish removers are fairly benign, there are also some safer non-acetone nail polish removers that don’t come with the smell, don’t need nearly as many cotton balls, and can get rid of hard-to-remove nail gel without a long soak. 

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH RISKS OF ACETONE?

Acetone has been used by painters and industrial workers for some time and has proven to be safe… when appropriate precautions are taken. While the levels of acetone in nail polish are pretty small by comparison, it’s hard to consider a product entirely safe for your hands and feet when professionals need to handle it with gloves, masks, and protective gear.

So what are the risks of concentrated acetone? Without protective gear, inhaling acetone is fairly dangerous, especially if you do it frequently. Before commercial facilities started requiring sufficient protective gear, factory workers who inhaled large amounts of acetone were found to suffer from a range of serious health consequences: 

Dangers of Inhaling Acetone

  • Increased heart rate
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Severe cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal irritation/sneezing
  • Damage to mucous membranes
  • Loss of consciousness

We know more about the risks of acetone inhalation today, and those same workers in a modern setting aren’t exposed to these same risks if they wear respiration masks and safety goggles.

ONLY use acetone:

  • In highly ventilated areas 
  • Wear protective clothing, like long sleeves and surgical gloves, when you use it
  • When you’re also wearing protective eyewear like goggles or OSHA approved eye coverings
  • With a ventilation mask

Taking that all into account, it’s still hard to balance the logic of using a substance on your nails that we can’t confidently recommend that you handle without gloves. What are you exposing yourself to when you soak your nails in it to remove acrylic nails or nail gel?

However, long-term exposure to large amounts of acetone over time (large in this case means 500 parts-per-million airborne particles) could cause permanent lung damage or respiratory illness. So, yes, acetone is relatively safe, provided that you handle it as recommended. 

IS IT SAFE TO HANDLE ACETONE?

This is a common safety label that you’re likely to find on most containers of pure acetone.

We should note that, if you’re already using acetone as a paint thinner or to strip furniture, remember that as long as you’re being safe, you’re not putting yourself in any danger. 

THE DANGERS OF SOAKING NAILS IN ACETONE NAIL POLISH REMOVER

Acetone nail polish remover is still the standard at professional nail salons and used in many homes. In fact, most of the time, your manicurist could still be using 100% pure acetone to get rid of your nail acrylic nail extensions. (You’ll now be very aware of why those professionals all wear protective eye covering and ventilation masks.)

Manicurists will usually have their customers soak the nails in pure acetone to break down a gel manicure. If there’s one thing you don’t want to do to your nails or your skin, it’s soaking them in acetone. 

Soaking your nails for long periods to break down nail polish or gel is far from ideal, and can cause some serious irritations. Acetone can dehydrate the nail bed, cuticles, and skin. For some people, that causes rashes, seriously dry skin, nail discoloration (pseudo-leukonychia) and dry, cracked nails (onychoschizia). 

And of course, dry, brittle, discolored nails almost entirely defeat the purpose of caring for your nails in the first place. 

WHAT ARE THE OTHER DANGERS OF ACETONE NAIL POLISH REMOVER?

Acetone is known for causing sore throats and headaches because of the fumes and the unpleasant odor. Is that a serious health concern? Not necessarily—but headaches and sore throats are certainly unpleasant, particularly if you get either or both every time you do your nails. 

It’s also highly flammable, so you do have to be cautious of how you store it. If it’s ingested, it’s very, very harmful and could cause death. If you have small children around, it’s very important that you don’t leave it out. 

WHAT ARE THE NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO ACETONE NAIL POLISH REMOVER?

You can easily find acetone-free nail polish remover that you buy at the drugstore. Even if you use remover with acetone, it’s usually fairly diluted. Why is that important? Because simply put, those acetone-free nail polish removers often don’t work quickly and aren’t as effective. Removing several coats of nail polish takes longer and uses up more cotton balls. Even after several applications, you may still see some of the nail polish residues on your nails! 

Clean Nails™, when combined with heat, is as effective at removing even stubborn non-uv-cured gel polish from the nails. In fact, Clean Nails™ is more effective at breaking down polish on acrylic nails, as well as non-uv-cured gel nail polishes, which means you don’t have to soak your delicate skin in an acetone bath! 

Products that have non-invasive or harmful ingredients are fairly easy to spot, so look for labeling that indicates the natural nail polish remover is:

  • Free of VOCs
  • Has limited ingredients
  • Doesn’t include chemicals that irritate the skin or airways
  • Can be used indoors safely
  • Provides additional moisturizers or therapeutic agents for the skin
  • Easy and effective to use
  • Formulated using proven scientific techniques or knowledge

NAIL CLEANER FAQS

What are VOCs and why are they harmful?

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are gases that are emitted into the air from products or processes. Some are harmful by themselves, including some that cause cancer. In addition, they can react with other gases and form other air pollutants after they are in the air.

Are acetone and alcohol considered VOCs?

Yes.

Do most regular nail polish removers contain VOCs?

Yes.

Does Bee Naturals Clean Nails™ contain VOCs?

NO! Clean Nails™ is an acetone-free, non-toxic nail polish remover. 

Does Bee Naturals Clean Nails™ work on uv-cured gel nails?

No. Clean Nails™ works at removing nail polish and non-uv-cured gel.

BEE NATURALS CLEAN NAILS™: NON-ACETONE NAIL POLISH REMOVER

Not only is Bee Naturals Clean Nails™ free of VOCs, it also helps condition the nails and cuticles. It works effectively without having to soak your nails in acetone, even to remove nail gel. You can enjoy the fun of switching out your nail polish while keeping the air you breathe cleaner and the environment around you safer.  

For more information about Clean Nails™ click here

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