Acetone Nail Polish Remover: Friend or Foe?
Hey everyone, how’s it going?
Recently I made a comment on Twitter about how I was going to stop using acetone nail polish remover because my uncle and aunt, who are both Scientists had mentioned it could be bad for your liver. My uncle used to work where I work, and my aunt currently works where I work. I work for a large Biotech company in case you weren’t aware. Anyway, apparently people blew that Tweet way out of context on the MUA board making really snarky comments like “maybe she meant Scientologist”, and saying I didn’t know what I was talking about, etc. Here is the tweet:
First off I need to say that I have no respect for people who talk about what other people do or do not know behind their backs while they are not even there to defend themselves. Someone had to tell me about all this chatter because I never go on MUA, and didn’t know it was going on. I deleted my MUA account because it seems like the vast majority of people commenting on that thread (at least when I checked it) were being really negative and frankly I don’t need that in my life.
Second, I can’t stand it when people make assumptions. Most of the snarky people don’t even follow me on Twitter so they don’t even know what I said to begin with!
Third, most people don’t use acetone remover as much as I do, unless they too are nail polish bloggers. I was concerned about it mainly because I swatch a lot.
And fourth, I am not an Oracle. I believe I should be able to make a statement on Twitter without having to worry that now people are going to blindly follow what I do without investigating things for themselves. I understand that some people think bloggers should be held responsible for what they say, and that they might influence people. I get that. On the other hand I’ve said quite a few times that I’m not an expert on anything, this is a hobby for me, and I think most people are smart enough to think for themselves.
And finally, I feel the need to say that a lot of times big lobbyists and money/politics are behind drug approvals and statements that the FDA or OSHA or the CDC makes. There was nothing behind my uncle and aunt’s statement to me other than concern for my health. Period.
Ok enough of that, just had to get it out
I decided to ask my uncle a few questions about his experience with acetone and what the science behind it was all about. Some background about him: He has a degree in BioChemistry from UC Berkeley and has worked in the Biotech/Pharma industry in drug development for 24 years. He hasn’t studied acetone directly, but used it as a solvent in the lab and learned about it’s biochemistry in college. FYI - When they use it in the lab, it’s with nitrile gloves, lab coat, safety glasses and only in an externally vented fume hood.
Here are some general questions I asked him about acetone (this is about straight acetone not acetone nail polish remover).
1. What exactly is acetone? An organic solvent with the atomic formula C3H6O
2. Is acetone safe to use in small amounts, say in fingernail polish remover? It has been approved for this use, as it is available commercially
3. What are some health effects? Below are some potential health effects listed by the Material Safety Data Sheet (http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/A0446.htm)
Inhalation of vapors irritates the respiratory tract. May cause coughing, dizziness, dullness, and headache. Higher concentrations can produce central nervous system depression, narcosis, and unconsciousness.
Swallowing small amounts is not likely to produce harmful effects. Ingestion of larger amounts may produce abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Aspiration into lungs can produce severe lung damage and is a medical emergency. Other symptoms are expected to parallel inhalation.
Irritating due to defatting action on skin. Causes redness, pain, drying and cracking of the skin.
Vapors are irritating to the eyes. Splashes may cause severe irritation, with stinging, tearing, redness and pain.
Prolonged or repeated skin contact may produce severe irritation or dermatitis.
4. Is it bad for your liver? There aren’t a lot of studies available that have been done on humans (for obvious reasons). However there have been animal studies. Here is an excerpt from The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts21.html)
“Health effects from long-term exposures are known mostly from animal studies. Kidney, liver, and nerve damage, increased birth defects, and lowered ability to reproduce (males only) occurred in animals exposed long-term. It is not known if people would have these same effects.”
He was able to find a direct statement of human toxicity, which is on the Canadian OHS site (http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/acetone/health_ace.html) . An excerpt below:
“Will acetone act in a synergistic manner with other materials (will its effects be more than the sum of the effects from the exposure to each chemical alone)?”
“Acetone has increased the liver toxicity of chemicals, such as carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, trichloroethylene, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane, N-nitrosodimethylamine and 1,1,2-trichloroethane, the lung toxicity of styrene and the toxicity of acetonitrile and 2,5-hexanedione in laboratory animals. It appears to inhibit the metabolism and elimination of ethyl alcohol, thereby potentially increasing its toxicity. Acetone can either increase or decrease the toxicity of 1,2-dichlorobenzene, depending on the concentration of acetone used.”
He also mentioned that in his Biochemistry class and in Organic Chemistry, they were taught that skin exposure to acetone was almost the same as injecting it because it absorbs through the skin so quickly that you can measure acetone in the blood within a few seconds. “It’s also known that elevated acetone from natural processes, as occurs in some forms of diabetes, causes liver damage, so obviously, if you got the same sort of levels from an external source, you would expect the same sort of damage.”
So you might be asking, is it safe then or not? Well the answer is I don’t know and neither does anyone else for sure, it seems. It has been proven to cause certain health issues in animals, which can mean humans will have some of the same problems, but no one can tell without human studies. Like many other issues, there are going to be people who say it’s safe, and those that say it’s not safe. You will find articles online on both sides.
In closing I want to say that I am not a health nut who thinks every single thing will give me cancer, but I’m not oblivious to health concerns either. I don’t buy ground hamburger meat that isn’t organic because I read Fast Food Nation and other articles that convinced me it wasn’t worth the risk. On the other hand I still eat a Jack in the Box burger from time to time.
My point is, it’s always best to investigate things for yourself and determine what is best for you. For me I am going to switch to a non-acetone remover for my swatching sessions and see how I like it. I have heard Orly Gentle is a good one to try. I’m not saying I won’t go back to OPI Expert Touch or Zoya Remove, but I am at least going to test it out. Remember I use a lot more of it than the “average bear” so for me, this makes sense.
I would love to hear your comments on this issue, but please note, if they are negative, they will be promptly deleted. I am not writing this to stir up controversy or get people yelling at each other. Play nice!