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

Acetone Information

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 (

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.
Skin Contact:
Irritating due to defatting action on skin. Causes redness, pain, drying and cracking of the skin.
Eye Contact:
Vapors are irritating to the eyes. Splashes may cause severe irritation, with stinging, tearing, redness and pain.
Chronic Exposure:
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 (

“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 ( . 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!


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  • January 19, 2010

    VV, I think people are petty and it’s easier to be negative. When you put your opinions/comments out there, someone is always gonna twist it, wring it and make it full of drama. Too bad you left MUA (don’t know what that is exactly) over something pretty lame. chin up and keep on keepin’ on homie!

    • January 19, 2010

      Hi Elysia,

      MUA is Makeup Alley, an online makeup forum. Thanks!

  • January 19, 2010

    Thanks for the information. I have always wondered about the side effects of nail polish as well as nail polish remover (acetone). Are my fingers gonna fall off? Just kidding, they would have done that by now I am assuming. Any suggestions as to what to use other than acetone?

    • January 19, 2010

      Hi Denielle,

      Non-acetone. I mentioned Orly Gentle is supposed to be a good one.

  • January 19, 2010

    Thanks for sharing this. Dr. Oz talked about acetone being bad for you before the holidays, but I never got to see the complete show.

  • January 19, 2010

    When i saw your tweet I got so scared since I use acetone based polish removers. So i did some googling myself. I learned that acetone is found naturally in our bodies and what not but can be harmful for those exposed to it the most without ventilation.

    Thank you for clearing this up a little more.
    .-= Candi´s last blog ..candiDUH: craving korean food. =-.

  • January 19, 2010

    I usually take comments like that at heart and research it. I switched to the sucarole for my coffee a while back and then saw a comment somewhere about it being bad for my health and I ended up researching it and making a decision based on that.

    This is very good to know and very information and I thank you for posting that. And considering how much remover you use, I completely see your concern. I knew a lot of acetone wasn’t recommended but it’s very good to know more about it and I might have to try Orly Gentle now(yay a reason to go shopping again! That makes me happy.)

    I guess it’s like any other things. Moderation is the key.

  • January 19, 2010

    Thank you for sharing this information and I really appreciate all of you hard work and dedication to your blog and followers. Even though I don’t have Twitter account, I do read your tweets to gain more information and like you said, you have every right to say what you want and people should take responsibility for how each person utilizes that information. This is great information and personally, I think it was probably a bunch of “bozos” who don’t know the difference in spelling of Scientist and Scientology – but again, that’s my personal feelings. (I’m trying to be funny here and not hurtful.) How they got the two words mixed up is beyond my comprehension but oh well . . . Thanks again for all your information!

  • January 19, 2010
    Kate & Zena

    Ah, the idiocy of humanity at times. I’m convinced we tend to take everything out of context.

    This is a very informative post. I, personally, never use acetone when I do my manicures at home. I find even the smallest amount used gives me a wicked (and I do mean WICKED) migraine. Bad enough to the point where I’m paying homage to the Porcelain God. I’ve gone through tons of non-acetone brands and have only found ONE to this day that not only removes polish nearly as effectively as acetone, but doesn’t send my Epilepsy into overdrive (i.e. Migraines). I’d rather do a teensy bit more scrubbing than worry about a hideous migraine that could potentially send me to the ER (which, by the way, I was there on Saturday for a migraine and it was not fun. I bet my daddy is going to be real pleased when he sees the bill).

    It’s the same thing with nail polish. I cannot use nail polishes with toulene (bad, bad, BAD reaction) or formaldehyde (hideously allergic to in all forms) so I’m always getting 3-Free formulations. I’m really used to reading labels on my skin care products (I have hyper-sensitive skin) so it wasn’t that hard to learn to read nail polish labels. It’s harder, but not impossible. I think I need to buy a magnifying glass so I can read those damn labels easier.

    How’s wittle Chase-y doing?

  • January 19, 2010

    I’m so glad to see that you approached this issue in such a calm and frankly, scientific manner and went to investigate for yourself beyond even what most people would. I just graduated from UCLA and spent a lot of time in labs, including biochem labs, and acetone was definitely one of the chemicals that required use of gloves and fume hoods, and we would have to prepare an MSDS for it so that we understood the risk of using it. As far as acetone in nail polish remover is approved for use, it was most likely approved for use such that the average user would not use enough to cause significant harm or damage, but I definitely see where you may be concerned since you do change your nail polish so much. I think for the average user it is safe to use a polish remover containing acetone, but to limit the use of pure acetone (which means being very very very patient with glitters, no doubt!)

    In any case, thank you for the information in this post and do ignore what the naysayers are saying! There are such mean people out there…
    .-= Megan´s last blog ..Tuesday/Wednesday night distractions =-.

  • January 19, 2010

    I know that there have always been new things found out about these chemicals. My mom was telling me that years ago you could buy weak formaldehyde at the beauty store because it was supposed to make your nails longer and stronger. Where I work when we make even a 10% formaldehyde solution we use full face masks…kinda funny when you see all the stuff we learn after we’ve already used it. Formaldehyde in a raw form = lung cancer, formaldehyde on nails = pretty nails…at the job I work we are told to use all the precautions around acetone due to flamability but the lady that trained me used to use it to clean up our control rooms…that stuff eats through plastic and floor wax!!! how can that be good for me?

  • January 19, 2010

    I work in a lab environment and we use acetone and/or methanol to rinse all glassware out with after prepping solutions in it and before it goes through the washer. We have several different gloves available to use as well. I believe that butyl ones are recommended over nitrile b/c acetone can breakthrough the nitrile ones fairly quickly.

    I try to avoid acetone removers b/c I figure that I already get exposure at work that could have negative impact. Of course other removers have other chemicals that some would say are just as bad. I’ve been curious about the soy based one availablle through Priti but haven’t tried it yet.

    My college professors will tell you that when they were in school they used to use benzene to rinse their glassware and then found out many years later that it was a carcinogen. Of course at the time they didn’t know any better.

    Each person has to figure out what their risk based on their exposure and then make their decision based on that. My choice is to avoid acetone at home since I know that I’m exposed to some nasty chemicals at work.

    It sounds to me like your family was just to caution you and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

  • January 19, 2010

    Thanks for doing that investigation Vampy, after seeing your tweet I was kinda hoping you would. Very imformative post! Your tweet did encourage me to actually go out and buy some non acetone remover (Sephora’s own is all I could find :-/) I find it to be oily, smelly and generally a pain in the ass to use but at least now I know that the occaisional use of my normal one isn’t going to (hopefully) cause any long term damage 😉

    You rock! (and any MUA-er that says otherwise is a muppet)

  • January 19, 2010

    Hi Kelly. I follow you on Twitter and here. We’ve commented back and forth a few times. I’m on MUA as well and I’ve seen that thread. I am compelled to say that while there may be some nasty people on MUA there are some great people on there too.

    That aside, I’m not sure of the side effects of acetone. I think you presented it well and as you said it’s your own choice. I won’t quit using it but then I don’t use a vast amount either.

  • January 19, 2010

    Hey Kelly,
    First, it’s really messed up for people who don’t even know you to be talking badly about you somewhere that you don’t even go! It just disgusts me when people do these things. You’re a good blogger/swatcher, and they can suck it.
    I find that MUA, at least this new crop of people who sometimes hang there, can be ridiculously catty sometimes. Sometimes they’re nice and helpful, but when the new crowd comes in, they tend to shoot their mouths off.
    I’m sorry you were treated like that! They suck.
    And second, now I wonder how much exposure is too much with acetone? Surely, as a swatcher you have way more exposure to it, but the average lady who does her nails here and there doesn’t. But what about nail polish fans like some of us? I change maybe 2-3, maybe 4 times a week. Is that too much? Does it get worse depending on how you apply it? I ask, because I got sick of paying $4 for a box of 8 acetone towelettes that I usually use to remove polish, and just ended up buying the felt myself. But strangely, after I saturate the felt square with acetone, it leaves a crazy white-powdery look all over my nailbed and cuticles! It’s really off-putting.

    Hmm. I used to really like Zoya Remove. I wonder if I should go back?

    • January 19, 2010

      Hi Mariah,

      I don’t know how much is too much since there really aren’t studies. I know when I do a swatching session which is usually every weekend, I swatch 20-40 colors in sitting. Plus I use it 2-3 times a week to remove my manicures. It’s really up to you to decide what’s too much.

  • January 19, 2010

    As bad as it sounds, short of being told that acetone use is going to leave me horribly disfigured or blind, I’ll probably keep using it no matter what the risks. Not because I think anyone else’s concerns are frivolous, I just have zero patience when it comes to trying to remove polish (not just glittery ones!) with non-acetone removers. It took 2-3x as long to take off my polish before I switched to acetone and it really put me off doing my nails. I’m sadly addicted to the convenience acetone offers.

  • January 19, 2010

    I was one of the commenters on the thread actually. No i did not say anything insulting. I had an oppinion very similar to yours where acetone saftey is still very unknown. I had been under the impression at the time of the post that the person who started the post was the one who had origionally had this sentiment. There was no indication that they had lifted the information from someones twitter.

    I do agree that it would have been better had you been there to defend yourself, but upon thinking about it i also realized the diffrent Make up forums have diffrent amounts of kindness and sadly of the three forums i vist regularly MUA tends to be one of the rudest communities in there behavior towards fellow members.

  • January 19, 2010

    First off, VV, you rock! I remember that tweet and it gave me pause b/c I use acetone remover. I’m glad you brought the issue forward, and I’m glad you followed up with that info. (BTW, I didn’t follow the MUA thread). I think the answer to whether acetone remover is “safe” remains. It will probably never be answered completely. I’m thinking of using non-acetone for light colors/sheers/non-glitters and saving the acetone for glitters and deeper colors. This is my happy medium. Others will find their own. It’s like any potentially harmfully substance, you have to decide if the risks are worth the benefits.

  • January 19, 2010

    Really well researched and presented. Thanks for a great article, Kelly.

  • January 19, 2010

    YAY for MSDS sheets!!!! lol I’ve worked at many labs before, and you’d be surprised how many common things are incredibly bad for you in large quantities (rubbing alcohol anyone??)… Since you are a blogger, and swatch several colors several times a week, you would be INSANE not to be concerned!!!! Thanks for letting everyone know that while it CAN be bad for you, using a small amount once or twice a month isn’t a big deal, but could be for someone like you. Keep it up!

  • January 19, 2010

    It’s amazing at times how someone can blow something so out and just be petty and negative about it. I am for one to use organic nail polish remover only because of the smell of acetone base nail polish remover really bothers my asthma at times. In fact I learn about organic nail polish remover from one of your posts Kelly!!
    You did a lot of work trying to set things straight Kelly, and good for you!
    There will always be someone who will do whatever it takes to make someone else look back if it means they are getting their 15 minutes of fame.
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..Hands of Hope by BB Couture =-.

  • January 19, 2010

    My dad is a chemist and gives me a hard time not just about acetone but about nail polish in general. He loves to tell me all about the nasty stuff I’m putting on my hands.

    Acetone is basically a heavy-duty paint thinner. Nail polish is made of resins and plasticizers and all sorts of chemicals. A strong solvent is needed to break down these chemicals and remove them from nails. I prefer acetone because it works so quickly, and I’m nothing if not impatient.

    I agree that everyone should realize the potential risk and then make his/her own decision — not just about acetone, but from nail polish as well (especially polish with the “big three” chemicals: toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde). Toluene is especially worrisome — far more than acetone or formaldehyde.
    .-= Whitney G´s last blog ..Mermaid Manicure =-.

  • January 19, 2010

    It’s funny because I was just looking at your About section before I read this post where you mention that you’re not a specialist and this is just a hobby for you.

    I have been wondering about acetone for a while now. First, the strong odors and drying effects to my skin had me buzzing, and then I started reading up on prego women being advised to stay away from it (I’m a big supported of – if it’s not good for babies or prego women, it’s not good for me! lol). I have been purchasing and researching a lot of alternatives as well. There don’t seem to be too many out there!

    While some may not have acetone, they have variations, like acet-something. I remember from chem class in high school (forgive me lol) that the endings change with the presence or absence of an extra element. I keep wondering if these variations are equally as bad for you as acetone. I’m a marketing and PR gal, so your scientific insight will be of more knowledge than mine:) Any insight on this?
    .-= yaya´s last blog ..Order in the Court! =-.

    • January 20, 2010

      Hi yaya,

      I don’t really know much about the other variations of acetone, sorry. It’s probably something you could Google and find more about, but sometimes that stuff is hard to wade through and understand. I had to get my uncle to “dumb down” his answers back to me because he’s super smart and I only understand like 1/4 of what he says, lol!

  • January 19, 2010

    Hi, Kelly, I’m actually the person who informed you of the thread on MUA, but then I got sick because of my tonsillectomy and was offline for a while. When I got back, I was really sorry because I didn’t want you to think I sent it to you with malicious intent. I do agree that some of the commenters were obnoxiously snarky towards you, but honestly if you looked back at the thread, the majority of them just stated their opinions without bringing you into it. I can see why you would be hurt/pissed though – it’s easy to take 140 characters from a person you don’t know and roll with it.

    There was one particular poster, phdskin, that I thought made an interesting, pertinent, and informed comment ( that I was wondering if you had read. For those of you who don’t want to click, this is what she says: “My phd dissertation work involves measuring skin absorption of acetone and several other organic solvents. ONLY 0.1% of acetone penetrated over 24 hours after the skin was exposed to a small volume. Trust me inhalation of acetone is much more significant than skin absorption. also, acetone is a biproduct of the natural metabolic process. no one is going to get liver damage from the amount of acetone we put on our skin.”

    I can definitely see why you would be worried and take the better safe than sorry approach given your extensive swatching, but for my part I will continue to use acetone. (By the way I am a pre-med/written communications major and both my parents are doctor’s – not that that means much, just that I do know my way around medical/scientific literature). I am really sorry that my information led you to a bad impression of MUA; which does have lovely, kind, and generous ladies, but can be tough on newbies (not that that’s okay, just a fact). Anyway thanks for bringing this up.
    .-= Jennifer A.´s last blog ..BB Couture for Men, "Tools" Collection + some CND Effects =-.

  • January 20, 2010

    i cant believe people made a big deal about your tweet
    i personally try not to use acetone nail polish remover
    but right now i have a bottle of polish remover with acetone but i tend to get non-acetone as often as possible just depends when i buy it and what they have in stock at that certain store
    i would rather be on the safe side and go for the non-acetone
    but as you said there are people who say it isnt bad and people who say its bad
    but i picked my side even though i dont always follow it
    gosh people stop being so dramatic and overreacting to every little thing said

  • January 20, 2010

    When I read your tweet I thought hmm, that sucks, but I’m still going to use it because non-acetone makes my nails peel and crack. I know, that’s horrible that I care more about my nails than my liver, but I don’t think non-pure acetone would have that kind of effect on a person unless you used it daily for a long period of time. I think that if that were to happen it would have happened to many people by now. That’s just my take on it.

    And not to be a bitch or anything, but all you people who got scared or worried over it, come on you’ve been using it this long I presume and you haven’t died yet. Not unless you paint your nails and remove it in an air tight box.

  • January 20, 2010

    “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”

    MUA is a public forum. Are you really saying that MUA members aren’t allowed to discuss your blog content without alerting you first?

    I have no strong opinion on acetone. I defend your right to say what you like about it, to make your own choices, and to publish such information as you see fit. I also defend anyone else’s right to comment on your public blog on a public forum.

  • January 20, 2010

    Hey, you didn’t say it as an established fact. You passed it on as a comment you’d heard and you put it in context. If people get uptight about it then that’s their problem. It’s not as if we haven’t heard it a million times before. Storm in a teacup.

    You did nothing even remotely irresponsible so if people need a bit of aggravation in their lives then let them. We all know what the web is like. Anonymity gives people the courage to say stupid, hurtful and ridiculous things. A moment later you hit the Enter button and think no more about it.

    Easily said but do try not to let it upset you. Nobody with half a brain thinks you are trying to brainwash people with pseudo-science.

  • January 20, 2010

    Whew, those people on MUA were nasty! It’s so sad that there’s really people who need to put others down, just to make themselves feel good. Stupid trolls!

    I’m a 3rd year chemistry student, and I think your uncle is so lucky to have good working conditions like that! We had Organic Chemistry lab last semester, and we had to use acetone for cleaning the equipment. No gloves (except for some of the girls who didn’t want to ruin their nails^^), no hood, no nothing. One time, some people were even made to clean a bucket of the really dirty stuff by pouring a liter or so of pure acetone over it. Again, no hood, in a small closed room in the middle of july. So I guess if that’s how scientists-to-be are told to treat the stuff, without someone being afraid of people getting damages from it, it can’t be that dangerous to use it as a polish remover once in a while 😉
    That said, of course you’re right about the long-term consequences. No need to take unneccessary risks!

    I’ve tried both kinds of remover, and I found the non-acetone a lot more nauseating and unfriendly to the skin than the one with acetone. But that’s just me, probably I’m already so used to certain solvents that I don’t notice them any more 😀

    Have a nice day, and don’t get too bothered by idiots leaving bad comments! :-*
    .-= Pia´s last blog ..Awesome KOH Giveaway at Witoxicity’s blog! =-.

  • January 20, 2010

    TMI, but I got a cold sore recently, and desperately wanted to get it off my face just short of sandblasting the affected region. A popular, speed home remedy was the repeated application of an acetone based nail polish remover to the cold sore to dry it out. It came up under searches constantly. I tried it, it works, but damn did it make my head spin. To be honest, I probably won’t try that method again unless I’m really desperate again. I will prob continue using acetone on my fingers but prob not on my face again. I’d love to hear what people would say about the acetone cold sore method since they’re up in arms on about hands. 😀

  • January 20, 2010

    Thanks for the info. It is definitely something to consider. It sucks that people have to react in a negative way. Why can’t they just be respectful of other people, I believe my mother called it manners when I was growing up. You were just sharing something that you thought would affect fellow nail polish lovers, we do use a lot of remover. Don’t worry about them, I appreciate the information you share with us!

  • January 20, 2010

    Hi Kelly, thanks for the information about acetone. I have often wondered that myself. I actually started using the Orly Gentle recently and it works pretty well. However sometimes when I have glitters on I will use the regular acetone remover. The only downside to the Orly Gentle formula, in my opinion, is that it has a weird smell to it.

  • January 20, 2010

    I have a masters degree in chemister and another in chemical engineering. I’ve also taught both gen chem and organic chemistry at the college level, and I feel it’s a risky to form opinions based on what is touched upon in these classes. It’s very basic information and often very simplified.

    There are a lot of chemicals I’d start to worry about before I’d worry about acetone. It’s an organic solvent so it’s not something I’d attempt to expose myself to, but I don’t worry about it in polish remover. I have seen very little material from peer reviewed journals indicating I should worry. There is a lot of lobbyism involved in FDA regulations etc., so IMO it’s safer to rely on peer reviewed journals.

    B3 polishes. Those I’d stay away from :/

  • January 20, 2010

    most non-acetone nail polish remover contain ethyl acetate as a main ingredient. the msds for ethyl acetate can be seen here

    Inhalation can cause severe irritation of mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract. Symptoms may include burning sensation, coughing, wheezing, laryngitis, shortness of breath, headache, nausea and vomiting. High concentrations may cause lung damage. An irritant to the nose, throat, and upper respiratory tract. Exposure to high concentrations have a narcotic effect and may cause liver and kidney damage.
    Causes irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
    Skin Contact:
    Causes irritation to skin. Symptoms include redness, itching, and pain. Repeated or prolonged contact with the skin has a defatting effect and may cause dryness, cracking, and possibly dermatitis.
    Eye Contact:
    Causes irritation, redness, and pain.
    Chronic Exposure:
    Chronic overexposure may cause anemia with leukocytosis (transient increase in the white blood cell count) and damage to the liver and kidneys.
    Aggravation of Pre-existing Conditions:
    Persons with pre-existing skin disorders or eye problems, or impaired liver, kidney or respiratory function may be more susceptible to the effects of the substance.

    essentially any paint thinner (which is what polish remover is) is going to have the same general risks. the main difference will be in what amount of each product are dangerous and how those amounts compare to your usage.

  • January 20, 2010

    also, here is a great source for msds sheets on many nail products

  • January 20, 2010
    Jackie S.

    Thanks for the ibnfo., very informative, but when you mention “acetone use”, do you mean “nail polish remover w/ acetone” or “Pure Acetone Nail polish Remover” ?

    • January 20, 2010

      Hi Jackie S.,

      I am talking about acetone, whether it’s pure or mixed in with other ingredients.

  • January 20, 2010

    I study for my Masters in Environmental Chemistry and it is a risk factor with all chemicals that we use, a risk for the environment and for our health. Acetone is not the first thing I would worry about though. Besides the health issues that you’ve written about acetone may also be toxic for aquatic life, so it is very important, and this goes for all organic solvents, to NOT pour them down the drain. It is better to let them evaporate in to the air, even though they can smell rather bad. Acetone have a short half life (bit over 20 days), it is not expected to bioaccumulate, but the full effects in animals have not been studied enough. Acetone occurs naturally in the environment, in plants, volcanic gases and in the human body as a by product when burning fat.
    Other solvents may not be as efficiant as acetone to solve nail polish, so you may need to use more of them. You always need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of different solvents to one another, in this case the amount of efficiency.

    With that said, thank you for your wonderful blog :)

  • January 20, 2010


    I’m a Microbiologist, but I’ve gone through 3 years of general, organic, inorganic, and biochemistry, same as your uncle did. In my opinion, for the purpose of removing nail polish, even if you have to do it a few times a day, the amounts you inhale are not harmful as long as you don’t stick your nose directly into the cotton, and feel dizzy. Also as someone else has mentioned, acetone-free np remover isn’t any better for you.

    The real reason that you use fume hoods for organic solvents is to prevent large spills, as they usually come in a 2 gallon huge glass bottles, that if spilled outside a hood would require a spill team in respirators to clean up (because of the sheer evaporation area of the spill). At the same time there is no harm in minimizing exposure so I remove my np in the bathroom and with ventilation going.

    There are so many things that can kill you in this life, driving a car being one of the biggest things, that I really don’t see a reason being weary of np remover.

  • January 20, 2010
    Oh Geez.

    I was one of those people being “negative” about it if I remember the thread properly… one of the individuals commenting on that post is actually doing doctoral work involving toxicity of acetone, so I view their opinion as being somewhat more authoritative. It sort of seems like you’re twisting around what was said in order to make yourself look like a victim when for the most part the major discussion I saw on it was fairly reasonable when someone who is supposed to be a “polish authority” makes such a claim. I’m not unfamiliar with science and chemical hazards myself, being a PhD student in biochemistry with several years of lab experience… I think you’re presenting scientific information in a very unscientific manner, did you even bother actually looking up studies on acetone toxicity? If you did you would know most of the work done is pertaining to the amounts that industrial workers could potentially be exposed to, no matter how much you swatch I HIGHLY doubt you are getting anywhere near that level. I highly doubt the amount you use in a day is any more than is used open air in research labs daily – when you’re working directly from the bottle with acetone you use it under a fume hood, that does not mean it’s exclusively used under a hood. But, in the end, it’s your blog and you can present information in any manner you please and you are free to use any kind of remover you want – but realize that other people are free to criticize your opinions if they believe they are faulty and that ANY open forum is bound to get a little catty. Maybe you should of been a bigger person and just made a post explaining your position on acetone without having to bash another forum in the process. I just find this all particularly annoying because there was an individual in that post who STUDIES toxicity of low levels of acetone and you have chosen to ignore that and it seems you have ignored every poster who has tried to present a contrary view point.

    • January 20, 2010

      Hi Oh Geez,

      Actually if you bothered to read my post you would have understood that I was only talking about the snarky people on MUA who made comments such as “maybe she meant Scientologist”, etc. I didn’t say ALL people on MUA were like that.

      Also I did chat with that Scientist online in email and she agreed that things were getting out of control and some people tended to be jerks on MUA. She understood that things were getting blown out of context and she saw my point of view. We chatted about how I was going to do an interview with my uncle and he was going to provide more scientific information on acetone. We got along just fine, so maybe you shouldn’t make assumptions anymore. Just because you don’t see what’s going on doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

      If you ever bothered to read my blog you would also realize I have never said I was a “polish authority” or expert in any way, shape or form. This is a hobby, that’s it.

      And finally, I have never ignored any poster who has presented a contrary point of view, I have approved every single comment on this post, and yours is one of the only ones I have even responded to in any way.

      Next time maybe try actually reading what I write and understanding more about my blog before you make statements like this.

  • January 20, 2010

    HAHAHA, I’m sorry, but I just have to laugh at all those people getting their panties in a wad over something so ridiculous. It’s YOUR blog, YOUR opinion and they have to act like you are trying cause the destruction of humanity or something. This is just ridiculous, there are so many conflicting reports, one will say something causes cancer and another will say it cures it. While I highly doubt acetone cures cancer, it is up to each person to decide whether the risk is worth it. You were just sharing your choice in place where you had every right to do so and shouldn’t have to worry about being bombarded by Negative Nancys who get their kicks out of being belligerent.

  • January 21, 2010

    I <3 my acetone NPR. But then again Im one of those people that doesn't really care whats in it, as long as it gets the job done

  • January 21, 2010

    i think you wrote an awesome, scientifically based article here – but then i generally think it’s awesome what you write ;o)
    for my twice-a-week manis i tend to use non-acetone remover, unless i’m covered in glitter – then it’s plain old acetone and i’m not really feeling bad about that either – but i’m pretty sure it’s a good idea to avoid acetone for heavy duty swatching…
    keep up the good writing and forget about those MUA jerks!

  • January 21, 2010

    Thanks for the info – I can’t believe people reacted so stupidly to you just sharing what you knew!! Sorry to hear you had to tolerate all that.

  • January 21, 2010

    Hi Kelly,

    I am sorry you have been subjected to such harsh criticism and negativity. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and being attacked for it just speaks to the immaturity of the people doing the attacking.

    I personally am not that worried about the amounts of acetone in nailpolish, and make my decisions based on scientific findings. I can definitely recommend Joe Schwartz’s books on everyday chemistry as a wonderful read for anyone worried about chemicals in their environment. He is a chemistry professor in Montreal, and has a terrific TV show as well. I just love his logical approach to understanding these issues.

    As for the comments you received, they reflect the general nastiness that seems to be pervasive on the internet. Just because we can post with anonymity, does not mean that people should be rude and demeaning towards others. Whether or not the recipient takes it to heart, I really don’t see the point of being so negative. And frankly, I hate it when women are catty to each other. If you wonder why we don’t rule the world, it is because we are often engaged in emotional and verbal abuse towards others rather than channelling our positive energy and working with that. I encourage everyone to try to be more positive in their posts – even if you don’t agree with a poster, you can be nice about it – and take their negativity out on a pillow…it has no feelings, so mistreat it all you want!

    Sorry for the long rant, but I feel the need to vent…:)

    • January 21, 2010

      Hi Melli,

      Thanks, that was well put. :)

  • January 21, 2010

    i feel that people went about it the wrong way on mua, however they are entitled to their opinion. i feel you shouldve done more of your own research and consulted people (especially a certain person on mua who is studying acetone) for input before making an what appeared to be an uneducated comment. also, i feel by running away from mua, not only have you brought more criticism upon yourself, but have also insulted your core audience. if it hadnt been for mua, your blog would not be what it is now. just remember you are not the only nail blogger out there.

    • January 21, 2010

      Hi Ocelot1,

      I did speak with her just not online so maybe you shouldnt make assumptions.

      I don’t have a problem with MUA only certain comments that people made just to be catty. I logged onto MUA 4-5 times in 1 year and didn’t use it as a communication tool wih my readers anyway.

      Sorry if you feel I lost my core audience but my statistics in the last month alone shows otherwise. I am well aware I am not the only nail polish blogger, it’s too bad you think that’s some kind of threat for me, but I don’t feel threatened by them at all. :)