Facts About Nail Polish Remover: Acetone v Non Acetone

It’s summer time. That means we want our finger and toe nails to look their very best. For a lot of us that means a trip to the salon for a mani/pedi right? Or you can try the new Nail Polish Strips that are 100% nail polish and do it yourself. No mess, no fuss. But once you apply that gorgeous nail polish (whether it’s liquid or nail polish strips, what’s the best way to get it off? To help decide we should take a quick look at how nail polish removers work and what’s in them.

How do nail polish removers really work? 

Simply put, when polish remover is applied to a polished finger or toe nail, it breaks down the polish and liquefies it. Then it dissolves the polish from the nail and in doing so removes it. To get all chemistryish, the solvent’s molecules (which may be acetone or acetate), get in between the chains of the polymer (the polish) and separate them, making it easy to wipe the polish off with a ball of cotton.

Types of Nail Polish Remover 

Basically, there are two different kinds of nail polish removers: those containing acetone and those without. If it’s acetone-free, it usually uses acetate as a solvent instead. The label should clearly state whether or not the remover contains acetone.

Nail polishes contain ingredients like resins, plasticizers, film formers, and color pigments. Additionally, nail polish strips have adhesives to help them stay on the nail.  So solvents such as acetone or acetate are needed to dissolve those chemicals before they can be removed.

Acetone Polish Removers Acetone is a pretty powerful solvent and as such it works best at removing polish. But because it’s harsh, it removes some of your skin and nail’s natural oils too resulting in dry skin, nails, and cuticles.

Pros: Quickest, easiest, least expensive, and most effective way to remove nail polish and nail polish strips.

Cons: Harsh and drying to nails, cuticles, and skin. Strong odor.

Non-Acetone Polish Removers Non-acetone removers use milder solvents like ethyl acetate. Even if it’s a considered natural or organic nail polish remover, a solvent is still needed to break down the polish, it just won’t be acetone. Natural nail polish removers usually add moisturizers to minimize the drying effect. But they don’t dissolve the polish as well so you’ll have to work harder to get it off. You can also try soaking your nails a bit with a cotton ball or pad saturated with the remover.

Pros: Gentler and less drying than removers with acetone. No strong odor. Most  have moisturizers added in.

Cons: Doesn’t work as well as acetone, requires more effort to remove. Can be used on nail polish strips but just like regular nail polish, requires more work. Won’t work on gel, powder, (no-chip) manicures. Likely to be more expensive especially if it’s labeled natural or organic.

Which one is for you? Acetone is still the most efficient way to remove nail polish and nail polish strips like those made by Color Street. But it can be harsh and dry out skin and nails. Other solvents such as acetate do the job, but not as well as acetone. So you’ll have to work a little harder to get the polish off. But you’ll have the benefit of added moisturizers.

Whichever you decide, it’s always a good idea to moisturize your hands and nails after polish removal and even better to use a good cuticle oil to counteract the drying effects of the solvent.

I use Color Street nail strips exclusively instead of liquid nail polish. The strips don’t adhere as well if you apply moisturizer/cuticle oil before the using them. So I use the oil afterwards and give my nails a rest in between applications with lots of moisturizer.

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