Is Nail Polish Remover and Acetone the Same Thing?

If we talk about nail polish remover and acetone in terms of nail paint remover, both these liquids can serve the purpose, but the nail polish remover has other ingredients as well. While pure acetone has many uses other than just removing nail polish or fake nails.

Nail Polish remover is more than just acetone. It has solvents, scents, oils/fatty acids, aqua, and/or coloring. It may have acetone as the main solvent, but not necessarily. On the other hand, pure acetone also serves the purpose of nail polish removers but is not limited to this only.

The main purpose of acetone in any nail polish remover is to dissolve the nail polish coating and it is very effective, but it has numerous side effects on health, especially skin and nails. That’s why non-acetone removers are also available.

What is Acetone? Super Nail Pure Acetone Polish Remover, 8 Fl Oz

Acetone is an organic compound found in the human body, trees, volcanic gases, etc and a liquid solvent which belongs to the group ketones. Ketones are the acids produced by our body as a result of fat breakdown. And, acetone is the smallest ketone. The boiling point of acetone is 56 °C. This is the scientific side of acetone. Let’s understand it in simple words.

Acetone is highly volatile and flammable. Although it is colorless, it has a pungent odor. It is used for various purposes including cleaning, sterilization, and medicinal uses. In the beauty industry, it is mainly used to dissolve other chemicals. It can easily dissolve super glue thus it is very useful when it comes to removing fake nails by dissolving the glue.

What is Nail Polish Remover? Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Remover, 6 Ounce

A liquid that removes nail paint and helps take out fake nails, but that liquid is not as simple as it sounds. It is made up of various ingredients. So, it’s important to know what a nail polish remover really is.

If you turn the back of the nail polish remover bottle, you can find all these ingredients listed there. Usually, the solvents used in non-acetone nail polish removers are ethyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol, propylene carbonate, methyl ethyl ketone, and/or n-methyl-pyrrolidone. Not all of these solvents are used in one pack, but one or a combination of these solvents.

In acetone-based nail polish removers, the main solvent is acetone along with other solvents.

Do All Nail Polish Removers Have Acetone in Them?

No! There are two main types of nail removers found in the market, one is acetone based and the other one is non-acetone nail polish remover. The front label of the bottle tells if it’s acetone based or non-acetone. In non-acetone nail polish removers, there are solvents other than acetone that are less harmful to the skin and nails as compared to acetone.

What Is the Difference Between Acetone and Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover?

We can easily figure out that the major difference in both of these nail polish removers is the presence and absence of acetone. Let’s figure out what else is different.

Acetone Nail Polish Remover Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover
Powerful solvent: Acetone Powerful solvent options: Methyl ethyl ketone, ethyl acetate or n-methyl-pyrrolidone

are commonly used solvents

Miscible Mostly immiscible
Drying cuticles and skin around it. Gentler than acetone. Doesn’t damage instantly.
Very powerful, removes nail paint within seconds Less effective, takes time and effort to remove nail polish

What’s the Substitute for Non-Acetone Nail Polish Removers?

There are so many options that can be used to remove nail polish other than nail polish removers. But, do they really work? Here are some of them I used: 

Amazon Brand - Solimo 70% Ethyl Rubbing Alcohol First Aid Antiseptic, 16 Fluid Ounces

Rubbing Alcohol: It is said that rubbing alcohol removes nail polish and it is among the best alternatives for nail polish removers. I tried this method with 70% rubbing alcohol and tested it 3-4 times even leaving it on my nail for 30 seconds, it certainly didn’t work for me.

Toothpaste: Na! didn’t work at all. I applied it on my nail and left it for a few seconds, then used an old toothbrush to scrub… Nothing came off at all.

Perfume: Yay! Finally, something worked. It took some effort, rubbing and a little scrubbing, but it removed the nail polish.

Deodorant: Sprayed it on my nail and left it for 10 seconds, while writing this content, and it made my nail polish glossier and clearly didn’t remove it. I used “Degree Advanced” deodorant.

Vinegar: Yes! it works, but it is a time-consuming method. I applied vinegar to a cotton ball and put on my nail and pressed it with my other fingers for 5-7 minutes. After that, I rubbed it using the same cotton ball and it started coming off. I gave it some more time again and it took me almost 15 minutes to remove nail polish from one nail. And, It didn’t work as well as acetone or nail polish remover.

Hand Sanitizer: Because of Covid, hand sanitizer is a must in every house. I have personally tried it to remove red nail color and it worked better than non-acetone nail polish remover. Simply apply sanitizer on your nails and leave it for 10-15 seconds. Take a cotton ball and wipe off the nail polish. Quick and clean method!

Top Coat: This always works. All you have to do is to apply top coat nail polish on your nails. Leave it for 2-3 seconds and quickly wipe it off using cotton balls.

Is Acetone Nail Polish Remover Bad for You?

Yes, acetone is toxic and can be fatal for human beings in extreme cases. Here are some major dangers of acetone:

  • The strong smell of acetone can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. If you experience irritation, stay away from acetone and acetone-based products.
  • Acetone can enter the bloodstream upon exposure. Small amounts of acetone will not damage, but exposure for a long period can do some harm to the organs in the body.
  • Ingesting even a small amount of acetone can trigger stomach issues, headache, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, difficulty breathing, racing heartbeat, changes in blood cells, passing out, maybe coma, and in rare cases death.
  • Skin and nail contact with acetone makes them dry, cracked, and brittle. It can also trigger skin irritation, infections, or allergies.
  • Other than health factors, it is highly flammable so it must be kept and used only in safe environments.


If Acetone Can Remove Paint, Can You Use Nail Polish Remover to Remove Paint?

Acetone can eat through various surfaces including latex and plastic. And, it can also dissolve varnish, enamel paint, acrylic paint, glue, grease, etc. If you want to use acetone on walls, it can certainly damage wall paint.

Is Acetone and Nail Polish Remover Dangerous?

Although acetone has several side effects on our health, the non-acetone nail polish remover is not a great substitute either. You can say it is less dangerous as compared to acetone. Check out the list of similarities between the two to understand how both these options are harmful.

Both these nail polish removers are:

  • Flammable
  • Toxic
  • Solvents
  • Irritable for skin, nails, throat, and respiratory system
  • Volatile
  • Highly dangerous if ingested

Final Thoughts

This is a fact that acetone comes to you with many side effects, but unfortunately most of the non-acetone nail polish removers also come with similar downsides. The major difference is that non-acetone versions are gentler as compared to acetone.

Acetone is the best to remove all types of nail colors and fake nails (by dissolving the glue). It works quickly and efficiently. If you use non-acetone nail removers, they take more time and effort. You have to rub and rub, and rub to get rid of the nail polish. Still, they don’t work well for darker shades and gel-based nail polishes.