Why You May Have an Allergic Reaction to Acetone

 Whether you’re a nail art pro or you just enjoy the occasional manicure with a nail technician, understanding the ingredients in your cosmetic products can help you ensure you’re giving your skin and nails the luxurious treatment they deserve. Nail polish remover is likely your go-to tool when you’re ready to swap one color for another, but what is this product really made of?

In most nail polish removers, you’ll find acetone as a primary ingredient. While you may have heard of this solvent, you might wonder how safe is it for your skin, especially if you’ve had an allergic reaction to acetone. 

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about acetone, its uses, symptoms of an acetone allergy, and tips for using this ingredient safely.

Introduction to Acetone and Its Uses

Acetone is a clear, colorless liquid and a popular ingredient in many nail polish removers, although you may also find it in a variety of household cleaning products and industrial materials. Its ability to break down nail varnish and dissolve other substances like glue, paints, and stains makes it useful for an array of purposes, including:

  • Removing standard and gel nail polish from natural nails
  • Taking off acrylic nails and nail glue from stick-on nails 
  • Peeling off sticky substances, including gum, from natural materials like wool and silk

While you may be familiar with acetone as an ingredient in nail polish removers, it’s actually a naturally occurring compound found in volcanic gases, trees, plants, and even in the human body.1 This solvent evaporates quickly and has several names aside from acetone, including:

  • Beta-ketopropane
  • Dimethyl ketone
  • 2-propanone
  • Propanone

Understanding Acetone Allergies

So, can you have an allergic reaction to nail polish remover? 

The answer is yes. Because acetone is a solvent that’s considered an irritant, it may irritate the skin when used topically. While small amounts are safe for everyday use, like in nail polish remover, excessive acetone exposure can cause a more adverse reaction if you have a particular sensitivity. 

Additionally, since acetone occurs naturally in the body, it’s unlikely that small quantities will have noticeably negative effects on the skin. However, acetone comes in several grades, and some nail cosmetics that use low-grade acetone also contain other contaminants. These contaminants may lead to skin reactions and allergies, such as a HEMA allergy or more general nail polish allergy.

This means that if you have a nail polish remover allergy, the acetone may not be to blame.

It’s also possible to become allergic to uncured ingredients released by acetone. This is a crucial tip for nail salon owners and nail technicians in particular—their clients’ acetone sensitivity may not be a reaction to the ingredient itself, but rather an indication that the nail coating wasn’t cured properly. 

Fortunately, this means the client can still use acetone products in the future.

Common Symptoms of Acetone Sensitivity

Knowing what symptoms to look for can help you keep an eye out for acetone sensitivity and confirm whether you have an allergy to a contaminant or uncured nail coating. Keep in mind that not everyone with an acetone sensitivity will experience the same symptoms. However, the following reactions may indicate a need to swap your products for acetone-free solutions:

  • Swelling or redness of the fingertips
  • Nail plate discoloration
  • Contact dermatitis 
  • Dry, cracking, and brittle nails

As long as a secondary infection doesn’t occur, you can typically handle an acetone sensitivity by avoiding products that include the ingredient. However, it’s important to remember that when used in small qualities, like in a nail polish remover or home cleaning product, acetone itself is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.

Distinguishing Between Sensitivity and Irritation

If you’re trying to identify whether you’re having a topical sensitivity or irritation, you’ll want to consider the amount of acetone you’ve used or have had near you. High exposure to this solvent can cause significant irritation. Additionally, you may be more likely to experience irritation if you expose your eyes and nose, in particular, to acetone fumes. 

Signs of acetone irritation can include2:

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Irritation of the lungs, nose, and eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Cough

Fortunately, a quick trip to the nail salon or at-home manicure shouldn’t cause these types of reactions. Even still, it’s smart to take safety precautions and only use acetone for short periods and in a well-ventilated space. If you notice that you have a persistent sensitivity or acetone-caused irritation, you may want to opt for acetone-free products just to err on the side of caution.

Factors That Increase Susceptibility to Acetone Sensitivity

As mentioned earlier, topical use of acetone is typically safe in small quantities. However, some factors may make you more susceptible to negative reactions when using this solvent. 

For instance, you may be more likely to have an acetone sensitivity based on elements like your3:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Nutritional status
  • Genetic makeup

Acetone evaporates quickly, and since it’s often mixed with isopropanol alcohol, it can cause the skin to appear dry. If you have more sensitive skin, you may notice redness or cracking after using this solvent topically. However, it shouldn’t cause serious symptoms, like dermatitis, in most individuals, especially if used in moderation for a limited time. 

Safe Usage of Acetone

When it comes to your skin and nails, ingredients matter. Case in point: most people who think they have an acetone allergy react to contaminants found in low-grade acetone. For this reason, it’s important to only use products from trusted brands that prioritize high-quality ingredients. 

Additionally, since acetone can have a drying effect on your hands, you’ll want to find products that include hydrating, nourishing ingredients to ensure your nail polish removers are gentle on your skin.

Fortunately, our REMOVE Acetone Lacquer Remover formula (with acetone as the active ingredient) is infused with clove and lemongrass oils. These oils offer a refreshing scent and help to lock in moisture. 

If you feel like acetone is still too harsh of a product, you can find acetone-free solutions with the same polish-removing power. Our REMOVE Non-Acetone Lacquer Remover is strong and gentle, effectively removing Dazzle Dry lacquer and traditional nail polish. Plus, our unique formula includes spearmint and eucalyptus oils to promote a luxurious spa-like experience. 

Comparing Standard Nail Polish Remover and Non-Acetone Formulas

When shopping for nail polish removal products, you may be wondering whether it’s a better idea to choose a formula that has acetone, or if you should opt for one without this solvent. 

Ultimately, to make the best decision for you, you should consider these various factors:

  • Whether you have an acetone sensitivity – If you know you have sensitive skin or you typically have dry, red hands after using a product with acetone, it’s a good idea to steer clear of this ingredient. With a variety of acetone-free solutions on the market, you’ll be able to find an effective formula while also prioritizing the health of your skin and nails.
  • The type of polish or nails you need to remove – Basic removal products with or without acetone should do the trick if you use standard nail polish. However, for a long-lasting formula like Dazzle Dry’s non-toxic nail polish, it’s crucial to prioritize high-quality ingredients, like those found in both of our polish removal products. If you have acrylic nails, you’ll want to use acetone since it effectively dissolves adhesive formulas. 
  • The time and effort you’re willing to spend – Acetone-free formulas contain other solvents that ensure they’re able to effectively remove nail polish. However, they’re not as strong as acetone, so they require more time, effort, and cotton swabs—especially if you’re removing dark-colored polish. 

When it comes to your nails, you know best. Acetone-free formulas can be a great option if you have sensitive skin, frequently paint your nails, or use light colors. If you don’t have an acetone sensitivity, traditional formulas that contain acetone can deliver faster results and are effective with all types of nails, including acrylic, as well as darker hues. 

Put the Health of Your Skin and Nails First with Dazzle Dry

At Dazzle Dry, we know just how important it is to use non-toxic ingredients to keep your skin and nails healthy. While you can browse our beautiful selection of non-toxic lacquers, we don’t stop there—we also offer two gentle and effective nail polish remover options.

Whether you’ve had an allergic reaction to acetone and need an acetone-free option or you prefer a more classic formula, you can rest assured that both of our formulas contain hydrating oils for a luxurious feel and refreshing scent. 

No matter your style, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice healthy ingredients for the nails you love. With Dazzle Dry, you can achieve the look you want while having the peace of mind that you’re giving your body the very best. 


  1. Medical News Today. What Is Acetone. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-is-acetone 
  2. National Library of Medicine. Toxicological Profile for Acetone. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK590388/