Nail Polish Remover Vs. Acetone: What’s The Difference?

Many have the misconception that nail polish remover is actually the same as acetone. The fact is, nail polish remover and acetone are different, We’ll compare nail polish remover vs acetone below to make it easier to understand for you.

Out with the old and in with the new! Taking off your old, chipped old nail polish may not be as exciting as painting the new colors on, but it shouldn’t be a tedious task.

Yet, why does the nail polish sometimes wipe off as smoothly as a dry-erase marker, while other times, it requires heavy elbow-grease scrubbing and a package of cotton pads? And why do your nails sometimes feel dry and brittle after taking off the polish?

Whether you use nail polish remover or acetone to take off your polish can make a difference in the ease of dissolving the color and the condition of your nails afterward.

Not all nail polish removing solutions are created equal. If you look at the ingredients in the removers, you’ll notice that some contain acetone, and others do not.


Nail Polish Remover: With or Without Acetone?

Whether it is better to use non-acetone nail polish remover vs. acetone to take off the color depends on a few factors. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each one will help you decide which one is best for you.


Difference Between Acetone and Nail Polish Remover

Acetone is a more effective color-remover, but it is harsher on your nails. Non-acetone nail polish remover is gentler on your nails but may not work as effectively.

What is Acetone?

What is Acetone?

Acetone, also called propanone, is a common ingredient in plastics, cleaners, varnishes, paint – and nail polish removers. It has the ability to break down the ingredients in the nail polish and dissolve the color, making it easy to then simply wipe the color off.

The main advantage to using acetone over nail polish remover is that it is a much more effective and quicker color remover. Simply saturate a cotton pad with acetone or a nail polish remover that contains acetone and rub it on your polished nails. The color will quickly dissolve and wipe off easily without having to apply too much pressure.

The drawback of acetone is that it can be harsh and punishing to your nails. Just as it is strong enough to dissolve the components in the nail polish, it can also strip away your skin’s natural oils and dry out your nails.

Your nails may become cracked, brittle, and weak after using acetone, and the skin around your nails may be dry and pale.

Another side effect of acetone is that your nails may absorb some pigmentation from the nail polish when it dissolves and discolor or nails turn yellow!

Nail polish remover without acetone is gentler on your nails and skin and won’t dry them out as much.


What is Nail Polish Remover?

Nail Polish Remover

Nail polish remover is a solution of limonene, methyl pyrrolidone, and cetyl acetate that together can dissolve the color in the nail polish. Acetone may also be added to the nail polish remover to make it more effective.

The advantage of nail polish remover vs. acetone is that nail polish remover is gentler and better for your nails and skin than the harsh chemical of acetone. For dry and brittle nails especially, nail polish remover without acetone is a better option.

The primary drawback of nail polish remover without acetone is that it is not as effective and can take some work to remove the polish. You may need to apply strong pressure to rub the polish off with the polish remover.

Additionally, while a small amount of acetone can easily clean off a nail, you may need to use a lot more nail polish remover to take off the same amount of polish.


Should You Use Nail Polish Remover Over Acetone?

Nail Polish Remover vs. Acetone - Use non-acetone based nail polish remover

Although it may be harder to remove nail polish with a non-acetone based nail polish remover, it is recommended to use the nail polish remover in the following situations:

  • You have dry or brittle nails. The nail polish remover will be milder and treat your nails better than the harsher acetone.
  • If you suffer from onycholysis, a condition where the nail is separating from the skin underneath, do not use acetone as it can cause even further damage.
  • You frequently wash your hands or work with water which can also be damaging to your nails and make them weaker and more susceptible to the effects of acetone.
  • Lighter-colored polish is typically easier to remove, and a non-acetone nail polish remover may be effective enough.
  • Although darker polish colors can be harder to remove, acetone can cause the polish color to leach into the nails and discolor them. It may be worth it to try to remove the dark color with the nail polish remover first before resorting to the acetone.
  • You wear nail polish often and frequently need to use nail polish remover to change the colors. For regular use, nail polish remover will be much gentler on your nails and skin.


It may be better to use acetone, despite its harshness, in the following situations:

  • To remove gel-based polish, soak your nails in acetone. Regular nail polish removers will not work well to remove gel nail polish. The acetone will help dissolve the gel.
    To help protect your nails, you can apply some petroleum jelly to your fingers around the nails to minimize the drying effect on your skin.
  • Remove glitter polish and other colorings that are harder to remove with acetone.
  • Although nail polish remover without acetone is recommended for darker colors to avoid acetone from discoloring the nails, sometimes dark polish is difficult to remove with non-acetone polish, and acetone is the most effective solution.

Is It Safe to Use Nail Polish & Remover During Pregnancy?


Final Words

Whether to use nail polish remover vs. acetone depends on a variety of factors. Acetone is a more effective color-remover, but it is harsher on your nails. Non-acetone nail polish remover is gentler on your nails but may not work as effectively.

If you use acetone, moisturize your nails and nail beds to keep them healthy and mitigate the harsh effects.

Some nail polish removers will contain a little bit of acetone, enough to help dissolve the polish but not as harsh to damage your nails. That may be the best compromise – let the nail polish remover and acetone combine their strengths and disadvantages and work together.


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