If you paint your nails often, you're probably no stranger to nail polish remover. According to government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), many of the ingredients in nail polish remover can be highly toxic in large amounts. Because of this, non-toxic nail polish removers have become a healthier alternative for some.
Acetone occurs naturally in nature and can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, such as onions and grapes. Acetone is a form of simple ketone. It's a common ingredient in nail polish remover and is also used in paint thinners and to make plastics. It's also highly flammable and present in car exhaust. Acetone can be irritating to eyes, skin and breathing. Minimal exposure rarely causes anything more than mild irritation, but individuals who work in salons or other industries where acetone exposure can be constant may experience more serious health conditions such as chronic bronchitis and other long-term respiratory illnesses.
Though ethyl acetate is frequently used as a replacement for acetone in acetone-free nail polish removers, ethyl acetate has many of the same hazards as acetone. Like acetone, ethyl acetate is highly flammable and is a respiratory tract irritant. Continual exposure to ethyl acetate can cause redness and irritation to the eyes and nose, and the skin can become dry or highly irritated, sometimes resulting in dermatitis, according to OSHA.
Toluene is a colorless chemical created from crude oil and found in gasoline that has a variety of side effects. Even with only low to moderate exposure, individuals often exhibit symptoms like tiredness, confusion, weakness, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, hearing loss and color vision loss. Symptoms usually stop when exposure ends. However, if exposed to high levels of toluene, you may become lightheaded, dizzy or sleepy, which can eventually lead to loss of consciousness or even death, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Propylene carbonate is another ingredient found in most nail polish removers. However, propylene carbonate is not considered to have any effect on the environment or any long-term health effects. However, propylene carbonate is an eye, skin and lung irritant.