An organic compound with high flammability, acetone is a very useful solvent that helps break down the polymers in polish, gels, and acrylic so they can be removed easily from the natural nail. So what exactly is acetone and where does it come from?

The Compound

Acetone is a colorless organic compound comprised of a carbon atom double-bonded to an oxygen atom, and then bonded on either side by carbon, which in formula text looks like this: (CH3)2CO. Acetone is part of a group called the ketones and is the most basic and simplest example of one. Acetone is produced within the human body as part of the metabolic process. Especially when we eat a high-protein and low-carb diet, or exercise, or when we fast. The halitosis that happens when someone has fasted is attributed in part to the acetone being created in the stomach.

Acetone is synthesized for industrial use through the petroleum refining process and is produced from propylene, which is a colorless gas derived from fossil fuels.

The Use

 Acetone is used primarily as a solvent to break down coatings for removal. It is a very strong one at that, and can penetrate the structure of plastic polymers to swell and soften them. This is how acetone works on nail products. It is used in the removal of paint and varnish and as a paint thinner, as well as in the leather industry for cleaning. In beauty, it is also used in some chemical skin peeling-procedures.

The Safety

Acetone is highly flammable and care should be taken when handling it. Acetone should never be heated in the microwave.There have been lots of studies and discussion about its toxicity effect on humans. Inhaling large amounts of acetone fumes can irritate the throat and eyes, and nail technicians should be mindful of keeping proper ventilation in their work space. But studies have seemed to reach a consensus that acetone is generally a safe substance when handled at low concentrations. Acetone will dehydrate skin, so care should be taken when using it in the salon to minimize the contact it has with the skin and focus it on the nail enhancement on the nail bed.

For more information on acetone, check out the NAILS Encyclopedia at

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