Are Nail Polish Remover Fumes Harmful? What You Need to Know




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The sharp smell that emanates from a nail polish remover can be a big turn-off. It makes you wonder if you should be applying it on your nails in the first place. But that goes the same with the nail polish itself. This leaves us with the question, are nail polish remover fumes harmful?

Nail polish removers have been used since time immemorial with no reported adverse or fateful effects. However, prolonged inhaling of the fumes can cause some health complications. It has been reported that nail polish fumes can interfere with your brain. Apparently, it can make you slow and fuzzy.

Even though acetone is a present element in the human body, it has often been branded as the enemy. Most manufacturers’ have gone ahead to produce and label their removers as ‘acetone-free’. This has also become the major selling point for most nail polish removers.

However, according to the director of OPI Products, Paul Bryson; “Acetone is one of the safest solvents other than water.” Even with the statement, there is still a general concern about overall nail polish removers, acetone included. Keep reading to find out all about the potential effects of nail polish removers on your health and how you can protect yourself while using them.

What Happens if You Inhale Nail Polish?

It all depends on how much and how long you are exposed to nail polish fumes. Too much of anything is never healthy. Not even the good old water. Most studies have been very controversial and subtle when it comes to this topic. Perhaps there has not been enough research and evidence on the same.

There are some serious and poisonous chemicals found in most nail polish. Some of them include but are not limited to; Toluene, Butyl acetate, Ethyl acetate, and Dibutyl phthalate. Most popular nail polish manufacturers are now going organic and they are removing most of these poisonous chemicals from their formulas.

Here are some of the things that can happen due to too much exposure to nail polish for longer periods.

·         It Can Affect Bladder and Kidneys

Too much inhalation of nail polish fumes can have adverse effects on both your bladder and kidneys. These are the major organs that are responsible for the expulsion of toxic wastes from our bodies. Inhaling nail polish can increase the need to urinate most of the time. This can in turn lead to adverse hydration.

·         Organ Irritation

Exposure to too much nail polish fumes can irritate the major open organs in your body. This includes your ears, eyes, mouth, throat, and nose. In a few extreme cases, inhalation and exposure can cause major damage to organs like eyes and severe sore throat.

·         Nausea and Vomiting

Inhaling too much nail polish fumes can adversely affect your gastrointestinal system. Too much irritation to this system can cause nausea and vomiting. It can also cause abdominal pain and discomfort. All these eventually end up in hydration which is not good for your entire body system.

·         Difficulty in Breathing

Nail polish fumes aren’t exactly kind to your lungs. This pair is responsible for the regulation of airflow in your entire body system. Breathing in these poisonous fumes can cause difficulty in breathing and slowed breathing rate. It can also cause shortness of breath. All these are not good especially if you have asthma and chest problems.

·         Drowsiness and Confusion

Nail polish fumes are also known to affect your nervous system in many negative ways. It can cause drowsiness and balance e problems. This makes it difficult to operate machinery like driving. It can also cause headaches, seizures, hallucinations, euphoria, and even walking problems. In the extremes, it can also induce stupor and coma.

·         Blood Circulation

The chemicals in the nail polish fumes can cause irregular heartbeat which could affect your functionality. It can also cause severe chest pains and if not well taken care of, this could lead to asthma and other terminal illnesses.

10 Ways to Get Rid of Nail Polish Remover Fumes

For as long as you love colored manicures, you can never get away from nail polish removers. You are stuck with it. However, the fumes that emanate as soon as you open that bottle can be intolerant. It doesn’t do good either to people with allergies. The good news is, there are a few tricks you can pull to dissolve the smell.

1.    Coal or Sodium Bicarbonate

Both coal and sodium carbonate are known to contain elements that absorb and dissolve other smells. Perhaps it is because their natural smells are better and much overpowering. Place a plate of grounded coal or fresh sodium bicarbonate near you when you are doing your nails. This will help to dissolve the strong smell from your nail polish remover.

2.    Essential Oils

Most essential oils have this sweet and calming scent. Perhaps that is why they are mostly used in aromatherapies and for calming baths. Pick the best essential oil of your choice and put a few drops in a large bowl of water. Stir the water to create that distinct scent that is strong enough to swallow any unpleasant smell including that of your nail polish remover.

Lagunamoon Premium Essential Oils Set, 20 Pcs Pure Natural Aromatherapy Oils Lavender Frankincense Peppermint Rose Rosemary Sandalwood

3.    Ground Coffee

There is nothing as holistically healing and calming as freshly ground coffee. You can use this method to kill two birds at a go. Prepare your favorite cup of coffee to drink while you are making your nails. Make another hot cup and place it near your workstation as you make your nails.

4.    Lemon and Citrus Fruit

Lemon and citrus fruits in general always have this overpowering heavenly scent. Especially their peels. Peel a fresh healthy lemon and place it in a bowl of water to keep it fresh and to release more scent. Place the bowl in your workstation and proceed to do your nails. You can optionally use the peels in hot or cold water.

5.    Open the Doors and Windows

Using nail polish removers in an open setting will help a lot to reduce the annoying smell. However, if you must use it indoors, always ensure that all your doors and windows are open. This will regulate fresh air flowing in and out of the room. If it makes it even better, you can use this method with either of the other methods like drinking a cup of freshly ground coffee.

6.    Switch on the Fan

If you have a fan, it would be a good idea to switch it on. Especially if you can’t have the doors and windows open. Perhaps it is at night or during winter. Whatever the reason, switch on your fan and put it at high speed to regulate fresh air. This will fan away from the annoying fumes that are escaping from your nail polish remover and it gives you a fresh environment to work in.

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7.    Use Air Freshener

Air fresheners are both lifesavers and wonder-workers. Especially if you have to deal with a foul smell without any notice. Always read the label of your air freshener to ensure that you are not buying something that just covers up but something strong enough to completely eliminate any unwanted smell. Spray some of this freshener while you are during or after using the remover.

8.    Close the Bottle

Always tightly close your nail polish remover when you are not using it. As soon as you have put enough on your cotton ball, tightly seal the bottle and proceed with your nails. This will prevent any further fumes from escaping. Besides that, sealing the bottle will keep important and active components from carelessly escaping.

9.    Store Away the Removers

As soon as you are done doing your nails, tightly seal all the nail polish bottles. Store them away from the living areas and rooms that you are likely to use often. If you have a make-up refrigerator, that will even work better for you. It will not only lock away the smell but will also preserve and give longevity to your nail polish remover.

10. Use Tea Bags

Even though coffee works best compared to teabags, don’t hesitate to grab two or three tea bags if you have no fresh ground coffee in the house. Immerse the tea bags in a cup of hot water to release more scents that will dissolve the irritating nail polish remover odor. Stir the hot water every time the sweet tea bag scent seems to die.

15 Natural Nail Polish Removers

Just like the regular nail polish going all organic and toxic-free, nail polish removers have not been left behind. They have evolved too. This makes manicure a more safe and healthy space for your nails. Most popular nail polish removers have gone three-free and here are some of the brands you should invest in.

1.    Treat Collection Gentle Remover

It is said that integrity fears no scrutiny. Well, this one nail polish remover is trustworthy and can free post of integrity. You can put your heart on this five-free remover. It is formulated with safe ingredients such as argan oils and all the necessary Vitamins. This remover is gentle for the skin around your finger and it is strong enough to work magic with one swipe.

2.    Acquarella Water Color

This non-toxic solution is everything that your manicured nails need. It is non-oil-based and is formulated to clean off the nail polish with a single swipe. This organic vegan brand is formulated mostly with alcohol derived from vegetables and fruits. It is free from the controversial acetone and emollient elements that most other brands have.

3.    No Miss Almost Natural Remover

This nail polish remover is all-natural and formulated specifically to be gentle and kind to your nails. It is all-natural with no added acetone. It does not contain either the volatile organic carbons. This nail polish remover is a keeper. It is cruelty-free and has a vanilla smell. You will never have to fight the annoying typical remover smell with this bottle.

4.    Suncoat Plant Based Nail Polish Remover

Just as the name suggests, this nail polish remover is plant-based. Suncoat is a popular brand and you must have heard of all its goodness. It is both organic and mineral-based. The minerals will help to strengthen your nails especially if they are weak and brittle. Its organic ingredients are extracted from corn stock fermentation. The remover is enriched with vitamin E.

5.    Honeybee Gardens Nail Polish Remover

Your nails will thank you for this acetone-free nail polish remover. This remover will not only wash the nail polish away but will also act as a strengthener for your nails. This is all thanks to the horsetail extracts in it. This product also has Vitamin E and Aloe vera to meet its vegan tag. They are both active in soothing and repairing your cuticles.

Honeybee Gardens Nail Polish Remover Gel

6.    Tate’s the Natural Miracle Remover

This nail polish remover is odorless and unlike other popular brands, you won’t need to perform any rituals like peeling lemons while using it. It is both organic and mineral-based. There’s a lot your nails will reap from this product. It works 50X faster than most other brands. Aside from that, it will leave your nails strong and moisturized.

7.    Piggy Paint Nail Polish Remover

Piggy Paint is both the rage and the holy grail in the nail industry. You will love it right from its packaging to its effectiveness. This formulation is well balanced with only four organic ingredients. It has corn extracts, aloe vera, and vitamin E. It also has an embittering agent. All these ingredients will act as removers, moisturizers, and best of all, strengtheners for your nails.

Piggy Paint 100% Non-toxic Girls Nail Polish, Safe, Chemical Free, Low Odor for Kids - Remover, 4 oz

8.    Olive and June Nail Polish Remover

You will love this acetone-free pot of nail polish remover. This is an excellent alternative especially if you are going all organic. It is so gentle and kind on the nails because of its cruelty-free formula. You will love this convenient vegan pot. All you have to do is to dip in your nails and voila! You have your natural nails back.

9.    Pr.01-Soy Polish Remover

This product is clean and non-toxic. They are formulated not to only remove nail polish but to also moisturize and strengthen them. The soy ingredient is responsible for hydrating your nails and nourishing them. Besides that, it has three essential vitamins. They are all infused with relaxing grapefruit. You will love the soothing and relaxing experience of the grape extracts.

10. Expert Touch Lacquer Remover

This OPI classic will do a lot of good things for your nails. It is extremely effective and penetrating to remove even the most stubborn color nail polish. It works many times faster and more effectively than the regular chemical nail polish removers. It will moisturize and hydrate your nails and cuticles leaving them soft and smooth.

11. Takeoff Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover

Unlike most drying nail polish removers, this acetone-free remover has essential oils in it. You will love the soothing scent of this remover. It is more effective than the traditional removers and you will need only a swipe to get your nails done. The sea rose scent is everything you want while pampering your nails other than the removers with heavy alcohol smell.

12. Sally Hansen Nail Polish Remover

No list can ever be complete without Sally Hansen’s product in it. This remover will strengthen your weak and brittle nails. Other than that, it is enriched with vitamins and proteins that are good for healthy strong nails. The gelatin in it is very effective and works much faster than most other removers. Besides that, it softens and moisturizes the cuticles.

Sally Hansen Nail Polish Remover, Strengthening - 8 Oz

13. Static Nails Odorless Remover

This nail polish remover is gentle and odorless. You can use it in the comfort of your closed room. A little bit of this nail polish remover goes along. It is highly effective with just a single swipe with your cotton ball. All the natural ingredients in this remover are hydrating both to your nails and the skin around them. This acetone-free remover is strong enough to even deal with stubborn glitters.

14. Cutex Ultra-Powerful Nail Polish Remover

Who doesn’t love the subtle alluring scent of cucumber? This nail polish remover is designed with a relaxing soothing aroma. You will love how it leaves your nails hydrated and smooth. On the flip side, this product is 98% acetone for fast and effective action. This might not come out as a good idea for most people but that is what cutex has in store for you.

15. Deborah Lippman Nail Polish Remover

This nail polish remover is the holy grail in the nail industry. You will love all the double-action ingredients in it. It has both aloe vera and lavender. These two ingredients are meant to hydrate and moisturize weak and brittle nails. Besides that, this product has fast action. Using it is effortless and it acts faster than most other popular nail polish removers in the market.

How to Make Nail Polish Removers at Home

It has become easier to purchase organic nail polish removers at any beauty retail store. However, sometimes you just have the urge to be experimental, especially in these DIY days. When that time comes, there are several ways you can make DIY nail polish with minimal and readily available home items.

·         Vinegar + Orange Juice

Even Amy Lin of Sundays touts this recipe as friendly and effective. This DIY is all about natural ingredients and you might end up ditching all the other nail removers when you try it. This home formulation is gentle and kind to your nails and the surrounding skin. On the flip side, this solution can be drying if it is overused.

How it Works

1.    Depending on how many solutions you need, mix the same amounts of vinegar and orange juice. Shake the mixture well and give it a minute to settle and infuse.

2.    Put a little mixture on a clean cotton ball and wrap it on your polished fingernail. Give it up to 10 seconds for the nail to absorb the mixture.

3.    Once the nail polish softens, pull down the cotton ball from your finger. The nail polish should disintegrate as the cotton ball comes off.

4.    Rinse your hands with warm soapy water and moisturize with hand lotion. You can also use cuticle and nail moisturizer. Don’t skip this step because the vinegar can dry out your nails and make them brittle and weak.

·         Hand Sanitizers

You don’t need a lot of preparation if you are using hand sanitizers as your natural nail polish removers. All you need is the regular hand sanitizer with 75% isopropyl alcohol in it. This alcohol component is known to quickly loosen the pigments in your nail polish. On the flip side, this product can be damaging to natural lipids and fatty acids found in your nail beds and the surrounding skin.

How it Works

Only use this DIY method when you must. Otherwise, you might need to go slow on using it as too much of it might cause serious damage to your nails.

1.    Take a clean cotton pad and soak in a small jar of sanitizer.

2.    Either rub the soaked cotton ball gently on your polished fingernail. Within no time, the color polish will start rubbing off. Optionally, you can wrap the cotton ball on the polished nail and give it a minute to soak and absorb. When you unwrap, the pigment should involuntarily disintegrate.

3.    Thoroughly rinse your hands, fingers, and nails in warm soapy water. Pat dry with a clean towel and moisturize with nail and cuticle moisturizer. Follow it with a hand moisturizer. Alcohol in the hand sanitizer is excessively drying and you don’t want to give it a chance.

·         Toothpaste

Apart from cleaning and making your teeth squeaky clean, there is almost nothing that toothpaste can’t do when it comes to beauty. From curing acne and pimples to removing nail polish from your nails. Ethyl acetate is responsible for all this. This ingredient is also found in most traditional nail polish removers.

How it Works

1.    Squeeze a pea-size amount of the toothpaste on your palm and spread it generously with a clean finger on the polished nails.

2.    Give the paste a minute to be absorbed into the nail beds. You might find the gooey mess both annoying and unpleasant.

3.    Since toothpaste dries off so quickly you might want to allow it to dry off on your nails before rinsing it off with warm soapy water.

4.    Pat dry your hands and nails with a clean towel. Moisturizer with the right creams while your skin and fingers are still slightly damp to lock the moisture in.

·         Hydrogen Peroxide + Hot Water

This is yet another versatile culprit in an innocent brown bottle. From dying your hair to removing your nail polish in a jiffy. This solution is a miracle worker that does not work a lot. Hydrogen peroxide can be drying, and you must dilute it to protect your nails other than using it in its concentrated state. This item can also cause adverse reactions and irritation to your nails and the surrounding skin.

How it Works

1.    Test a small patch of your skin with a drop of hydrogen peroxide to see how it reacts. This will help you determine the mixing ratio when removing your nail polish.

2.    Depending on the outcome above, mix a ratio of hot water and hydrogen peroxide in a bowl and stir the solution.

3.    Dip your fingernails in the solution and hold it for a minute until the color nail polish comes off. Optionally, soak the solution in a clean cotton ball and wrap it around your finger. Give it a minute. When you unwrap, the polish color should disintegrate.

4.    Thoroughly rinse your hands, fingers, and nails in warm soapy water and pat dry. Moisturize when your hands and nails are still slightly damp to lock in the moisture.

Can Nail Polish Removers Damage Your Nails?

It all largely depends on the kind of nail polish remover you are using. Most nail polish companies are going organic and producing non-toxic products. Nail polish removers included. Most people would overlook this product because it is a one-time application. On the contrary, you need to take a more keen interest in it because it is just as effective as nail polish.

Acetone and other chemical-based nail polish removers, on the other hand, can be quite aggressive to your nails. Acetone isn’t good when ingested. Otherwise, when used carefully, it can’t be as dangerous as it is made out to be.


You have endless options when it comes to nail polish removers. You can choose organic nail polish or acetone/chemical removers. You can also do DIY nail polish removal with homemade ingredients. However, you should consider the health benefits and the current status of your natural nails.


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