What Are the Ingredients in Nail Polish Remover?

Kaushik Narasimhan/CC-BY 2.0

Nail polish remover can have various ingredients, depending on the brand of remover used. Generally, the main ingredient of any remover is either acetone or the less-toxic combination of ethyl acetate and isopropyl alcohol. Not as common because of its toxicity, acetonitrile can also be used as a nail polisher remover.

Acetone is the most volatile ingredient in nail polish removers. Not only is it used to remove normal nail polish, but it can also be used to remove false acrylic nails. Because acetone is harsh on the skin, many brands offer acetone-free versions of their removers. These nail polish removers contain ethyl acetate, the solvent used in the nail polish itself, and isopropyl alcohol, and this combination is much gentler on nails and skin.

Nail polish removers can come in a variety of different forms. Some liquid removers come in a bottle that can be used with cotton balls or cotton pads, while other nail polish removers come in a package with pre-soaked individual pads. There are also versions of nail polish remover that come packaged with a large sponge that the fingers or toes can be inserted into and twisted around until the nail polish is completely removed.