Is Soaking Your Fingers in Acetone Dangerous? Are the Alternatives Any Better?

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Is soaking your fingers in acetone dangerous? How bad are those constant nail updates, really?

To put it simply: yes, repeated acetone exposure is unhealthy for your hands and nails, but the alternatives are often just as bad in different ways.

Dipping your fingers in pure acetone is dangerous and harmful. It seems as if the most popular way to remove the gel, acrylic, or dip nails is to use acetone. While it is effective, acetone is not meant to be used for soaking to remove your last manicure.

However, if used safely, acetone will not damage your nails or skin. There are also alternatives to remove the coat of color on your nails… but they have problems, too.

Read one for a full explainer! 


What is Acetone?

Acetone is a chemical that breaks down or dissolves other substances. It is a solvent, the same as paint thinner. It is a colorless, volatile, and highly flammable liquid. Since it’s in most nail polish removers, you’re probably familiar with how it smells. 

Yes, acetone is a chemical used in household products like paints and adhesives, as well as in industry. But it’s also naturally occurring in the human body. As your body breaks down fat, you naturally produce acetone as a byproduct.

Most popularly, though, it’s used in cosmetic products like nail polish and nail polish removers.

As your body breaks down fat, you naturally produce acetone as a byproduct.  


Is Soaking Your Fingers in Acetone Dangerous?

Having your nails freshly done is one of the best feelings ever! But when you think about removing the nail polish, you consider not putting it on at all.

One of the quickest methods to remove your polish is nail polish remover or, a step further, 100% pure acetone. (See Acetone vs Nail Polish Remover for a discussion of the differences between these).

Pure acetone is the most efficient way of removing acrylic nails, gel nails, and dip powder nails. Heck, they can even remove glitter nails!

But there is a catch.

Painters and industrial workers also use acetone (albeit larger than what’s found in nail polish removers). Still, with gloves and goggles and other protective gear, it’s easy to see that it’s probably not healthy for the skin on your hands and feet.

Soaking your fingers for a long time in acetone can cause irritation and redness. If you have even the tiniest of cuts on your hand, it’ll burn like hell!

The chemical also dries out your nail bed, cuticles, and skin and strips it of its natural oils. This can lead to dry skin, rashes, nail discoloration, and cracked dry nails

Although direct exposure to acetone can cause headaches, nausea, and lightheadedness, the amounts used to remove nail polish do not pose such threats. Acetone is also highly flammable, so it is strictly advised to use it in a ventilated space.

Although direct exposure to acetone can cause headaches, nausea, and lightheadedness, the amounts used to remove nail polish do not pose such threats.


How to Use Acetone Safely

Here are the facts: the safest way to remove your acrylics at home is not to remove them at home. Instead, go to your nail salon so you can have them professionally removed.

But obviously, there’s cost and difficulty here.

If you can’t do that, here’s the second safest way to remove your acrylic or gel manicure.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. 100% pure acetone
  2. Cotton balls
  3. Aluminum Foil
  4. Cuticle pusher

Try to warm up your acetone by running it under hot water before you start and soak some cotton balls in it. Cover your nails with the cotton balls. Wrap your fingers in aluminum foil and leave them for about half an hour.

This will break down the layer of polish, and you can easily scrape or buff the rest with a cuticle pusher

Another way is to soak your nails in a bowl of acetone for about 5 minutes. Acetone evaporates very quickly, so the first method is more practical.

The process will be even faster if you rough up the surface before starting. You can do this by using a nail buffer. After you have removed your nail polish, massage your nails with any oil to rehydrate them after the harsh acetone. 


How do you Cure Acetone Damaged Nails?

If using acetone has left your nails dry and brittle, you might want to try some of the following remedies and protective measures. 

1. Cuticle Creams

Cuticle creams and cuticle oils that have lovely, healing ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, and Vitamin E are the best treatment you can give to dry and brittle nails. These ingredients hydrate your nail beds and the skin surrounding them.

They also strengthen and moisturize your nails. 

See DIY Cuticle Oil Recipes for home solutions!

2. Natural Moisturizers

A concoction of an ounce of jojoba oil and three drops each of lavender, rosemary, and lemon essential oil is like a magic potion for dried-out nails. You don’t have to be this elaborate with your healing process. Oils like olive oil and coconut oil can be used too. 

The nails should be soaked in either of these solutions for about 15 to 20 minutes and then wiped off. Do not wash them and let them sit overnight.

For the best results, heat your olive oil, coconut oil, or the mixture to be lukewarm. Then, wear a pair of cotton gloves to bed. If your nails are damaged, do this treatment every night for a month.

3. Rubber Gloves

Household chores like washing the dishes or doing the laundry can damage your hands due to harsh chemicals in dishwashing liquids and detergents.

Using rubber gloves while doing these tasks can protect your nails and your skin. This can prevent further dehydration and damage.

4. A Healthy Diet

Healthy nails come from a healthy diet, as with any other body part. Increasing your Vitamin A, calcium, and perhaps most importantly, biotin can drastically improve your nails. Biotin improves the thickness of brittle nails and decreases splitting.

Calcium promotes the formation of cartilage for strong bones and nails. Lastly, vitamin A heals broken fingernails. Taking supplements to get these nutrients might heal your damaged nails.


Alternatives to Acetone

There are many acetone-free nail polish removers on the market. The problem with these is that you need to soak your fingers in these solutions for a longer period of time in order to get them to work.

So yes, the chemicals aren’t as harmful, but you’re exposing your fingers for longer. The end result is the same. It’s hard to get those nails removed without some sort of solvent. That’s just how it goes.

So yes, the chemicals aren’t as harmful, but you’re exposing your fingers for longer. The end result is the same. It’s hard to get those nails removed without some sort of solvent. That’s just how it goes.

We’ve written several articles on how to remove nail types without acetone. See below:

Often it ends up that the best way is just to bite the bullet and use acetone. Once you’re done, give your fingers and nails a lot of love and care.

Often it ends up that the best way is just to bite the bullet and use acetone. Once you’re done, give your fingers and nails a lot of love and care.


Conclusion

Acetone isn’t good for your fingers or your nails. But it is good at getting off nail glue, and removing fake nails. Non-acetone removers don’t work as well, so you have to get more exposure to these chemicals in order to get your nails off.

Generally, your best bet is to stick with acetone. That’s why almost every salon uses acetone. It works. But once you’re done, give your fingers and nails some love to restore them.

Oh, and take regular breaks from fake nails!

Written by Kayla Young

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