Thanks to new crop of “green” polish removers, now you no longer have to sacrifice your health for your love of nail art. Traditional polish removers contain acetone (a clear, pungent paint solvent) or methyl acetate (a lower VOC alternative), but these ingredients can be hard on nails. “Chemicals have a drying effect on tips,” explains Long Island, NY-based dermatologist Marina I. Peredo, MD. “Frequent use leads to weak, brittle nails prone to splits and breakage.”
To quickly erase dark colors and glitter particles, the new acetone-free removers hitting beauty aisles are much safer than traditional formulas—a must-have for health-conscious nail art fans. “Like skin, nails are porous and will absorb whatever you put on them,” says Jenna Hipp, a Los Angeles-based celebrity manicurist who has worked with Lea Michele and Michelle Williams. To complement her Jenna Hipp for Beauty’s Most Wanted non-toxic polish collection, Hipp recently launched acetone-free Clean-Sweep Nail Wipes. Like dual-phase eye makeup remover, Hipp’s “Five Free” formula (no parabens, petrochemicals, mineral oil, phthalates or synthetic fragrances) works by using natural ingredients like lavender oil to break down lacquer, while soothing nails and cuticles at the same time. “These won’t strip your polish the way acetone does, so there’s a bit of a learning curve,” Hipp says. “Hold the pad down over the nail, press gently for five to ten seconds, and repeat.”
Natural polish removers work by loosening paint particles with essential oils—giving fingers a hydrating treatment is a bonus. SpaRitual’s Fluent Extra Strength Conditioning Lacquer Remover blends Italian mandarin essential oil and sugar (both natural solvents) to gently lift color, while Tate’s The Natural Miracle Odorless Nail Polish Remover contains mineral oil to erase lacquer while conditioning ragged edges.
Before you make the swap, be warned. Oil-based removers take more time to sweep away color, and they won’t work well on gel manicures, “which require a deep soak in acetone,” according to Peredo. Natural removers can also leave an oily residue on your nails, meaning your manicure will chip faster if you apply polish directly on top. Nail surfaces must be dry and grease-free in order for proper polish adhesion, which is why Hipp recommends washing hands after polish removal and wiping nails with rubbing alcohol before applying a base coat. Consider it a trade-off: “Acetone might be convenient because it works quickly, but it’s not the best thing for your health,” says Hipp.