Ingredient Spotlight: Acetone

Ingredient Spotlight: Acetone

Posted by Angela - Naturally Safe Cosmetics on 8th May 2020

No doubt, you've heard about Acetone and, like me, the first thing you think about when you hear that word is: nail polish remover. But there's more to this chemical than you might realise.

What is Acetone?

Acetone is a strong solvent used in the manufacture of plastics and other industrial products. It can also be found in household products, cosmetics and personal care products, where it is often used as a denaturant (e.g. something added to make an alcohol ingredient unfit for drinking), a fragrance ingredient and a solvent.

Acetone is known as an aliphatic ketone – an organic compound that is carbon and hydrogen based and also contains a ketone functional group. Interestingly, Acetone occurs naturally in the human body as a by-product of metabolism. It is normally present in blood and urine and people with diabetes apparently produce it in larger amounts. It can sometimes even be smelled on your breath. For example, if you're on a ketogenic diet (one that induces ketosis), a common side effect is strong acetone-smelling breath. I bet you probably didn’t know that!

Trees, plants, bushfires, volcanoes, landfills and car exhaust all release Acetone.

Which cosmetic products commonly contain Acetone?

Acetone can be found in

  • Nail polish remover
  • Nail polish
  • Hair dyes, bleaches and other hair care products, like hair spray
  • Skin care products

What are the safety concerns surrounding Acetone as a cosmetic ingredient?

Acetone can cause irritation to skin, eyes or lungs. It is also considered to be a sensitizer (a chemical that causes a substantial proportion of exposed people or animals to develop an allergic reaction in normal tissue after repeated exposure to it).

Other concerns include neurotoxicity (nervous system) and non-reproductive organ system toxicity.

Breathing moderate to high amounts of Acetone, even for a short time, can irritate your nose, throat, lungs and eyes. It can also result in headaches, dizziness, nausea and more – not good for nail salon technicians and their customers! When it comes to nail polish remover, non-acetone removers are generally considered to be gentler on skin although they take a little more work to remove nail polish.

What other names for Acetone can be found on product packaging?

2-Propanone, Dimethyl Ketone, Dimethylformaldehyde and Methyl Ketone.

The good news for nail polish lovers?

Nail polish fans can choose a quality, non-toxic, nail polish brand like Zoya. Awarded as the longest wearing nail polish on natural nails by an independent panel in Women's Health Magazine, Zoya is not only free from acetone, but also many other potentially harmful nail polish ingredients.

Zoya Non-Toxic Nail Polish

Zoya Nail Polish is acetone free. Image source: Naturally Safe Cosmetics 


The author is not a health professional. Any information or advice in this article is of a general nature only and taken from the author's own research of information readily available online. Nothing in this article is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For medical advice regarding your own personal circumstances, it is recommended that you contact your GP or other healthcare professional.