Friday, 27 July 2012

Is it ok to add nail polish remover to your nail polish?



I'm sure many of us polishaholics have often come across a gluggy old bottle of polish and wanted to pour a whole bottle of remover in. But does it ruin your polish?

Unfortunately, there's no easy yes or no - the incredibly unsatisfying answer is: it depends. It depends on 2 things: the type of nail polish remover and the composition of your polish.

Polish goes gluggy over time because the solvent (wet stuff) slowly evaporates. Adding thinner replenishes the lost liquid, usually ethyl acetate or butyl acetate, two very similar non-polar solvents. Adding the first name on the ingredients list is the best bet for restoring the original consistency. But cheap thinners are hard to find.

There are thousands of different removers on the market. They are usually water and either acetone or ethyl acetate, sometimes with small amounts of colour or moisturiser added. So it makes sense that if your remover is pure ethyl acetate (rare, but possible) or the vast majority is ethyl acetate (hard to know if %s aren't listed), there will be no problem using that as a thinner.

However, if your polish remover has lots of water (very common, since water is cheap, and they can claim it's gentle since there will be less solvent to strip oil from your skin), the problem is that water doesn't mix very well with ethyl/butyl acetate. This means that for most polishes, the finish will end up less smooth once water has been added, and depending on how much you add, the incompatible solvents can result in a streaky look. This might not be a concern when it comes to bumpy glitters, or if you plan to use a topcoat, or if the polish had a dodgy formula to begin with.

Adding pure acetone is less likely to lead to incompatible mixtures since it mixes well with ethyl/butyl acetate, but it can still affect the composition of the polish and give a bumpy or dull finish. An additional concern with acetone is that it dissolves more things than ethyl/butyl acetate, so some glitters and shimmers which are solvent stable in the original polish might start leaching after acetone is added.

So there are a lot of factors to consider before you add remover to your polish! The best thing to do is to dump a small amount of goop onto a piece of foil, add a drop or two of remover, stir, and see how it dries.


The bottom line: Adding nail polish remover will generally change the finish of your polish, unless you're using pure ethyl acetate. This might not be a concern if you always use topcoat. The safest thing to do is to test a small amount first, or use a thinner that contains the top few solvents in your polish's ingredients list (usually ethyl acetate or butyl acetate).

19 comments:

  1. Ah great post! I've been wondering about this myself. I've tried store bought thinners and just pure acetone and both have worked well for me so far. I have noticed that adding too much acetone can ruin a polish tho, so moderation seems to be the key with that.

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    1. I think too much thinner could also ruin your polish, but luckily you can fix that easily by just leaving the cap off for a bit :)

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  2. Very interesting reading, thanks for sharing.
    I know a nail technician who for many years have used the spirit found in most households for degreasing - cleaning windows etc, methylated spirits. I know that's ethanol "denatureret" (in Danish) with methanol, and I haven't tried it myself. Any thoughts on that advice...

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    1. Ethanol and methanol are a lot more like water than organic solvents in terms of how they behave in mixtures - they will mix in with the other things in the polish ok if you don't add too much, but if you add too much it could separate. If you go slow and test it out first it should be ok :)

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    2. OK, thank you for the reply. I rarely have thick polishes, and when I do, I use Seche Restore - but it could be fun to test it on a polish that you can live without :)

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  3. Good post. I am a clinical chemist and you broke this one down to lay terms very well but not so watered down that folks don't really learn the why on this one. I only use thinners. I recently got the SV thinner made just for SV alone. It helps me completely use up now all the SV in the bottle vs. it turning to glue on me with 1/3 yet to go. I have seen a technique for nail art using polish remover touched to a still wet polish and it turns the mani into looking like it's been water coloured - very cool looks. So just thinking what remover (even pure acetone) does on that nail art form, I sure would never want to mix it into a polish bottle to thin the polish.

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    1. Hmm... if you're still working as a clinical chemist maybe you could track down some ethyl acetate from your lab or your neighbouring labs? My lab is chock-full of ethyl acetate, we go through about 10 x 2.5 L winchesters a week! I stick ethyl acetate in SV and it dries a bit faster, I've been thinking about adding some toluene too but I'm hesitant to "3 it up" too much... :\

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  4. I feel so grateful to you for making me actually feel smarter after reading a beauty blog! I love the interesting science posts you add!

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  5. very helpful info!! i'll keep it in mind :) i use pure acetone

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  6. I do use a thinner but sometimes I do use ethyl acetate based remover to refresh a really old polish that I usually don;t mind if it's ruined after that application. I don't have good experiences with putting acetone based removers but maybe they had high content of water

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    1. I wish they'd just write what % water is in the remover, it would make life so much easier!

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  7. I absolutely never use NP remover in my polishes. I just feel like it's asking for trouble. When I think about how acetone strips the color of my glitters when I'm removing them and really breaks down the polish I can only think bad idea adding it into my preciouses! Lol - I'm a thinner user for life! Thanks for the great post!

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  8. I do admit I used to put polish remover in my polish, but this was long before I discovered the wonderful world of nail polish.

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  9. Good to know! I just use thinner...

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  10. Finally!

    Someone who isn't all "just thinners, even though some of the removers have ethyl acetate only. why? because it says 'thinner', not 'remover', silly!".

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  11. Ooh, I didn't know it, thanks for information!

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  12. Thanks! Very nicely written.

    I have used remover before and it worked, but the drying takes literally days... ethyl acetate is unfortunately here not as easy available, you need to be a professional of whatever profession ...papers needed, if you are looking for the solvent as such... but maybe as a glue for models, I found :-)

    A blog friend told me her bottle exploded, when she mixed an old polish with acetone and was shaking it... how could that happen? O_o

    Unfortunately little bottles are twice the price of the liter bottles here...grrr.

    Greetings from icy, snowy Berlin!

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