Worth It: Non-Toxic Nail Polish Remover That Actually Smells Good

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Much unlike many a magazine editor who recommends you buy all sorts of crap that they most likely got for free, your Jezebel staff doesn't get jack shit (other than books, unsolicited). And that's how it should be. But on our own time, in our personal lives, we still buy stuff. So this is Worth It, our daily recommendation of random things that we've actually spent our own money on. These are the things we buy regularly or really like, things we'd actually tell our friends about. And now we're telling you.


The only thing I remember about ninth grade chemistry is a speech my teacher gave about nail polish remover probably being carcinogenic (that and Mr. Silver letting me play my the Dawson's Creek soundtrack during lab time — I don't wanna wait!). At the time I didn't know (or perhaps there weren't) other options, so I stuck with whatever drug store brand my mom picked up. For the next 13 years, I thought about how I was probably slowly killing myself every time I took off my ragged polish, but researching non-toxic removers wasn't high on my list of things to do.

Then a few weeks ago, I read a New York Times article on new types of eco-friendly nail polish removers and decided that it was time to stop pondering Mr. Ag's recommendation and invest 15 minutes in finding a new nail polish remover. The $45 jar of "microscopic crystals" reviewed by the Times is out of my price range, but with a bit of Googling I found the names of a few products and headed to Whole Foods. My research proved useless since my Whole Foods only carries two brands of nail polish remover, so I just grabbed the one with the cuter-looking bottle, which was Karma Organic's Nail Polish Remover with Soybean Oil & Lavender.

I expected that after a few minutes of rubbing my finger with a cotton ball, I'd give up and come crawling back to my old nemesis acetone. However, with only one or two more swipes than usual, two layers of OPI polish and a top coat were completely gone. The color didn't seep onto my skin, and afterwards my fingers actually felt moisturized. According to the (recyclable) glass bottle, it's non-toxic and non-carcinogenic, and it feels like rubbing oil into your nails, not a strange cocktail of highly-flammable chemicals that can't possibly be good for you.

I don't have much of a sense of smell thanks to a bottle rocket incident in my youth. (Okay, that was Selma Bouvier. I just inhaled too much second-hand smoke as a kid.) However, the biggest selling point — aside from not poisoning yourself — has to be the scent. Karma Organic's nail polish remover is available in unscented, tea tree, and lavender, which I bought. It doesn't smell like the fragrance is being used to cover up some horrible chemical odor, it just smells very lightly of lavender. At $12 for a 4 oz bottle, it's much pricier than the regular stuff, but since I only buy nail polish remover once every few years I figured I should just go for it. Though, I may wind up going through the bottle pretty fast. I've been changing my polish twice a week because taking it off isn't a nasty chore anymore, it's actually fun.

Karma Organic Nail Polish Remover with Soybean Oil & Lavender, $12 for 4 oz at KarmaOrganicSpa.com.

Worth It only features things we paid for ourselves and actually like. Don't send us stuff.


Stephan Zielinski

Re: "The only thing I remember about ninth grade chemistry is a speech my teacher gave about nail polish remover probably being carcinogenic": your ninth grade chemistry teacher did not serve you well.

Acetone is not carcinogenic. It doesn't even appear on California's "Chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity" list at [oehha.ca.gov] , and that list is so paranoiacally inclusive it includes "Alcoholic beverages", "Aspirin", and "Estrogen-progestogen". In contrast, there's no way to know WHAT might be in a proprietary mixture. That it's "100% Soy based" is no comfort; give a bored organic chemist a bushel of soybeans and a week in a lab and he can give you napalm, testosterone, and nerve gas.

In this case, note from [store.karmaorganicspa.com] that the solvent they DO use is propylene carbonate: [en.wikipedia.org] . Also not a carcinogen, but the material safety data sheet at [hazard.com] notes "During use avoid contact with eyes, skin, clothing." Now, that's what's SUPPOSED to be in there; heaven only knows what else might be in there that wasn't MEANT to be in there.

Stick with plain acetone. It's unlikely to have any weird contaminants, because it's a simple little molecule made from other simple little molecules. That it reeks means if there's a spill, you'll know about it, and can clear the hell out; this is a GOOD thing. Better a solvent that makes you avoid accidentally inhaling much of it than one that'll waltz into your system without your noticing it; with propylene carbonate, the first sign you can have that anything is wrong is when the "Tightness and pain in chest, coughing, difficult breathing" sets in. (Health effect information also from the material safety data sheet I point at above.) If using acetone to remove nail polish smells bad enough to be annoying, this is a sign that you should be using it in a better-ventilated area.