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Best nail polish remover

Which nail polish remover is best?

While a lot of attention is paid to the nail polish we wear, an often overlooked part of nail care is nail polish remover. Gone are the days when the only option was the plain drugstore variety. Whether you have nails that split easily or use glitter-heavy polishes that are tough to get off, the remover options are plentiful.

If you’re looking for a nail-friendly polish remover that does all the heavy removal you need, Priti NYC Soy Nail Polish Remover is the top choice. 

What to know before you buy nail polish remover

The kind of nail polish you like to wear

If you often choose harder-to-remove polishes, such as glitters and metallics, or you like adding stencils and stickers to your nails, your average drugstore polish remover may not do the trick — at least not without a lot of rubbing. On the other hand, if you’re concerned with the health of your nails, look for a nail polish remover that’s gentle and contains natural ingredients and moisturizers, such as vitamin E, lanolin or other moisturizers. 

Your sensitivity to smells

Nail polish removers of old were notoriously strong-smelling, and any that contain acetone still have a pungent odor. If you’re sensitive to smells and don’t need to remove glitters and gels, consider a more natural, cleaner-smelling alternative, such as a soy-based product. 

The nail polish removal method you prefer

While the tried-and-true remover on a cotton pad method works well, it’s not the only one. If you enjoy the salon experience of putting your finger inside a remover-filled pot to have it magically emerge sans polish, you can replicate that at home with a nail polish remover pot. If you need to remove nail polish on the go, consider remover pads. 

What to look for in a quality nail polish remover

Acetone content

The main ingredient in many nail polish removers continues to be acetone, which is that pungently scented but effective ingredient. If you have stubborn polish to remove, you can find removers that are up to 100% acetone, although 98% is more common. The average drugstore remover is 30%-60% acetone unless you opt for an acetone-free remover. 

Moisturizing ingredients

If your nails tend to be on the dry side, or if they have a tendency to chip or break, a moisturizing ingredient in your remover may guard against drying out. Look for a remover with ingredients like vitamin E, aloe or lanolin. 

Scented or unscented

If you’re sensitive to smells, you may want to look for an unscented nail polish remover. Keep in mind, however, that unscented doesn’t mean that it has no scent. It simply means no additional fragrance is added. Some people prefer a scented remover that leaves behind a pleasant floral aroma to mask some of the more chemical odors. 

How much you can expect to spend on nail polish remover

A standard drugstore remover costs around $8, and a prestige brand with special ingredients costs around $20.

Nail polish remover FAQ

What is the active ingredient in nail polish remover?

A. Most removers work due to acetone, a potent solvent that wipes away most nail polishes easily. Even more natural removers contain acetone, which they may call propanone to stay away from the better-known term for it. If you’re looking for a non-acetone polish remover, look for one with ethyl acetate or methyl ethyl ketone, which have a similar effect, although it may take more elbow grease to achieve it. 

Is acetone bad for you?

A. Acetone is safe when applied externally, despite its strong smell. It can be drying to the nail bed, though, which is why it is a good idea to look for one with moisturizing ingredients or to moisturize after removing your nail polish. You should use it in a well-ventilated area and absolutely never swallow it. Keep it away from kids and pets. 

What are some moisturizing ingredients to look for in nail polish remover?

A. If you’re using an acetone-based remover, look for oils like grapefruit seed oil, argan oil, almond oil or sesame seed oil, all of which help counterbalance the harsh effect acetone can have on nails. Otherwise, seek out a remover formulated with natural ingredients.

What's the best nail polish remover to buy?

Top nail polish remover

Priti NYC Soy Nail Polish Remover

What you need to know: This gentle, fully biodegradable remover is easy on nails. 

What you’ll love: The active ingredients, methyl soyate and dimethyl adipate, are "derived from farm crops," according to the company, and are natural and not harmful to your nails or to the Earth.

What you should consider: The gentleness means you’ll need to use a little more effort to get off the toughest nail polishes. You may go through more than you would if you were using an acetone-based product.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top nail polish remover for the money

Cutex Nourishing Nail Polish Remover

What you need to know: This drugstore standby has been around for over 100 years for a reason: it works. 

What you’ll love: The nourishing formulation of this old favorite includes apricot kernel oil and vitamin E for a moisturizing feel without sacrificing effectiveness. 

What you should consider: As with all acetone polish removers, this has a strong smell, and it's coupled with an apricot scent that’s added to mask it. Use it in a well-ventilated room.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Zoya Remove+ Nail Polish Remover

What you need to know: This cult favorite smells better than most and is effective.

What you’ll love: The big draw with this remover is the pump top, which is reminiscent of the nail salon experience. Dispense just enough by a gentle pump of the top, and save yourself from the two-handed job of tipping the bottle over onto your cotton pad.

What you should consider: This contains acetone, albeit labeled propanone.

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty and Amazon

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Maria Andreu writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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