Nail Polish Remover Vs. Nail Polish Thinner

Thinner won't save your polish; it usually ruins it.

Photo: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Painting your nails quickly adds pizzazz to your hands, but eventually you'll need to take off the worn or chipped nail polish. Sometimes your favorite shade of polish can thicken in the bottle, too, making it hard to apply. Stores sell both nail polish remover and nail polish thinner. Although some people use these products interchangeably, they are different and shouldn't be used as substitutes for each other.

Purpose of Remover Versus Thinner

The purpose of remover is to dissolve the nail polish on your nails. With the nail polish broken down, you easily can wipe it off. Thinner, however, is used to make nail polish the right consistency for application. To get a little more scientific, manufacturers say nail polish thinner "improves viscosity," which is just a fancy way of saying the nail polish flows better.

Chemical Breakdown

Technically, both nail polish remover and thinner are solvents. Both can contain ingredients such as butyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol and ethyl acetate. However, unless you're buying remover that's safe for fake nails, most fingernail polish removers also contain acetone. This chemical is quite harsh -- the "big gun" of remover solvents. Removers also can contain water. This means that removers and thinners are usually not interchangeable, because even when the same ingredients are present, they are in different proportions.

Using Remover to Thin Polish

Many people believe it is helpful to pour some nail polish remover into the bottle to thin old, gooey or dried-out nail polish. This isn't the case. If the nail polish remover has acetone or water, which virtually all do, it may thin the polish initially, but the polish will chip much more easily on your nails and will take an eternity to dry. Over time, the remover will break down the polish in the bottle, making a goopy mess you'll have to toss.

Why There's a Problem

Nail polish, similar to thinner or remover, contains solvents. Without the solvents, your polish quickly would dry up. It is the quick evaporation of the solvents that make nail polish dry on your nails. When nail polish gets thick and you add thinner, you are putting back the solvents that have been lost through evaporation. When you add remover, you add some solvents, too, but the solvents go too far, breaking down the polish. As a general rule, if a remover doesn't have the same ingredients as your polish, don't add it.

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