We’ve always been aware that acetone nail polish remover isn’t exactly the gentlest and kindest of beauty products—there’s the fact that it’s the one solvent that can soak off even the most indestructible gel nail polish, plus its unabashedly toxic scent. But oh boy, is the video we just stumbled upon driving home exactly how potent a substance it is.
Check out this shocking clip from Let’s Melt This, a YouTube channel devoted entirely to—you guessed it—melting stuff. This week they decided to melt a Styrofoam coffee cup in acetone. “Acetone can be found in nail polish remover and is well known for dissolving Styrofoam into a melting glob of awesomeness,” the caption reads. Take a moment to witness that glob for yourself.
What?! Did that really just happen? It’s too crazy. We were almost tempted to try this ourselves because can the meltdown really be this dramatic? Ultimately we decided it was safer and a whole lot less messy to simply ask a trusted cosmetic chemist. “We used to do that in the lab for fun—it really does do that!” confirms cosmetic chemist Jim Hammer. But…how? “So, Styrofoam is made up of a foamed-up plastic polymer. There’s a lot of trapped air in the foam, which is why the cups are so lightweight, and why they make great insulators that keep our drinks hot or cold. Acetone is a great solvent for this particular plastic, so when the cup is placed in acetone—or when you put a few drops of acetone in the cup—the small amount of plastic present in the cup dissolves and the cup rapidly disintegrates.”
The big question in our minds is, obviously: What does this mean for our nails? Can it really be OK to put this stuff on there, even in limited quantities? “Fortunately, nails are not made of this plastic, so acetone continues to be safe for use as a nail polish remover,” Hammer assures us. OK, but we’re feeling even more motivated than usual to choose the non-acetone variety for our lighter polish-removal jobs. We like Lauren B Nail Polish Remover Pads ($15, laurenbbeauty.com).
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