Q: Why Do My Nails Hurt When I Take Nail Polish Off? And The Solution Thanks to Essie

By Beaut.ie | January 9 2012 | 18 Comments


Tina Tweeted, @beautie why do my nails always hurt/feel uncomfortable after I remove nail polish? Is this normal?

Have to say, this is a new one on me, and judging by the amount of people who joined in the conversation following Tina’s Q on Twitter and then based on my subsequent searches, it seems you’re not alone. Checking that she wasn’t using an acetone-based nail polish remover, which could have been the culprit, I was stumped. And when I’m stumped, I contact an expert, in this case Mink’s Kate Verling, a woman who knows her way around a posh polish or two. Here’s what Kate had to say.

“It is always a hard one to pinpoint as acetone is often considered the biggest culprit for causing damage to the first layer of the nail bed. Hence so many people complaining of aching or sore nails when everlasting polish or Shellac is removed.” So, what else could it be? “To me that sounds like the polish remover is simply exposing the nail back to its natural state, and it has become a little sensitive,” Kate reasoned. “This will only happen when you polish your nails very regularly without a break, or if you are not in the habit of using a good quality base coat.” Aha, now we’re getting to it.

“The colour pigments present in polishes can seep into the nail causing yellowing and sensitivity. For me, a good base coat is the mecca of keeping nails healthy when polishing regularly!”

If it’s the remover that’s causing the issue, she’s got some good news there too. “There are some excellent natural remover options available now that are using ingredients like eucalyptus oil, to remove polish instead of all those awful chemicals.” Try the Essie Naturally Clean range. “Some of the products in the range are pricey,” Kate warns, adding, “but I love the mini (€6) and large (€15) removers as they are 100% natural – so no stripping of the nail. Perfect for avid polish fans as I see a big difference when I use it regularly to remove my polish – like everything really!”

So – there you go. Essie products, including basecoats and the Naturally Clean removers are available at Mink salons, www.mink.ie, or online.

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18 Replies to "Q: Why Do My Nails Hurt When I Take Nail Polish Off? And The Solution Thanks to Essie"

  • BerG says:

    This is a very interesting topic. Have noticed that my nails are not in great condition after the onslaught of polish one after the other over the Christmas season. They are tender and slightly yellow even though i had used a good basecoat.
    Read in a newspaper beauty column yesterday to leave at least 3 days of bare nails to let them breathe and so recover. Also to use a cutical oil and rub it into nails. This should help matters as well.
    Have been doing this for the last couple of nights and it seems to be working.

  • Aisling says:

    These points make sense – we do lots of things to our nails that cause damage – I’m in the habit of just ripping nail wraps off which I know is doing my nails no good and is making them split.

    What exactly did she mean by “bringing nails back to their natural state” do you know?

  • Atkin says:

    Over buffing the nails may also be a cause of sensitivity. My nails ache after I buff them.

  • Atkin says:

    Over buffing the nails may also be a cause of sensitivity. My nails ache after I buff them.

  • Ola says:

    I just bought a bottle on eBay, straight after reading this post ;) Thanks so much for the tip off!

    I have terrible nails (brittle, splitting, breaking, you name it) and I’m sure nail polish remover isn’t helping – I’ll try anything to make them better whilst still being able to use nail polish :)

    Can’t wait to receive this, it’s got great reviews all over the net – how have I never heard of this?!

  • This sounds great! I must admit hardly ever leaving my nails bare but they’re in good(ish) nick.

    I only discovered over Christmas Mavala’s Super Base and I’m converted already. It goes on cleanly and the polish literally sticks to it. It’s improved my polish longevity too, I got 9 days out of one mani. 9 DAYS!!!

  • Ola says:

    Huh, upon further inspection, it turns out that this remover contains acetone.. weird!

    Ingredients: Acetone, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Eucalyptus Species Leaf Oil, Limonene (Sweet Pea Parfum/Fragrance), Alcohol Denat, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Denatonium Benzoate

    (source – another blog)

    Not so sure I should have bought it anymore, but we’ll see how it fares.

  • miffyonline says:

    Ola, the second ingredient is glycerin which mixes well with acetone and makes it gentler. I use Zoya Remove + and it has similar ingredients and is tough on polish but gentle on nails. FWIW, nails are dead layers of skin and do not need to breathe. Ever. Your cuticle and matrix (above nail and under first knuckle) do however benefit from moisturizer, oils etc. For example white spots in your nails are caused by knocks to the nail when it’s being formed and not from lack of vitamins.

  • Ola says:

    Miffy, thanks for that! I did think so, but wasn’t sure – it is good to hear confirmation :)
    Then again, is it ultimately gentler than an acetone-free remover? Just wondering! :)

    And all this ‘breathing’ through nails.. I don’t know why lots of articles still keep on repeating that!

  • Cazzy says:

    Ola – I think whatever replaces acetone in non-acetone remover is more of an unknown quantity than acetone. Yes in large quantities Acetone can be dangerous, but the amount you use on your nails is negligible, especially compared to the amount you’d be exposed to in industrial labs. Also, I find that I use way more non-acetone remover, than acetone based so I’m exposing myself to it way longer and in higher quantities, so I’ve decided to stick with acetone based remover.

    Also nails are dead so leaving them to breathe is unneccessary, but a bit like hair you want to retain any oils in them so they don’t become dry and brittle. There is a school of thought out there that keeping them painted keeps in the oil, giving you stronger nails. This sounds to me like it makes sense, but although I studied science I never once took a biology course, so maybe it’s rubbish!

    • Ani says:

      I went back to using regular acetone ti remove nail polishes. However, and I don’t know if this makes a difference, but I pour olive oil into the bottle… it makes my nails feel moisturized and protected =)

  • Jen says:

    I never ever don’t wear nail polish, I change the colour every night (I get bored with one colour easiy)and I use an acetone remover. I never have had sensitivity or brittle nails. I definately agree that nails don’t need to breath cause mine would have sufficated years ago!!!! Also I find acetone free remover is useless, acetone removes polish quickly. I love doing my nails!!!!!!

  • mscheapskate says:

    Funny thing for me (one who avoids polish due to pain following removal, and I have several allergies and sensitivities) is that after getting a gel manicure on a whim, I realized that once again I had to suffer taking off the polish, and I had to get 100% acetone to get the gel off (or pay dearly to have them do it at a salon). It DID NOT leave my nails feeling like someone stomped on them, as they always do when I use remover! For once I had clean nails and no achy, sore fingernails! Even after wearing the gel manicure for over two weeks, which stayed beautifully and chip-free, I might add. Odd. I found a few common ingredients in other acetone and “non” removers. It must be one of these other ingredients that bother me. The “non” contains castor oil, which breaks out my lips. But the acetone kind usually bothers me, too. So not sure which common ingredient is affecting me. Guess I will just stick to pure acetone and use it only occasionally, since it’s not “good” for you. And the gel, yes it exposes you to UV’s, so I will probably not do it again, unless I have job interviews or something super important or am going on a long vacation. But at least I have options! Seems the more natural the ingredients, the more trouble I usually have!

  • Beth says:

    I wonder if it is the formaldehyde in the different polishes. I used a polish that had formaldehyde in it the other night. Vernis Classique by Cherimoya. After I took it off a few days later, my nails ached like they have in the past. While looking at another container of several polishes we purchased for my daughter’s birthday, I noticed that they are formaldehyde free, toluene free, and DBP free. The brand is L.A. Colors. This is the same brand I buy at General Dollar Store. I don’t remember my nails aching after removing that polish. I have used that polish a lot recently. I don’t believe it was the nail polish remover. It was acetone free.

  • Cathy says:

    I wear nail polish once or twice a year for special events or a sunny vacation. I recently removed the Shellac polish with acetone and 1 week later my finger nails/tips are still aching. I know not to do this again. But, how long are they going to ache and is there something I can do to speed up the healing process?

    • Andrea says:

      Depends on the sensitivity of the nail bed. Get some good quality cuticle oil to rub into them and promise them that you’ll never dip your fingers into acetone again!

  • Heidi says:

    I hadn’t had any pain after removing nail polish off for some time, and then I read this and realized last time I did not use a base coat. I wear polish quite often and just about always use a base coat, and never notice any pain, until this last time. Thank you!

  • Giselle says:

    This article is obviously compete bs. I RARELY put nail polish on. I’m 33 years old, and I put it on maybe three times a year… since puberty. My nails hurt after I use it. Took me a while to figure out it was the nail polish remover, I thought it was happening from clipping my nails and then doing the dishes for like ten years, that’s why I never mixed the two. And now I finally realized, it’s the damn remover!

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