Is Nail Polish Flammable? The Burning Truth Behind Painted Nails

Everyone feels good after a fresh manicure. There’s just something alluring about well-applied nail paint. After all, some beautiful nail art and some color are harmless! And this is why nail polish remains a trendy and affordable product globally.

I mean, one can walk to a beauty stall and grab some nail polish in different colors, and it will only cost a few dollars. But should you use the nail polish freely, and are there any dangers associated with the product? Is nail polish flammable? Read on to find out more about this product.

Is Nail Polish Flammable

Is Nail Polish Flammable?

In its liquid state, nail polish is flammable, as most brands use flammable nitrocellulose and acetone bases. Once you subject the nail polish to any flame, it can easily ignite.

Other components such as dyes, plasticizers, and adhesives are added to the polish to give color, prevent cracking, and keep it intact on the nail. However, these components are considered flammable, and exposure to heat and open flames increase fire hazards.

What Is Nail Polish?

Nail polish is a shiny lacquer applied to decorate and protect nails. It comes in various colors, and you can use it for your toes and fingernails. The effective and strong substance protects the nails from damage and keeps them healthy and attractive.

For instance, gel nail polish is more durable on the nails, and with proper care, it can last for weeks without chipping, peeling, or even cracking. And the truth is that most women, even men, cannot live without nail polish, and manicures and pedicures remain popular. Also, doing your nails yourself using nail polish is often simpler because you can easily buy and apply it yourself.

What Is In Nail Polish?

Nail polish comprises several chemical formulas that vary from brand to brand. But nitrocellulose and acetone are the main bases for nail polish and are highly volatile. Other ingredients may include:

  • Dyes and colors: Honestly, the different shades in nail polish are the determinant factor in purchasing. Several components of colors and dyes help to create a specific shade.
  • Plasticizers: Help prevent cracking and breaking out of nail polish.
  • Adhesives: Gives an appropriate bonding of the polish to the nail.
  • Thickening agents: Are added to hold the nail polish's viscosity properly.
  • UV stabilizers: Help to prevent color change and UV damage when exposed to sunlight.
How Flammable Is Nail Polish

How Flammable Is Nail Polish?

Nail polish, just like nail polish remover, uses an acetone base, which is highly flammable and can catch fire when near ignition sources. If the vapor released is sufficient and comes into contact with a naked flame, nail polish catches fire. Failing to put out the initial flame may lead to further fire risks once it spreads.

Additionally, spilled and wet polish easily ignites when exposed to a spark/open flame. When kept from open flames, nail paint is not highly flammable and is tough to ignite. This is why using nail paint with caution is essential, and it's best to keep your manicure away from activities like smoking, fireworks, or campfires.

I once encountered a nail polish-related fire risk. My friend volunteered to give me a fresh pedicure, and the lights went off in the middle. I quickly lit some candles so she could finish, but she forgot to cap the polish and left it open. Then, we headed to the bedroom to rest while waiting for the lights to turn back on.

Unfortunately, the red nail polish ignited and spread to some notepads, which then spread to other items in the house. But luckily, we quickly extinguished the fire. It would have been a different story if we had left the house entirely, as we would have returned to a massive mess and devastation.

Is Dry Nail Polish Flammable?

As discussed above, nail polish can catch fire, but is nail polish flammable when dry? Toxic and flammable chemicals are present when the nail polish is liquid; however, once the polish begins to dry out after applying, the chemicals evaporate and leave the shade and polymers on the nails.

Acetone base, for instance, evaporates quickly, and so does nitrocellulose, and when the polish is applied, a firm and flexible coat is left once it dries out. Dry nail polish is, therefore, not flammable, and if subjected to an open flame, the polish would have to melt into liquid form to ignite.

Instances of dry nail polish catching fire are rare and should not stop anyone from getting their routine Mani/Pedi.

Does Sunlight Make Nail Polish Flammable?

Direct UV rays damage the quality of nail polish, and if you read the label, it often indicates to store it in a cool and dry place. This is why leaving nail polish in the car is not a good idea – unless the heat is moderate.

Otherwise, the bottle will get too hot since the polish contains acetone, and it will evaporate and release vapor. Whether there's flame or not, the steam expands and eventually explodes. 

Sunlight, however, may not make nail polish flammable. Below are a few effects of sunlight on nail polish.

  • Evaporation of ingredients: Acetone is flammable. It evaporates quickly, thickens, and hardens the nail polish. Thick polish is hard to apply and use. It fails to offer a smooth and easy spread on the nails. One can opt to add acetone to soften the polish, but since the chemical is toxic, it can damage the nails. The best option would be to replace the hardened polish with a new one!
  • Discoloration: Sunlight bleaches the color pigment in nail polish. This leaves you with a different shade than the one you picked. Also, sunlight has powerful rays, so avoiding exposing the polish to direct UV light is good.
  • Change in texture: Sunlight separates the ingredients in nail polish, significantly affecting the texture. The polish turns out sticky and thick. When applied this way, you can end up with bubbles and folds once it dries. The final nail is unattractive, easily chips, and doesn't last.
Is Nail Polish Flammable When Dry

Are All Nail Polishes Flammable?

No. There are a few brands of nail polish that use water as the base instead of acetone. The brands are free from toluene, ethyl acetate, formaldehyde, and alcohol, making the polish non-flammable. Since water is the main ingredient, this nail polish is less toxic and a good choice for kids.

Some of the most common brands in the market include; Suncoat Nail Polish, Piggy Paint Polish For Kids, and SOPHi Nail Polish. And yes, the brands have fun and sophisticated colors that are perfect for anyone.

Non-flammable nail polish is safe and perfect for people who react with acetone products. However, like ordinary nail paint, certain storage practices are appropriate for extending the polish's quality and shelf life.  

Is Gel Nail Polish Flammable?

Gel polish gives a long-lasting manicure option for polish fans. And currently, there's a significant improvement in the chemicals used compared to some years ago when nail polish was much more toxic and flammable.

Compounds such as plasticizers, photoinitiators, and methyl acrylate help make the gel polish effective and dry quickly once exposed to UV light. The good thing is that gel nail polish is not flammable. When exposed to heat, the chemicals turn the gel into a highly fluid-like liquid that is hard to apply. Using the gel polish in this state quickly causes skin irritation.

How To Reduce The Flammability Of Nail Polish

As stated, nail polish uses volatile acetone and nitrocellulose bases, which can easily catch fire near open flames. Also, the released fumes from nail polish can pose a health hazard when inhaled and lead to respiratory problems. And though it's unlikely for a bottle of your nail polish to explode, it doesn't hurt to recognize the flammability of the nail lacquer.

Proper ventilation is, therefore, essential when using nail polish. In addition, to avoid fire hazards that can cause severe burns if they occur, being cautious goes a long way when handling nail polish.

The below tips can help prevent fire outcomes:

  • Nail polish must not be anywhere near open flames to avoid flammability.
  • Keep the nail polish far from direct sunlight, as the UV rays are intense and may damage the liquid.
  • Always keep the cap tightly sealed after any application to prevent outdoor air and heat exposure, affecting polish quality. Also, the liquid may slip and cause fire from nearby sparks/flames.
  • Store the polish in a cool, dry spot that keeps it safe and extends its shelf life.

Final Thoughts

Nail polish is a common item in the market, but have you ever considered if the liquid is toxic? Is nail polish flammable? Well, to recap, nail polish contains acetone and nitrocellulose, which are both volatile. So exposing your favorite nail polish to a spark or an open flame will cause it to catch fire. In addition, heat and intense sunshine degrade nail polish quality. 

Keeping nail polish away from any ignition source is essential to prevent fire hazards. And lastly, to increase the polish's shelf life and preserve its quality, always store it in a dry, cool environment.