DIY Gentle (but effective) glycerin nail polish remover

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How to cite: Wong M. DIY Gentle (but effective) glycerin nail polish remover. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. November 20, 2012. Accessed July 22, 2024.

My cuticles suffer a lot from nail polish removal, so inspired by loodie I decided to DIY a version of Zoya Remove+, which is popular for its ability to keep nails and skin from drying out, while quickly removing polish. I’ve been looking for a bottle of glycerin for months, even though it’s supposed to be easily found in chemists, so Sabine from Echolife kindly sent me a bottle – thank you so much!

DIY Gentle Nail Polish Remover

What you need

– acetone (not pictured) – available in bulk from hardware stores
– glycerin – available from chemists; unfortunately, it isn’t stocked at Echolife yet!
– water – you can use distilled if you’re paranoid, but I am almost certain nothing will survive in acetone, so I used filtered tap water
– measuring equipment – make sure it’s acetone-safe! I’m using here a glass measuring cylinder from the lab, and a 10 mL plastic syringe which is resistant to acetone for short periods
– bottle – an empty supermarket remover bottle

The acetone and glycerin are immiscible (they separate like oil and water), but water will make them mix. I found that a volume ratio of 10:1:1.2 acetone/glycerin/water was perfect (if you don’t want to measure 1.2, 1-and-a-splash is pretty close).

Before water – 2 layers (glycerin on the bottom):

After the addition of water and a good hard shake – 1 layer!

And the result?

I couldn’t detect a difference between the two in terms of polish removal strength, but look at all the dry white skin disappear! The difference was even more noticeable in person. Goodbye, white post-acetone cuticles!

Glycerin was provided for editorial consideration by Echolife, which did not affect my opinion. For more information, see Disclosure Policy

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52 thoughts on “DIY Gentle (but effective) glycerin nail polish remover”

  1. Oh this is so cool! I love acetone’s effectiveness but it’s so drying. Awesome idea. Would this work using a glycerin-based moisturizer if you can’t get the glycerin?

    • I wouldn’t recommend it – acetone is quite reactive and there are usually a lot of things apart from glycerin in moisturisers. I’d just use the moisturiser as a second step 😉

      • You can get it at pharmacies in America. You just go to the grocery store, walk up to the pharmacy when it’s open, and ask the pharmacy clerk to buy some glycerin. They will pull it from the back shelves for you!

  2. I’ve found that most chemists have glycerin, but many of them store it in weird places (and not all of the staff know it by the name of glycerin) – when I bought some, I had to ask the pharmacist where it was: on the shelf with the laxatives! It was also labelled as glycerol BP instead of glycerin, which meant it took me a bit longer to find it as my eyes were looking for another word. :o)

  3. If there’s a ‘ The Faceshop’ store near you, they have an acetone-based nail polish remover with glycerin and leaves the most awesome strawberry scent on the fingertips. Non-drying too. But it’s expensive. This DIY is probably way cheaper.

  4. Fabulous post…I’ve already mixed up my own and just tested it, worked like a treat.

    I found Glycerol BP with things like Tea Tree Oil, Eucalyptus Oil etc in Priceline (I had to go to a Priceline Pharmacy, normal Pricelines didn’t stock it) – 100ml for $4.99.

    I grabbed a 1L bottle of acetone from Bunnings for $9.95…quite wanted to buy the 4l paint can size but couldn’t justify it as it wasn’t any cheaper!

  5. I love my Zoya Remove+, especially the dispenser! Debating whether I will buy the big refill or make my own when it comes out.
    I was curious about where to find glycerin myself, so I did a quick search on, *just in case*. Are either of these products the right thing?
    Is vegetable glycerin any different besides being more expensive? Thanks so much!

    • Both look good! Vegetable glycerin is only made from plant sources, whereas if they don’t say, the glycerin can be from animal, plant or synthetic sources.

      I might have to invest in a dispenser myself! I keep spilling my remover and it melts my plastic stuff 🙁

      • Some nail supply stores sell retail … there’s one near me (Toronto) and they those empty pump up bottles for CAD$4.50. Thanks a million for the post … will be mixing up mine in the next day or so 🙂

  6. Great recipe. I was thinking I could make it myself after finding Loodie’s post, but it turned out I didn’t need to because a local distributor of stuff for salons carries their own brand of inexpensive acetone + glycerine remover, and a great remover it is.

  7. Great post – and I totally agree – I have added Vit E oil to my polish remover and that works too. I will get some glycerine and make a batch of this up next. It’s the hydration the oil or use of glycerine that makes ALL the difference. I found this out by using some more expensive removers that had oil added to them. You do need to be sure to wash your hands with soap and ditto for your toes after using before starting a new polish job but that should be done anyway with any remover you use.

    • Theoretically the glycerin + acetone combo doesn’t need to be washed off with soap, since glycerin is water soluble and shouldn’t interfere with polish adhesion. I haven’t done a test yet though!

  8. Thanks for sharing 😀 I love most things DIY and this is the first nail polish remover formula I’ve come across thus far. The end result looks like it’s worth a try!

  9. The question, for me, is: is it worth the hassle? Isn’t it easier to just moisturize after removing polish and not go through the whole “find glycerin, buy glycerin, find distilled water, find resistant syringe, find an empty bottle, find pure acetone, measure, mix”?

  10. This mix is far better than moisturizer after using pure acetone. For some reason, it keeps the acetone from being so drying in the first place.

    I bought the 8oz bottle of Remove JUST for the bottle, and it was worth every dime. I polish at my desk on a plastic cutting mat, plenty big enough to keep polish off the oak, but a remover spill would be a disaster. It is not only spill proof, but the top will turn and lock in place so accidental pressure in a travel bag can’t cause it to dispense. So worth the money. If this one ever wears out (which I can’t imagine, I’ll buy another.

  11. Glycerin is readily available at Walmart stores in the pharmacy area. (It was near the Bandaids.) Thanks so much for posting this. I love my gel polish but the acetone was killing my nails and cuticles. Works perfectly!

  12. Michelle, seeing nobody has mentioned it, I found glycerin easily at Coles/woollies, it’s in the medical/tablet/bandaid section usually next to the calamine lotion. 🙂

  13. Michelle, seeing nobody has mentioned it, I found glycerin easily at Coles/woollies, it’s in the medical/tablet/bandaid section usually next to the calamine lotion. 🙂

  14. I feel like I’m a bit late to the party, but I actually had a bottle of Glycerol at home from another DIY project, just needed to get the acetone 😛 Now I’ve made myself a batch (good thing i kept my empty Sally Hansen Polish Remover bottle ;)) and I can’t wait to try it out!

  15. I just want to thank you for this post. I just made another bottle of this stuff (I just use an old nail polish remover bottle and I measured it the first time and just marked the fill lines so it was easy from there out) and I don’t even know how much money I have saved at this point.

    I was using just basic partial acetone remover from Walmart and it was so crappy I went through it so quickly. I got a sample of Zoya Remove and I loved it but I could not afford it so I searched around online and found this post and tried it out. My mother-in-law had a gallon jug of acetone at her place that she let me have and I bought a bottle of glycerin at the pharmacy for maybe $5? That $5 has lasted me over a year so far and the jug and bottle of glycerin aren’t even halfway empty.

  16. I totally forgot about acetone breaking down plastic(???) so now that’s a spritzer bottle that won’t work anymore….

    Before I put it in a bottle I was just adding a dash of glycerine to some polish remover and mixing it around in a cup. I find I only need one cotton ball now – whereas before the polish would coat the cotton and I wouldn’t be able to get the acetone to the nail.

    Love this DIY!! Even if I messed it up – it’s made such a difference 😀

    *off to get a new bottle cap

  17. Hello Michelle, I can’t find a date for this post, so I’m going to comment anyway. First, great article and a huge thanks for the formula. Question: Could I add some vitamin e oil? If yes, how much is useful and how much offers diminishing returns?
    Really, I have the same question for the glycerin: could I add more?
    Thanks again,

  18. Mixed mine up, tested it & love it!! Thank you!!! I’ve seen Glycerin USP (8oz) in with the first aid supplies at pharmacies and small bottles (2-4oz) of glycerin (food grade) at stores that sell cake decorating supplies. I prefer to mix by weight (metric) to avoid measuring the gloppy glycerin. Use specific gravity to convert:
    Acetone (1ml = 0.78gm)
    Glycerin (1ml = 1.26gm)
    Filtered / distilled water (1ml = 1gm)
    THEREFORE, following all the above guidance about not using plastic, for 122ml total (about 1/2 cup) using Michelle’s ratio of
    10 (acetone) : 1 (glycerin) : 1.2 (water)
    12.6gm (10ml) Glycerin
    78gm (100ml) pure Acetone
    12gm (12ml) water (filtered / distilled)
    Shake well.


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