Why Does Acetone Feel Cold? When You Get Exposed To It

Nail polish removers contain acetone without a doubt. You usually feel an instant cooling sensation when applying it to your nails. Why does acetone feel cold? 

There are many reasons to explain this phenomenon, but what is the exact cause? If you are interested in the reason, let’s refer to this article to get an in-depth explanation!

What Is Acetone?

Before diving into the reasons why acetone feels cold, it’s better to take a closer look at the concept of this chemical. What is it? 

It is also named propanone and is the smallest and simplest of the ketone family. It’s a translucent, extremely combustible liquid with a distinct pungent odor.

Propanone is well known as the main ingredient used in beauty products like nail polish removers. You can easily find it in other household products such as varnishes, lacquers, or paint removers. 

This chemical also exists in the human body. When your body breaks down fatty tissue and the metabolism process happens, it creates acetone.

It is available in nature. For instance, volcanoes, car exhaust, landfills, forest fires, or tobacco are sources of acetone. Some certain types of vegetables and fruits also include this chemical. 

This substance acts as a solvent, which may dissolve or break down other substances like nail polish, varnish, or paint. Many manufacturers utilize this material to get rid of oil from wool, decrease the sticky level of silk, and produce protective covers for cars and furniture. 

It is common in various industries with a wide range of applications as it integrates easily and well with water and volatilizes quickly. It can also rapidly dissolve substances such as glue, paint, styrofoam, or stubborn stains.

Why Does Acetone Feel Cold?

Acetone can be commonly found in nail polish, which is also the main reason why you might find it a bit “cool” while applying nail polish.

In particular, the essence of acetone is cool, but the key reason is that evaporation is one of the endothermic phenomena. 

What is an endothermic phenomenon? It is a process that requires energy to take place. In this process, the acetone molecules of this chemical trap heat to vaporize. They can absorb heat from any surface, like your skin or gloves. 

After that, they utilize the heat from these surfaces and cause evaporation. Acetone falls under the volatile solvent category, evaporating easily.

When evaporating, acetone absorbs a lot of heat and gives your skin a colder sense (because of heat loss). That is to say, acetone is not cold itself, it only cools down the applied area due to the evaporation. 

This phenomenon explains the question: why is nail polish remover cold? That’s because acetone is one of the main components in nail polish remover.

As mentioned above, this volatile solvent requires thermal energy from the environment and your skin to evaporate easily, which causes a cool feeling on your nail. 

Why Does Acetone Feel Cold?
Why Does Acetone Feel Cold?

What Are The Risks Associated With The Use Of This Chemical? 

According to the Food and Drug Administration classification, this chemical is generally safe. It is unlikely to cause chronic or acute health concerns. It does, however, have certain hazards if:

  • You drink it
  • You inhale it from pain thinners or nail polishes
  • Your skin is exposed to it
  • It splashes into your eyes

Some people who are sensitive to this substance may also experience similar symptoms despite minimal exposure.

If you inhale or come into contact with concentrated acetone or are exposed regularly without protective gear such as gloves or a mask, you may experience the following symptoms.

It May Cause Irritation

The essence of this substance is irritant. Thus, it can irritate your skin. This explains why some people can’t use nail polish removers that are acetone-based. 

In the same vein, when you inhale or get acetone exposure, it will irritate your nose, eyes, throat. So, you can easily get into trouble with some diseases such as irritated eyes, cough, sore throat, dizziness, or headache. If the situations get worse, you should go to see the doctor for advice. 

Acute vapor exposure can induce nervous system injury, disorientation, and even death.

It May Be Flammable

This substance vapors and liquids are quite easily flammable. You shouldn’t use products with acetone around the fire or while you smoke. 

It May Cause Poisoning

How can you know if you’ve been poisoned by acetone? Normally, a healthy person can ingest or inhale this substance in a little quantity without getting into danger.

In other words, poisoning with acetone is extremely rare. Large levels of acetone can be naturally broken down by your body. Excessive exposure (more than 200ml for an adult) requires a tremendous deal of material to be produced, inhaled, or ingested in a brief amount of time.

Symptoms of mild acetone intoxication include: 

  • Headache
  • Slurred speech
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of coordination
  • A sweet taste in the mouth

Severe symptoms, which are extremely uncommon, include:

  • Coma
  • Low blood pressure
  • Deep stupor
  • Potentially fatal

If used carefully, acetone will not cause harm

How To Prevent Poisoning From This Chemical?

You should use acetone-derived products safely to prevent poisoning risks. Here are some useful tips to refer to:

  • Keep away from your foods and drinks: As mentioned earlier, an excess amount of this substance can cause health risks. 
  • Keep out of reach of children.
  • Use them in open spaces: Inhaling the fumes of this substance may cause allergies or irritations.
  • Don’t leave them near the open fire because they are easy to burst a flame.
  • Don’t let it drop in your eyes.
  • Wear protective equipment if exposed to it, like masks, goggles, gloves, or long-sleeve shirts.
  • Only use acetone under control and for temporary access. 
  • Turn on the ventilation system when working.
  • Close the lid tightly when not in use to prevent the fumes of this chemical from escaping.
  • After using the product, wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face or before eating or drinking.
  • Dispose of used acetone safely.
How to prevent poisoning from this chemical?
How to prevent poisoning from this chemical?


Why Is Acetone Colder Than Water?

Evaporation is the action of converting liquid to vapor by removing heat.

Because acetone takes less energy for every molecule than water to evaporate, the process is more quickly, resulting in a higher cooling impact.

Can I Use Acetone To Kill Germs?

Yes! Because this chemical works as a disinfectant, which means it can kill some types of surface microorganisms by dissolving the cell’s plasma membrane.

Is Acetone Similar To Isopropyl Alcohol?

Although they are solvents that are excellent for organic compounds, they are not the same. 

Because it is an excellent solvent for organic compounds, acetone is commonly used in laboratories to wipe tubes and vials. 

On the other hand, the essence of Isopropyl is rubbing alcohol, so it is perfect for removing contaminants from the body before injection.

In A Nutshell

This article has got to the bottom of your question: Why does acetone feel cold? All in all, it’s because evaporation happens when this chemical takes away heat from other surfaces to vaporize. These surfaces then will become cooler due to the heat loss. 

When using this chemical, you should be careful as it may still cause some health problems if you don’t utilize it properly and safely. Hopefully, this post will be helpful for you!


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