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Acetone supply shortage drives up costs at nail salons

Gloss Nail Bar shows us why a manicure and pedicure could cost you more, while a chemistry professor at the University of Houston explains why.

HOUSTON — It seems there’s currently no shortage of shortages. 

From the grocery store to holiday gifts, global supply shortages and transportation delays are impacting almost everything, including nail salons.

Gloss Nail Bar shows us why a manicure and pedicure could cost you more. A chemistry professor at the University of Houston explains why.

A trip to Gloss Nail Bar is costing Kaylon McNeal more. 

“When I book my appointments online, I notice the price and like the nail take off and all that stuff, it increased,” said McNeal. 

In October, the two-year-old Midtown nail salon began charging $5 more for acetone removal. Acetone is a chemical that removes polish and acrylics. It’s basically the backbone of every nail salon across America.

The co-owner of Gloss Nail Bar, Khanh Nguyen, said in the first several months of the COVID-19 pandemic, suppliers began charging salons more for acetone.

 In some cases, the amount of acetone a person could buy at one time was limited. 

“It was affecting too much of our bottom line. I know things are tough for a lot of people right now,” said Nguyen. “So we tried to maintain it as much as possible, but prices have doubled, tripled on some stuff.”

Nguyen said his West Gray Street nail salon goes through about four gallons of acetone in about a couple of days.

“We use so much acetone,” Nguyen said. 

So do some of the most popular products.

“Acetone is also commonly used as a precursor for isopropyl alcohol, which we know as rubbing alcohol,” explained Tom Teets, a chemistry professor at the University of Houston. 

Rubbing alcohol is one of the main ingredients of hand sanitizer. 

“So the demand for acetone certainly went up during the pandemic,” he said.

“We discussed it for like weeks,” said Nguyen of discussions with his staff before deciding to charge customers $5 more acetone until wholesale prices for acetone lower. 

“Basically we just have to adjust, adapt,” he said, pointing to the fact that the shortages are out of his hands.

Credit: @GlossNail.Bar on Instagram


Consider soaking off your nails at home. It’s one way you can save some money. H-E-B tells KHOU 11 that the price of nail polish remover, which you can buy for a couple of bucks, has not gone up so far during this pandemic.

Melissa Correa on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram