Moist Pads for nail polish removal: Is GBL a vital ingredient or a risk to consumers?

Many of the moist pads sold in the UK for the removal of nail polish utilise the plasticiser gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) in their formulation. This chemical solvent is particularly effective at dissolving the acrylic compound which forms the hard varnish layer and is not volatile. It is this combination of physical properties which makes GBL an ideal solvent for use in the manufacture of moist pads for the removal of nail polish. In this application it is important that moist pads contain an effective solvent but also that the pads remain moist when they are in use.

In December 2009 the UK Government reacted to growing concerns about the “recreational” misuse of GBL when they classified the substance as a Class C Drug (under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971). In so doing they have not banned the use of GBL in nail polish remover pads but it is now against the law to possess or sell GBL for human consumption.

GBL is a common chemical solvent found in products such as: stain-remover, paint-stripper as well as nail polish remover pads. Sometimes known as liquid ecstasy it is highly dangerous and if ingested can reduce inhibitions, cause nausea, reduced heart rate and even lead to death. GBL is particularly dangerous when taken with alcohol and other depressant substances.

After media coverage highlighting the dangers of this substance some owners of nail polish remover pad brands have chosen to re-formulate their products in order to eliminate any potential risk to consumers arising from either direct or indirect misuse of this solvent.

Where GBL is still used in nail polish remover pads responsible manufacturers of the moist pads will ensure that their formulation also includes unpalatable ingredients such as Bitrex. In this way the manufacturer can be confident that their pads are not used as a source of GBL for human consumption.

This said there are moist pads available which have completely eliminated the use of GBL and many of these products are equally effective at removal of nail polish. For this reason we have observed a trend away from the use of GBL in nail polish remover pads in the UK market.

At James Douglas Limited we manufacture absorbent pads from non woven fabrics for use in wide variety of makeup remover pad brands. We work closely with our customers to specify the most suitable non woven fabrics and when required by our customers we offer a full manufacturing service for the finished consumer packs. In support of these customers we have developed nail polish remover formulations which do not contain GBL.

If you require any further information about the products or the services offered by James Douglas please call us on +44 (0)1992 586553 or email us at

By Mike Hawkes – Managing Director at James Douglas Ltd


Leave a Reply