The chemical acetone can be found in many places, as it is produced both naturally by the human body and for industrial use, so there are many opportunities for it to come in contact with a person's skin. Small amounts of acetone typically do not cause any harm, though some of the chemical may absorb through the skin and enter the bloodstream. At higher concentrations, acetone on skin may cause dryness, redness, and irritation, and if contact continues long term, one may develop dermatitis. There may also be a risk to other tissues in the body if one is exposed to high levels of acetone, especially when it is done repeatedly.
Brief or minimal exposure to acetone on skin typically does not cause any ill effects and should not be a cause for concern. The human body itself naturally produces some acetone as a byproduct of the breakdown of fat. It is also produced in nature by plants and from certain other sources like forest fires, and many products and areas in the environment contain it due to its use as an industrial chemical.
The amount of acetone in the body can vary, with certain people like pregnant women or those who exercise producing more than usual. Most acetone can normally be metabolized and broken down within the body, while the rest is either breathed out or eliminated during urination. Therefore, a small amount on the skin, even if it is absorbed, will usually not cause any health problems.
Larger amounts of acetone applied directly to the skin can cause issues, however. Those who work with the chemical and come in direct contact with it in its pure form may find that it makes their skin very dry, as it will remove fats from the tissue. They may also find that the exposed areas become red or itchy. If the exposure continues, dermatitis may eventually develop from the chronic irritation.
Since acetone on skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to the rest of the body, it may cause other health issues when the exposure is significant or occurs frequently. Acetone can have effects on the central nervous system, and overexposure may cause symptoms like dizziness or drowsiness. It can cause headaches and nausea. Though the chances of absorbing extremely large concentrations from acetone on skin are highly unlikely, it should be noted that significant exposure has caused comas and even death.