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Teen’s skin ‘melted away’ after getting burned while using nail polish remover

Kennedy, 14, suffered third-degree burns on her arm while removing her nails near a lit candle.
Kennedy, 14, suffered third-degree burns on her arm while removing her nails near a lit candle.

Beauty shouldn’t be this painful.

A teen named Kennedy, 14, suffered third-degree burns on her arm while cleaning her nails next to a lit candle.

“I had to take my fingernail polish off because it’s not in [cheerleading] uniform, and as I was taking it off I had a candle near me on my bed,” the teen told People.

The incident happened at her home in Xenia, Ohio, on Jan. 5 as she was getting ready to join her cheerleading squad for a school basketball game.

“As I was setting the bottle of nail polish remover down on my bed, the fumes kind of just mixed together and the bottle exploded in my hand,” she recalled of the frightening incident. “It caught me and everything near me on fire.”

The fire ignited from the acetone vapor in the nail polish remover mixing with the fumes from the candle causing an explosion. Most nail polish removers have a warning label indicating it’s extremely flammable.

Kennedy panicked as her bed, clothes, arms, hands and hair caught fire.

“I was really scared and I was screaming and just trying to do as much as I could to stop me being on fire and just get out,” she added.

Kennedy’s parents were at work when the blaze ignited, but her siblings rushed into her room to de-escalate the situation.

Kennedy, 14, caught fire when she was removing her nails for a school basketball game. Facebook/Shriners Children's Ohio
Kennedy, 14, caught fire when she was removing her nails for a school basketball game. Facebook/Shriners Children's Ohio
The 14-year-old expects to be fully recovered by March or April of 2025. Facebook/Shriners Children's Ohio
The 14-year-old expects to be fully recovered by March or April of 2025. Facebook/Shriners Children's Ohio

They were able to put the fire out on her body and called 911 for immediate help. She was hospitalized at Shriners Children’s Hospital, a pediatric facility specializing in burn care in Dayton, Ohio.

“It’s nothing I’ve ever been through before. I was still in a lot of shock but after the adrenaline wore down, I was in a lot of pain,” the teen said.

Kennedy’s mom, Brandi, 34, arrived at the house as the ambulance and fire trucks arrived.

“It was a horrific scene of her being covered in bubbles and welts and her skin being melted away,” said Brandi. “It was a wild experience.”

Dr. Sara Higginson, a burn and trauma surgeon, operated on the Ohio teen, who had to undergo a major procedure to clean her wounds and remove the dead skin. She also had surgical excision and grafting procedure.

“Kennedy ended up having full-thickness injuries on her abdomen, both thighs and then her right arm. And the other areas she was able to heal without having to have it excised and grafted,” Higginson told People. “But she did have pretty extensive injuries to kind of the whole front side of her.”

Dr. Sara Higginson operated on Kennedy’s arm and continues to monitor her progress. Facebook/Shriners Children's Ohio
Dr. Sara Higginson operated on Kennedy’s arm and continues to monitor her progress. Facebook/Shriners Children's Ohio

However, the Ohio teen has shown immense progress in her recovery.

“I’ve been healing really well and no big bumps have occurred,” Kennedy shared. She anticipates to be fully healed by March or April of 2025.

“Kennedy’s a little warrior. She really has pushed through everything and they’re really surprised at how well she’s healing,” her mom said. “It’s just amazing how it looks now. Doctors say she’s going to have minimal scarring, minimal everything.”

The young girl is bringing awareness to the common mistake people make involving an open flame. Inside Edition
The young girl is bringing awareness to the common mistake people make involving an open flame. Inside Edition

In the meantime, Kennedy will continue physical and occupational therapy at Shriners.

“Moving forward we’ll do a laser treatment every two months for six to 10 treatments to really make sure that all of the scarring is as functional as it can be,” Higginson said.

“Kennedy’s awesome and she’s moved through this process actually fairly fast, and I think it’s a testament to her mental toughness.”

The traumatic experience has taught the 14-year-old to be more cautious of her surroundings.

“I learned a lot of things,” Kennedy revealed to “Inside Edition.”

“I learned mostly to be more aware of the things around me, to just take a little bit more precaution. I know that firsthand now and [to] just be more aware of accidents.”

Kennedy and her mom share their story to raise awareness about the dangers of an open flame and an accelerant, which Higginson supports since she treats teen patients who often have accidents involving fire.

“I think it’s important to have a three-feet safety buffer between flames, be they a fire pit, a candle, the stove,” the Ohio doctor said to People. “Because it’s a fairly common scenario for a teenager, so I love that she really wants to make sure to get a safety message out about flames and flammable liquids.”