MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: What chemicals affect nail polish durability?

Date: Fri Mar 6 15:04:56 1998
Posted By: Richard Stein, Professor of Chemistry, Natural Sciences, Germanna Community College
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 888362840.Ch

I'm sitting here with a 10x magnifying glass reading the labels on some of my wife's nail polishes and the first thing that strikes me is why doesn't the EPA require hazmat containment suits for anyone using this stuff ?? (Just kidding!!)

There are three major types of ingredients in most nail polishs;

  1. organic solvents and drying agents,
  2. thickeners and hardening agents,
  3. coloring and "effects" agents.
The most common organic solvents and drying agents are ethyl acetate (also used as nail polish remover), butyl acetate, formaldehyde and isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol).

The thickeners and hardening agents are nitrocellulose (also known as gun cotton which is used in explosives and gun powders), several different acrylate copolymers and/or polyester/polyurethane copolymers. These hardening agents are basically types of plastics that are soluble in organic solvents like ethyl acetate. When the organic solvents evaporate, the plastics deposit as a thin coating on the surface of the nails.

The coloring agents are materials like D&C red #7 and #34. Mica and aluminum powder (sometimes bismuth oxychloride) are used for the pearlescent/glitter type of nail polish.

Of course there are numerous variations in formulation between different brands and products, but the same basic types of ingredients are used by most cosmetic producers.

Current Queue | Current Queue for Chemistry | Chemistry archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Chemistry.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-1998. All rights reserved.