Adorned by countless throughout its three millennia long history, the application of nail polish dates back to 3000 BC. Although little has changed since its invention, nail polish’s composition is not quite as simple as one may initially intuit. Behind the shimmery coat lies an amalgamation of a film-forming polymer combined with a volatile organic solvent. Such polymer can be nitrocellulose, whereas the most common solvents range from ethyl acetate to toluene. In terms of safety, modern formulations have come a long way from their predecessors, no longer including dibutyl phthalate.
In creating nail polish, several components are needed to deliver the desired look. As the foundation, nitrocellulose is blended with an organic solvent to create the base. To achieve the polish’s signature hue, pigment or dye is added, while glitter can be infused to give the nails an eye-catching sparkle. Camphor was used in earlier formulas but was phased out in the early 1900s due to its combustible nature. Now suspended in the solvent, all of these elements will form a film over the nails.
Nail polish can be broken down into three distinct parts – film-forming polymers, solvents, and pigments. Each component brings its own unique contribution to the overall makeup of the product.
Nitrocellulose is the star of nail polish, constituting its most popular film-forming polymer. This exceedingly flammable element is created from cellulose, offering a unique combination of stability and explosive power.
Acrylates copolymer provides an additional layer of resilience when applied with nitrocellulose to create a nail polish film. This polymer is notably more flame-resistant than its counterpart, thus making it an alluring choice for safeguarding polished-manicures with lasting impact.
A colorless and highly combustible liquid, ethyl acetate is well-known for its ability to easily and effectively dissolve the polymers which make up nail polish, allowing it to form a protective film on the nails.
Butyl acetate is a clear and highly combustible liquid that has been utilized as an alternative to ethyl acetate in certain types of nail polish formulas.
Nail polish is composed of film-forming polymers, and in order to be broken down these must be immersed in an appropriate solvent. The chemical required is Toluene – a transparent, combustible solution that has the irritating potential to harm the skin if inhaled.
Nail polish can be transformed with a black or brown hue when it is blended with iron oxide; this pigment gives manicures a deeper, more dramatic look.
Those searching for a brilliant blue hue should look no further than ultramarine, a sought-after pigment that can be utilized to add that perfect shade to any nail polish.
Adding a vibrant green hue to your nails is made possible with the use of chromium oxide green, a specially formulated pigment that is designed specifically to enhance the color of nail polish.
Some of the ingredients in nail polish can be harmful, and some can be relatively harmless. In any case, it’s prudent to inspect the labels of a substance before applying it to your nails – or even just purchasing it. This way, you can ensure that only safe, sought-after chemicals are included in your lacquer.