|MadSci Network: Chemistry|
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;
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.
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