The Chemistry Behind Your Nail Polish

Posted on December 05 2018

The Chemistry of Your Nail Polish - image: vintage Cutex


For the majority of people, having a manicure done is not really a matter of science, but in reality chemistry plays a huge role in whatever is applied to our nails and here’s why…

Just like household paint, the building blocks of nail polish are formed by four key elements:


The solvent is the component that reacts with a solid solute to keep the polish in a liquid form rather than becoming congealed and hardening. The solvent evaporates on contact with air, which is why when you forget to close a nail polish bottle the polish dries out and hardens.

Pigments and Micas 

The pigment gives colour to the polish but the mica powder is what gives an all over colour effect. Mica powders spread freely and evenly, leaving a uniform colour saturation and in the case of glitter or jelly polishes, they complement the finished effect. 

Polymers or resins

The polymer is the film-forming structure which hardens when the polish is cured (dried). It is what forms a barrier over the nail to help retain water. If analysed under a microscope, you can see that the polymer of the nail polish looks very much like a sponge and so is not a solid as many assume. The polymer is actually full of tiny pores meaning that water and plasticisers (which keep your nail polish supple) can still escape. Though nail polish does form a barrier which slows down evaporation, it does not prevent it entirely.


A plasticiser is a substance which is added to a polymer to produce or promote plasticity and flexibility, therefore reducing brittleness. The most common plasticisers are; Glycerin, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate and Adipic Acid. Freshly applied polish will be glossy and supple because the polymer film in the polish contains these plasticisers which prevent the polish from chipping or cracking too soon, giving you that just manicured look. The plasticisers work to push polymer molecules slightly further apart, which weakens the forces between them to make the polish flexible. Once your nail polish has dried, because of its porous composition, the plasticisers in your nail polish begin to evaporate, meaning that water and other vital nutrients can also escape. Applying a hazelnut sized amount of SLIXIR twice daily will help to slow down this process. SLIXIR’s innovative patent pending formula, which is a blend of plant oil, works to penetrate polish and seal in water and plasticisers.

The best way to care for a natural nail is to apply a good quality nail polish and then take good care of that polish with SLIXIR hand and polish cream. This way, water content is maximised, and the nail underneath is supple and less likely to break with polish less likely to chip, giving you more perfect polish days!





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