Article by: Perry Romanowski

Consumers like to change the appearance of their nails and the most common way to do this is to use nail polish.

What Nail Polish does

Nail polish is a liquid solution applied to the fingernails or toe nails to change their appearance (usually colored) and to protect from chipping and breaking.

The way nail polish works is that after it is evenly spread on the nails, the solvent evaporates and it creates a protective film that resists removal. A colorant or shine agent is also included to improve the nail look.

How nail polish works

Nail polish contains a variety of ingredients to produce a useful, colorful film. The primary ingredient is a film former such as nitrocellulose. This organic polymer forms a continuous, even coating on the nail. Nitrocellulose is used because it is particularly tough and wear resistant.

Film modifiers are required to improve the adhesion of the nitrocellulose to the nail and to increase the gloss. The most common ingredient for this is toluene sulfonamide/formaldehyde resin (TSFR). Because of sensitization issues, chemists continue to look for alternatives. Plasticizers like dibutyl phthalate and camphor are used to improve the flexibility of the film.

After the film creating and modifying ingredients, color additives are the next most important. These are typically insoluble pigments that won’t stain the nail. Bismuth oxychloride and mica coated with titanium dioxide are frequently used.

Finally, a solvent that can carry the formulation ingredients but will quickly evaporate is needed. Toluene used to be frequently used but regulations now limit its use. Alkyl ester and glycol ethers are now more common solvents.

Below is an example of a typical nail polish formula. (Click to expand)

nail_polish_formula

Read more on nail polish from Chemical and Engineering News.

84 comments

  1. Jana

    Hey perry,
    I would like to know more about vegan nail polishes and all natural ones, how is the formulation done. can you recommend me materials or give me some guidelines.
    Thanks in advance 🙂

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Nearly all nail polishes are vegan. Animal products are not used in making nail polish. But as far as natural goes, there is really no such thing since all the colorants used are synthetic. Some people call them natural because they are found in nature but it is illegal to use naturally occurring colorants. They must be processed and synthesized.

  2. Divya

    I’m also interested to making a nail polish.but I don’t have any idea about nail polish or formula,please anyone help me to how to make better quality of Nail polish.I really interested and want to business in nail polish.. Anyone suggest me a formula.contact me on divyagupta8080@gmail.com Thanks

  3. Divya

    I’m also interested to making a nail polish.but I don’t have any idea about nail polish or formula,please anyone help me to how to make better quality of Nail polish.I really interested and want to business in nail polish.. Anyone suggest me a formula. Thanks 🙂

  4. Lola Blum

    Hello, is there any literature recommended to understand better the nail polish/nail care formulations and how it has changed with the time?

  5. Susanna

    Hello Rajat
    Could you please contact me in regards to an enquiry I have for you.
    Thank you

  6. Shawana

    Hi there, I am looking to start my own nail polish line. I want water-permeable nail polish. If anyone knows a manufacturer for this please let me know. Thanks

    1. Perry Romanowski

      You might find someone in our forum.

  7. Val Okoroma

    I want to develop a good quality hair bonding Glue for hair and eyelashes.pls i need the best formular and ingredients.

  8. Nathalie

    Hi Rajat and Perry! This is nathalie from Mexico , I’ve heard about shellac resin to improve long lasting in nail polish formulations wich amount is the best to add to my formula, how is the best way to add it, wich amount of solids is the correct one? Best regards,

  9. CosGirl54

    I am interested in making a non UV Gel Effect Top Coat. I have 2 types of Nail Polish base, one of for pigments and the other is more suitable for Glitters. I am wondering if there is something specific that I can or need to add to get the Gel Effect or is it something I would have to formulate from scratch and if so what is needed? I’d appreciate any helpful suggestions. Thank You!

      1. ARUNIMA SAHA

        IS NAIL POLISH CARCINOGENIC?

        1. Perry Romanowski

          If you’re asking whether nail polish will cause cancer…no it won’t.

  10. Sandeep

    Hi ,how to improve shine in matt nail polish
    Which che.mix for shine

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Silicones are typically used to improve shine. Dimethicone

  11. meir

    hello
    We are a factory which produces professional hair products.
    Now we want to produce uv gel nail polish, base and top.
    If anyone can help us in Formula will be very happy

  12. KUNAL

    Dear Rajatji

    i want to formulate the colour changing face pack. i want the colour change from light brown ( as the colour of Kaolin & Multani Mitti) to black when it start drying on face .please help me out.

  13. brijesh gupta

    Hello
    I want start a mini bis. Of nail paint but no farmulation any one help me pls.

  14. shaileshpatel

    I am itrested in menufecture of nail police
    Plz sugges and give me formula
    My mo . 09913533999 gujarat

    1. sanjay pandey

      9321381867

  15. RAJEEV AGGARWAL

    WE WANT LIPSTICK,KAJAL,NAIL POLISH ,MEHNDI,SE NEW BUSSINESS MAKING FORMULA

  16. Samuel

    I’m going to produce water permeable nail polish, is this kind of nail polish has different ingredients from water based or any common nail polish?
    Pls contact me, i need suppliers to produce.
    My location is in Indonesia. Thank you.
    samuelgitoharsono@yahoo.com

    1. Sonia

      Hi Samuel,

      do you already offer water permeable nail polish?

  17. pramod sharma

    Helo everyone,
    I want some special product for increas a gloss of my nail paint….plz contact me 9868311674..

    1. Rajat Narang

      Hi Pramod,

      You would need to use specific film former and may be would need to change your silica for better gloss.

      Regards
      Raj

      1. Luis Vinhal

        Hello Raj, please, do you know how could I increase the adhesion of 3Free nail polish formulation?

  18. ahava lang

    We are seeking a manufacturer for development and private label production of a quality organic anti fungal nail polish. please email responses.

    Thank you ,
    ahava lang

    1. m.s.kushwaha

      We are seeking a manufacturer for development and private label production of a quality organic anti fungal nail polish. please email responses.

      1. Rajat

        Hi M.S, Kushwaha,

        In which geographical location are you looking for the OEM manufacturer? What effect and how much quantity do you want. Please contact me with further specifications.

        Regards

        Raj

    2. Rajat Narang

      Hi Ahava,

      In which geographical location are you looking for the OEM manufacturer? Not exactly anti-fungal nail polish, but topcoat could be provided with Anti-fungal effects. How much quantity do you want? Please contact me with further specifications.

      Regards

      Raj

  19. Jimmy

    Hello! Everyone!We are a manufacturer of effect pigments., with more than 200 colors available.These pigments are widely used in making nail polish.If you have any interest ,please do not hesitate to contact me!
    Email:Jimmy.zhang@kolortek.com

    1. Rajat Narang

      Hi Jimmy,

      Please pass me your brochure and all the details.

      Regards

      Raj

  20. Marie

    Hi, is there another way to see this formula, every time I try to click on it, it takes me to some page about modifying cosmetics.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      I’ll have to update the graphic. It was lost when my websites went down.

  21. monisha

    will it b easy to make nail polish in laboratory? in school?
    for project?

    regards,
    monisha

    1. Perry Romanowski

      As long as you can get the chemicals.

    2. Rajat Narang

      Hi Monisha,
      Genrally, Nitrocellulose is used in common nail polishes which is hazardous and other flammable ingredients are used in nail polish.

      I would recommend you could develop a water based nail polish for your project in lab. It’s a good concept.

      Regards

      Raj

  22. Monica

    Hey,
    I’m doing a product on Cosmetic Chemistry, I was wondering if you received any WHMIS training for your job? I’m doing my research and apparently cosmetics aren’t “WHMIS controlled products.”, however nail polish remover being flammable comes to mind…

    Could you please help me?

    Thank you!
    Monica

    1. Perry Romanowski

      No, I do not believe I ever received any WHMIS training.

  23. najva

    Hi all,
    I want to formulate a type of hair color is there any one to help me about that?
    I really appreciate it if anyone can help me
    Regards,
    Najva

  24. Amara

    Hi i am looking to make my own nail polish that is water permeable can you help me i want to do this without the harsh solvents. I have had this idea for a very long time and i know see a couple of companies that have produced this. Please email me back and thankyou for your time.

    Amara xx

    1. Angela Kim

      Hi. I am Angela from South korea.
      I am looking to water permeable nail polish too.
      did you find any company that have produced permeable polish?
      or Do you know any information about supplier of law material for pereable polish?
      I am wating for your reply.
      many thank you.
      my Email address is
      kyj0416@cosmax.com

  25. orit

    Hi Rajat,

    I am interested in developing my own nail polish formulation at home. How can it be done given that nitrocellulose is a very dangerous ingredient?
    I would also like to know what are the measurements of the different ingredients in forming a nail polish, and from where can they be purchased. I live in Israel. Do you know which companies may ship their products to me?
    Thanks in advance,
    (and thank you, Perry, for the info.),
    Orit

    1. Rajat Narang

      Hi Orit,

      Water based nail polish is a concept which you could develop in a small lab.

      Yes, there are companies who could ship nail polishes to you. Please feel free to contact me on email with your specific requirements.

      Regards

      Raj

      1. Ramya

        Hello Rajat sir, I am Ramya from India I am a house wife, I want to start up small business as I am very much interested in using nail polishs I thought
        Of doing this business pls help me in getting a clear idea about how much I costs intially

  26. P. S.

    I’m interesting in selling non-toxic nail polish (Toluene, Formaldehyde, DBT free) with my own brand. Anyone could supply or manufacture, please contact me at p.siriwong@gmail.com

    1. Rajat Narang

      Yes,

      There are few companies who could develop products for you. What is the geographical location? Please feel free to contact me anytime with your requirements on my email.

      Regards

      Raj

  27. Himanshu

    Dear All,

    I m looking for a consultant for my manufacturing unit of cosmetics (Mainly Nail Polish) in Delhi.

    Any one interested may call at 09810259168 / 368 or mail me at h_khatter@yahoo.com.

    Regards

    Himanshu

    1. Rajat

      Hi Himanshu,

      I just sent you a mail on your email, check it please and let me know.

      1. Vikram

        Hi Rajat im Vikram.r.mehta manufacturing Nail Polish in Kalyan i want to develop more lacquer formulations and standerdize my colour range. And there are a lot of issues which can be discussed over phone09823667888 . vikramvikram29@yahoo.com awaiting ur reply.
        Thank you.

  28. N.K. GANESH

    Hi
    I am looking for seting up a nail polish shop kindly help ,in seting up the home indistry

    Ganesh

    Bangalore

    1. Rajat

      Hi Ganesh,

      What is the budget you looking at?

      Regards

      Rajat

    2. Saroj kumar dhal

      Thank you my Friens

  29. Beth Gordon

    I am looking for a lab that can formulate or provide private label manufacturing. We are looking for non toxic, water based polish that is safe enough for kids.

    Please contact me if you are a lab or private label manufacturer.
    Beth Gordon
    949-697-8006
    beth@gstudiosllc.com

    1. Rajat

      Hi Beth,

      Water based nail polishes exist, but is not at all long lasting and nobody wants to change their nail polish or reapply their nail polish twice of day or even in two days. You can mai me on rajatvnarang@gmail.com with your requirements.

      Regards

      Rajat

  30. Pingback:Cheeky Monkey Cosmetics Nail Polish Review | FutureDerm | Beauty From A Scientific Perspective. Skincare for people who know Skincare.

  31. akash wadhwani

    can any one suggest how to setup a nailpolish manufacturing unit

    1. Rajat

      Hi Akash,

      Yes, I can completely from scratch in any country.

      Regards

      Rajat

  32. sanjivkumar

    we want nail polish camical formulla i am start busness

  33. Sagar Bardhan

    I am interested to start a business of nail polish. If any one help me to prepare the formulation for different shade, I’ll grate full to him.With regards.

  34. D.K.Singh

    We , want total formula for lipstik, nail polish , alta, mehndi,Etc.

    Thanks
    For Mrs Beauty (P) Ltd.

    Gorakhur (U.P.)
    D.K.Singh
    9451365238

    1. Sheela

      We can manufacture at Maharashtra , India!

      We can also develop the formula

      Sheela
      IWIN Cosmetics & Wellness pvt . ltd

  35. Jeanine

    Hello,
    I am looking for a cosmetic chemist with experience to give me a quote as to how much it would be to formulate a small range of nail polish colors. Also, I need information on the cost of ingredients.
    Thanks,
    I appreciate it.

      1. Shilpi

        I am a Formulation Chemist. I have formulated water based nail polish and regular nail polish for medical spas and salons. Please email me directly at Shilpi@skinveda.com.

        Thanks,
        Shilpi

        1. gopal

          sir,
          i am intersting in both type of nail polish manufacring.

        2. krishan

          dear Madam
          I need ur help in making nail paint in laboratory.
          plz reply if u can

  36. enzo

    please is the toluene is necessary ? and what is the purpose of it ?

    1. Rajat

      Toluene has been banned, do not use toluene. These days nail polishes have to be Toluene, Formaldehyde, DBT free completely.

      It is a carrier which has been completely out of nail polish industry.

      Regards

      Rajat

  37. Dr. Melvin Mathews

    i am currently looking for a company to formulate a antifungal (ingredientes whichi i want to include, if it is possible) nail polish in differente shade with my own private label. if you of anyone that can do the work for me please, please e-mail me with the name and e-mail. i will truly appreciate this. thanks in advance.

    Dr. Melvin Mathews
    Puerto Rico
    (787) 241-5533

    1. Shilpi

      Dr. Mathews,

      I can formulate the anti fungal nail polish as I have developed this for a podiatrist in the US.

      Please contact me to discuss at Shilpi@skinveda.com

      Regards,
      Shilpi Jain, MS
      President
      SASA Cosmetics and Consulting LLC

    2. atanu roy

      Dear Dr.

      we can supply the private lebel nail paint ,
      please let me know how we can start.

      Thanks
      ATANU ROY
      INDIA
      91-9830665596

  38. andrianto

    Thanks Perry for the article. I’m now on nail polish, still working out.

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