Home Cosmetic Science Talk Formulating Nail polish with unusual properties: slow drying and very opaque


  • Nail polish with unusual properties: slow drying and very opaque

    Posted by Anonymous on April 22, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Hello! Please forgive my layman’s knowledge in advance-I don’t have a chemistry background. I appreciate your expertise!

    I have been mixing nail polish the “easy” way for some time now, by buying pre-mixed “suspension base,” and adding cosmetic pigment (either in liquid or powder form). Like most “regular” nail polishes, the goal has been that they are opaque on the nail in 2-3 coats, have a shiny finish, are smoothly fluid (not thick/stringy) in the bottle, and dry fairly quickly on the nail.

    Well, now there’s a relatively new use for nail polish/nail art that actually benefits from reversing some of these properties. I can explain the process of this nail art application if you think it will help, but to make a long story short, it’s a bit like silk screening or lithography for your nails. So now I’m looking to rework some of my polish recipes and add a few ingredients to get a formula that is more opaque (suspends more pigment without “settling” in the bottle), and actually dries as slowly as possible. It can be a little thicker/stringier right out of the bottle as it’s not used to apply straight to the nail bed as other nail polishes are, and the dry finish can be anything from shiny to matte.

    Here’s what I’ve understood so far via research and testing:

    -Typically, there are two types of commercially-available “suspension base” offered for hand-mixing nail polishes. Something like this: http://howtomakecosmetics.com/collections/nail-polish-bases/products/nail-polish-luster-base-for-mica
    is meant for suspending very fine particles (usually mica or other powdered or liquid cosmetic pigment) and dries a little faster. These are usually employed for a creme finish, or any polish that does not have any large or heavy particles in it.
    The other, like this: http://howtomakecosmetics.com/collections/nail-polish-bases/products/frankenpolish-uncolored-nail-polish-suspension-bases-luster-and-glamour
    is meant for suspending heavier, larger particles (glitters, usually). It takes a bit longer to dry on the nail, but the resulting formula is more stable in the bottle in regards to settling/separating. I’ve already figured I should probably be formulating these new special polishes with the latter. I’ve tested both, and so far that testing confirms my prediction. Bottles made with the glitter base are holding more pigment without too much settling in the bottle.

    -So far, I’ve found that when I try to force much more pigment (powder pigment, mostly) into the base, it seems to dry quickly, and the resulting formula had a bit of a brittle, “flaky” consistency when it dries after I use it in the particular nail art application for which I am formulating. Can I add anything to combat this? My layman’s research so far has only suggested that a plasticizer would be used in that way. Can you recommend an ingredient (and maybe a source to purchase)? Curiously, I’ve seen castor oil listed as a potential plasticizer in nail polish, which seems strange to me. Any experience with that?

    -I avoid using the widely-accepted five harmful ingredients that were previously common to nail polish formulas, but are not common anymore. If you’re at all familiar with nail polish marketing, you may be familiar with the term “5-free” (which at one time was really “3-free”) meaning that the formula does not contain formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, camphor, and formaldehyde resin. Both the mica base and the glitter base I’ve used are 5-free. I’m going to continue avoiding these ingredients, not because I have definite opinions of their toxicity, but because regardless of that information, I know my customers will not buy them if I add any of the five.

    What I’d really like to know, is there anything I can add to my nail polishes to really enhance either property? To either really up the opacity and allow it to suspend more pigment without becoming flaky when dry, or to slow the drying time…or both? Do you know what ingredients or methods make a nail polish dry quickly, and is there an opposite?

    Thank you for any insight you are willing to offer!

    bobzchemist replied 7 years, 10 months ago 3 Members · 11 Replies
  • 11 Replies
  • belassi

    April 22, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    You need a paint technology chemist.

  • Anonymous

    April 22, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    @Belassi In looking at some of the other questions in this forum regarding nail polish, I’ve seen fairly thorough answers given on other similar requests. Respectfully, is there a reason why my particular question does not merit a response here?

  • bill_toge

    April 22, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    titanium dioxide will make your base more opaque

    as for increasing the drying time, the best thing I can suggest is to use a solvent that’s less volatile than ethyl/butyl acetate, and reformulate your base from first principles

  • belassi

    April 22, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    It’s really a paint question. A paint technologist will be far better at answering questions concerning paint. Nail polish is very very similar to car paint. The glitter and so forth is identical to the products of Metalflake(tm) used to paint custom cars.

  • Anonymous

    April 22, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    @Bill_Toge Thank you for the info. I do mix titanium dioxide into many of my formulas that are light or bright in color-it’s sold to nail polish makers as a white pigment. For darker colors, I’m using a black pigment. With both, I find that I can only get the base to suspend a fairly minimal amount. I’m wondering if there’s anything else I can add that will allow the base to suspend more pigment without settling?

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that making the base from scratch is an option. Due to the dangerous/volatile nature of nitrocellulose (which is in literally every base recipe I’ve seen), it’s not easy to obtain. I’m pretty committed to sticking with a commercial base, and just wondering if there’s anything I can add to decrease the volatility of the ethyl/butyl acetate, or combat its quick drying effect?

  • belassi

    April 22, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    3 and many more

  • Anonymous

    April 22, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    @Belassi Thank you for the resources.

  • bobzchemist

    April 23, 2016 at 2:37 am

    You haven’t gotten a quick response because I’m old and slower than I used to be. Your best bet is going to be trying castor oil pigment dispersions:

    or plasticizer pigment dispersions:

  • bobzchemist

    April 23, 2016 at 2:38 am

    None of the nail polish companies disperse their own pigments. The trick is to find a company willing to sell small volumes

  • Anonymous

    April 23, 2016 at 3:06 am

    @Bobzchemist Thank you very much!

  • bobzchemist

    April 23, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    pigment dispersions are also available in nitrocellulose chips, but that won’t help your drying time problems.

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