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Ever wonder what’s inside your favorite polish bottle? While actual formulas vary amongst manufacturers, the general makeup of nail polish is pretty much the same across the board. Keep reading to discover the real ingredients inside nail polish.

According to Cosmeticsinfo.org, all nail polishes contain some type of film-forming polymers, either nitrocellulose or cellulose acetate butyrate, to create a hard film on the nail as the polish dries. The polymers are dissolved inside a mix of liquid solvents such as butyl acetate, ethyl acetate and isopropyl alcohol, giving the polish its “flowing” consistency. To help the polish “stick” to the nail, one or more resins are used, which, on their own, can leave polish brittle and cause it to chip or crack on the nail. Plasticizers are what give polish its “flexible” finish, allowing the color to “stretch” on the nail plate as the nail grows out. Pigments give polish its color and are made with a range of ingredients depending on the shade, such as titanium oxide, titanium dioxide, chromium oxide or carmine.

Other common ingredients in polish? Ground-up mica or “guanine,” a reflective additive made from actual fish scales, are what give polish a shimmery effect, while UV stabilizers such as benzophenone-1 prevent discoloration caused by the sun’s UV rays.

While knowing what’s inside your polish bottle is important, it’s equally important to be aware of what’s not. Make sure whatever brand you buy is “3-free,” meaning it’s free of the “Toxic Trio”: dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde and toluene, all toxins that are harmful to your health.

[REFERENCE: cosmeticsinfo.org]


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