Decoding The Ingredients: Solvents, Resins & Plasticizers

If you have ever looked at the ingredient list of your favorite bottle of nail polish, you might have gone cross-eyed from all the chemicals. In this series of posts, Mette Jorgensen is decoding what some of those scary ingredients are, what they do, and how they do their job.

It’s that time again where we explain what exactly is in your polish, and today I’ll be explaining what solvents, resins and plasticizers are and how they effect your polish.

Solvents are what makes the polish easy to apply and easy to spread over the nail. It also makes the polish relatively quick to dry as it evaporates as the polish dries, leaving behind dry lacquer. When you’re looking at your ingredients list on the back of your polish bottle, common solvents are ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, propyl acetate and isopropyl acetate, Toluene (a member of the toxic trio) was used commonly as a solvent in the past but now isn’t used as regularly because of the health risks it poses.

Resins are the ingredient that holds the polish together but also adds depth, gloss and hardness to the film of the polish. Normally there are two types of resin in polish: film-forming and adhesive resin. Film-forming resin gives dried polish a glossy and shiny texture, and the adhesive polymer adds flexibility so that the lacquer is less likely to chip if bent. Common resins are nitrocellulose (film-forming) or any polymers/copolymers/resin.

Finally, plasticizers are added to the resin to make sure it stays flexible when it dries, making your mani last longer and be less prone to chipping. Common examples of plasticizers are trimethyl pentanyl diisobutyrate, tryphenyl phosphate, etyl tosylamide and Camphor (remember to avoid polishes containing Camphor).

– Mette Jorgensen

Elise Wright

Elise is a social media strategist from Sydney, now living in NYC, who has a long standing love affair with the beauty industry- especially the nail industry!

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