Nail polish is a liquid that’s applied to the fingernails and toenails to decorate, protect, or change their appearance. It’s composed of a polymer and various other ingredients that give it color, shine, and texture.
In recent years, nail polish styles have expanded beyond just the color: there are now many different finishes and textures to choose from. From iridescent to matte, the options are endless. The best nail polishes have an elegant sheen and a smooth consistency that resists cracking or chipping.
The first thing to consider when selecting nail polish is whether you want a long-lasting formula or one that chips easily. Solvents and resins play a big role in nail polish longevity, so it’s important to know what you are buying. The first ingredient listed on a nail polish bottle is usually a solvent. This helps to mix and hold the other ingredients together and is able to evaporate after application. The type and amount of solvent used will affect the thickness of a nail polish. A common solvent is nitrocellulose, which creates the film in nail polishes.
Resins help the polish adhere to the nails and add gloss and strength to the nail polish. Some resins are made from natural substances such as beeswax, but the vast majority are synthetic. Some common resins include butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, and acetone. Resins can also contain formaldehyde or derivatives of it (tolunesulfonamide/formaldehyde resin, TSFR) that have been proven to cause respiratory issues for some people when inhaled.
Pigments provide the color in nail polish and must be safe for human skin contact. The FDA regulates which pigments are allowed to be used in nail polish, and manufacturers must keep records of their formulations. Some older nail polishes may contain toxic compounds, such as toluene, xylene, and formaldehyde, but these chemicals are now rarely found in nail polishes and are only used when absolutely necessary.
Another consideration when choosing nail polish is the level of shine you prefer. A glossier finish tends to last longer than a matte polish, but not all formulas are created equal when it comes to shine. Some brands create a high-shine look by adding in micronized glitter, while others use mica and pearlescent particles to get the same effect.
If you want a high-shine nail polish that is vegan and cruelty-free, Habit Cosmetics is the best option on the market. Its bottles are made from recycled plastic components, and it uses FSC-certified paperboard for its boxes. Its polishes are also toxin-free, vegan, and infused with myrrh extract to boost nail strength.
If you are looking for a budget-friendly nail polish with rave reviews, Miss Pop Nails recommends Jin Soon Cote. Its 10-free formula means it is free of the top ten most commonly used chemical ingredients found in nail polishes, and its colors are gorgeous and trendy. Its holographic options are particularly standout. Vernis à Ongles