What's in Nail Varnish? © Getty Images

What’s in nail varnish?

The use of nail polish dates back to 3000 BC.

Nail varnish generally consists of three main components: polymer molecules form the film that’s deposited on your nails, dyes provide the colour, and everything is dissolved in solvents that quickly evaporate after the varnish is applied.

Advertisement

Polymers – Nitrocellulose is the polymer molecule that forms the lacquer left on nails.

Dyes – Chromium oxide (green), iron hexacyanoferrate (Prussian blue), titanium dioxide (white) and much more complex chemicals known as ‘lake pigments’ act as dyes and pigments providing the varnish with its colour.

Solvent – Butyl or ethyl acetate are typically used as the solvents, replacing acetone which was once popular in nail varnish.

Glitter – If your varnish has a bit of glitter or shimmer then it might include mica or aluminium powder.


Advertisement

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.