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What is Water Based Nail Polish?

A Safer Alternative to Traditional Nail Polish

Water-based nail polish is a safer non-toxic alternative to traditional solvent-based nail polish. Traditional nail polish has been manufactured since the 1920′s. The main ingredients in traditional nail polish are nitrocellulose, a highly flammable and explosive material, volatile solvents, and colorings.

Recently, consumers have been looking for a safer alternative to traditional nail polish, with fewer harmful chemicals. In the 2000′s, water-based nail polish brands such as Acquarella, Honeybee Gardens WaterColors, Hopscotch Kids, Keeki Pure & Simple, Piggy Paint, Scotch Naturals, and Suncoat emerged to meet this demand. The main ingredients in water-based nail polishes are water, acrylic polymer emulsion, and colorants. There are both non-peel-off and peel-off water-based formulas. Non-peel-off water-based nail polishes can last on the nails for a comparable amount of time as traditional nail polish. Whereas, peel-off nail polishes are meant for temporary wear and can be removed without nail polish remover.

Water-based nail polishes are composed mostly of water, which poses no health concerns. When the polish dries, water vapor is released into the air and absorbed by the nails. All water-based nail polishes are free from the Big 3 most harmful nail polish ingredients: dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, and formaldehyde. Nor do water-based formulas contain nitrocellulose, ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, tosylamide/ formaldehyde resin, or camphor. However, water-based nail polishes do contain acrylic, which causes an allergic reaction in some people. For more information on the health concerns posed by chemicals found in nail polish, see The Truth About Nail Polish Ingredients.

Since water-based formulas do not contain explosive nitrocellulose, they do not have to be manufactured in special facilities designed to control the hazards of fire and explosion, as are regular nail polishes. The lack of explosive nitrocellulose and flammable solvents also make water-based nail polishes safer to ship through various means, such as air.

Application and Wear of Water Based Nail Polish

Water based nail polishes strongly resemble traditional nail polish once they have been painted onto the nails and allowed to dry. Looking at a finished manicure, it would be hard to tell a water-based polish from a solvent-based polish.

Water-based polishes do tend to take a bit more preparation to apply. Often, you must start by buffing your nails, to make a clean smooth surface. Hand moisturizers that contain oil should be avoided before applying water-based nail polish, since they interfere with the polish sticking to your nails. For some water-based formulas all you need is two coats of colored polish, while others require a base and top coat.

Although water-based polishes dry to the touch within about ten minutes, they require three to six hours to fully cure (dry). During the curing stage the water evaporates and soaks into the nails, and the acrylic polymers touch to form a solid film that can no longer be dissolved in water. Non-peel off formulas last for about one week on the nails. There are specially formulated removers that go with these polishes, as acetone or other traditional removers will not work with them. When water-based nail polishes are removed they do not leave behind stained nails, as happens with many solvent-based polishes.

Colors of Water-Based Nail Polish

Water-based nail polishes come in quite a selection of colors, ranging from traditional pinks and reds to vibrant blues and greens. They are also available in many nail polish finishes, including creme, shimmery, metallic and even glow-in-the-dark.

Nail Polish of the Future

Water-based nail polish is the nail polish of the future. As consumers become more aware of the chemicals found in cosmetics and their potential health hazards, they will continue to demand safer products. In the 1920′s women may have been okay with painting their nails with lacquer that closely resembled car paint, but as we become more health-conscious our beauty care products will evolve. More women will switch to using water-based nail polish and demand non-toxic nail polish for kids.

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