Nail polish is a clear or colored liquid that is applied to fingernails and toenails for decoration and protection. It consists of a mix of colors, textures, and other ingredients that are contained within one or more solvents that allow them to be easily applied to the nails. Most nail polishes also contain a hardener to prevent chipping and cracking of the nail plate.

The ancient ancestor of nail polish was a henna dye that was used to stain the nails, skin, and hair of women in India and Africa for centuries. It was a popular adornment of royalty and other elites. Cleopatra is reported to have had her nails adorned with henna, and mummified women have been found with henna-staining. The modern nail polish formula has been developed over time to improve durability, resistance to chipping, and the ability to change color, among other factors. Today’s nail polish is made of nitrocellulose, an organic film-forming polymer, and several other components that give the polish its color and texture.

Resins such as tosylamide-formaldehyde resin help the nitrocellulose adhere to the nail plate and other components of the nail. Plasticizers such as camphor embed between the nitrocellulose chains and increase the distance between them to make the polish less brittle. Stabilizers such as benzophenone-1 keep the dry film from changing color when exposed to sunlight and other sources of UV radiation.

Modern nail polish is formulated to be water-resistant and fast-drying, so it can last several days without chipping or peeling. The liquid is applied to the nail with a brush, and it dries in about a minute. Afterward, the consumer can add additional coats of polish to build up color intensity and coverage. Once the nail polish is dry, it can be removed manually or chemically with a remover product.

In the past, traditional nail polishes were full of chemicals that have been linked to a variety of health problems. Some manufacturers have eliminated some of these chemicals to create a healthier, safer nail polish. Many of these products are marketed as being “7-free,” meaning they contain no chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems such as birth defects, developmental delays, and endocrine disruption.

Some brands produce nail polish that is completely free of these chemicals, and it’s possible to find gel polishes that can be cured under an LED light, avoiding the need for a curing lamp that emits harmful UVA and UVB rays.

The most popular brand of nail polish on the market is a high-end line from a German company called OPI. The OPI Nail Envy Collection features a wide range of colors and finishes, including metallics and glitters. Its patented base and top coats provide superior adhesion and wear, and its brushes are designed to have an ergonomically-friendly shape that helps ensure smooth application. A unique combination of 10 active ingredients gives this polish its long-wearing and chip-resistant properties, and the packaging is sustainable, featuring a 100 percent FSC-certified ash wooden cap. Vernis à Ongles

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