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Three-free: New Generation Nail Polish
By: Katie Schaefer, Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine
Posted: December 30, 2009, from the January 2010 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
Only a short time ago, the industry was abuzz with reports linking the toxic trio of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and toluene to cancer, reproductive toxicity and asthma. However, it seems the bad press storm surrounding the safety of these ingredients has passed since most nail polish manufacturers have reformulated to omit these materials; and now, formulators can focus on the horizon for new innovations in nail polish.
Wet N Wild, a mass-market cosmetic brand from Markwins North America, initiated the reformulation of its nail polishes in 2003–2004, or what Anita Jennison, marketing director for the brand terms the three-free movement. Jennison and Amy Chang, R&D chemist for the brand, are the main players behind the R&D and marketing of the brand’s nail polishes and treatments.
Replacing the ‘Toxic Trio’
According to Chang, staying on top of ingredient safety means following only credible industry sources, including reports from the Personal Care Products Council and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates nail care as part of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.1 She explained that once the replacement of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBT) and toluene was deemed necessary, the road to reformulation was challenging. “It was difficult to replace these nail polish ingredients, which worked so well with other products.” Chang added that they only had approximately 18 months of lead time to replace them.
DBP is a plasticizer that makes the plastic in nail polish soft and flexible. According to Chang, it forms a film on the nail to give it flexibility and adhesion. “We tried many different materials to replace DBP, and we identified a material that was being used as a plasticizer for food containers—acetyl tributyl citrate. So we tested it [and found] that it replaces DBP well.”
To address toluene, a solvent that provides quick dry time, the company took another approach. “We eliminated [toluene] completely and reproportioned the other solvents in the formula including alcohol, butyl acetate and ethyl acetate to maximize the ratio for a desirable dry time,” said Chang.