Water Based Nail Polish is Not Natural
Many brands of water based nail polish use terms such as “natural” or “organic” in their advertising. But is water based nail polish natural?
To start with, it is important to define “natural.” I will be using the term to mean existing in or made by nature; not man-made.
The basic water based nail polish ingredients are water, acrylic polymer, and colorants. The acrylic polymer forms a hard film on the nails and once the polish is cured it is no longer soluble in water.
Water is naturally occurring. Acrylic polymer, however is man-made. It is a type of synthetic plastic. Sometimes the term “acrylic latex” is used. But do not be fooled, this does not refer to latex, which is a natural substance that comes from rubber trees. “Acrylic latex” is actually just acrylic. The colorants are often just listed as “non toxic colorants,” and it is therefore unclear whether they are natural or man-made.
Since acrylic polymer is synthetic, water based nail polish is not natural in the sense that the ingredients are found in or made by nature.
Why Some Brands of Water Based Nail Polish Claim to be Natural
Piggy Paint explains that it is natural as mud because:
Piggy Paint is as Natural as Mud in the sense that every ingredient in the polish is biodegradable with no traces or residues left behind, thus it would make an excellent addition to your mulch pile. The acrylic resins are present in the polish as emulsions-very similar in form and function to milk.1
Just because something is biodegradable does not mean that it is natural. Acrylic resin may biodegrade if put in a mulch pile, but it is still a man-made plastic.
It is also very misleading to compare the acrylic polymer emulsion to milk. An emulsion is simply “a fine dispersion of minute droplets of one liquid in another in which it is not soluble or miscible.”2 Milk is a natural substance produced by the mammary glands of mammals. In milk, butterfat globules are suspended in water based fluid. 3 Acrylic polymer is a plastic produced in a laboratory. Acrylic polymer is suspended throughout water based nail polish as an emulsion. Just because both substances contain one liquid suspended in another liquid does not make acrylic polymer emulsion natural like milk is.
Go Natural nail polish explains:
We use the term “natural product” in reference to those commodities which are “unprocessed or manufactured using only simple or minimal processes”. Under this definition we think our polish is as natural as any polish will ever be. We have named it “Go Natural” because we have “gone natural” as far as we can go while maintaining the essential functions of nail polish- as far, far and away from regular stinky, toxic unnatural nail polishes as possible – practically into a different universe.4
So Go Natural nail polish must be claiming that it is natural because the acrylates copolymer is “manufactured using only simple or minimal processes.” It’s still man-made, not naturally occurring. Just because other nail polishes also contain unnatural ingredients, does not make a polish that has attempted to be natural truly natural.
Natural and Safe are Not the Same Thing
Despite the fact that water based nail polish is not natural, it is still a safe alternative to conventional solvent based nail polish.
Often in discussions about cosmetics I hear the word “natural” used as a synonym for “safe.” Natural does not equal safe, and the two should not be used interchangeably. Just because something is natural does not mean it is safe. For example, arsenic is natural and is also poisonous. Inversely, just because something is not natural does not mean that it is not safe.
Water based nail polish is a safe option for kids and grown-ups who want to avoid smelly chemical solvents, but if you are looking for a truly natural product, the search continues.