The Science of Nails

Chemist’s Corner: Base Coats

We reached out to an expert to get the breakdown on the product that can improve the strength and condition of nails.

Faina Ritz, the chemist and founder of Duri Cosmetics, spends considerable time in the lab testing and discovering leading technologies and chemical compositions to improve and replicate the nail’s healthy and natural state. We reached out to the expert to get the breakdown on the product that can improve the strength and condition of nails.

NAILS: What are base coats typically made out of?
Fiana Ritz: Base coats typically include a film-forming polymer dissolved in a volatile (quickly evaporating) organic solvent that helps all the ingredients included in the formulation function and perform optimally. Base coat formulas also include plasticizers, which keep the formula flexible by providing a non-brittle film. These are very important because you want the base coat to not only bond with the natural nail, but bend with it naturally to avoid breakage. Some formulas include cross chain link amino acids and proteins that link together like a web to recreate that extremely important strong nail foundation. Base coats also need to have cellulose adhesive polymers to provide a beneficial double-sided sticky layer that bonds both to the natural nail as well as to the nail polish applied on the base coat. Stabilizers are also important to the formulation to resist yellowing and color change.

NAILS: Do base coats work as color adhesives and/or bonders?
FR: It’s the double-sided adhesive property from the polymers that ensure the nitrocellulose in polish adheres to the nail surface.

NAILS: How do base coats affect or benefit the nail surface?
FR: A clear base coat is an excellent product for ensuring long, durable polish wear and extending the life of a manicure. Because base coats are developed to provide excellent adhesion, flexibility, and retention. The best formulas really do provide a protective, long-wearing base that is not compromised by pigment dyes used in nail polishes.

NAILS: How do base coats reduce staining?
FR: There are several different causes to nail staining and yellowing, including health issues, fungus, and smoking that are serious issues to address and using a base coat alone is not a solution. However, the most common contributor to nail staining and yellowing is the prolonged use of dark, pigmented nail polish. Certain dyes used in nail polishes can indeed penetrate and deeply stain the nail plate. A good base coat does more than just improve nail polish adhesion — if they also helps seal and protect the plate from staining, making it a can’t-live-without product for women who frequently have manicures and keep polish on their nails.

NAILS: When the solvents in the base coat evaporate, what’s left on the nail plate and how does that help the manicuring process?
FR: It’s that flexible, non-brittle film that supports the nail, providing protection and allowing the nail to bend naturally. Many of the ingredients used to reinforce nails wear off quickly and need to be reapplied often to be effective.

NAILS: What are some of the primary differences between strengthening, ridge-filling, and nourishing base coats?
FR: This depends and changes by brand but mostly includes the addition or deletion of an ingredient like proteins, vitamins, nutrients, herbs, etc.

Common ingredients:

> Ethyl Acetate
> Butyl Acetate
> Nitrocellulose
> Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin

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