Did you know that makers of laundry detergent and professional acrylic products have something in common? They both make products that make the things they’re used on brighter and whiter. The little blue flecks in your laundry detergent? They’re in there for the same reason a new breed of acrylic monomer has a slight tint — to brighten and whiten. Designed with the growth in the market for permanent French manicures in mind, these colored monomers don’t clean like laundry soap, they just make the nails look cleaner.

Colored acrylic monomers give a subtle boost to acrylic nail color — color-enhanced monomer makes whites whiter and pinks pinker. Doug Schoon, director of R&D at Creative Nail Design Systems (Vista, Calif.), developed the first of today’s most popular colored acrylic monomers. Radical Solarnail Liquid is a purplish shade of blue. Schoon explains that monomer can be tinted any color, and Creative Nail Design Systems used blue because it cancels out yellow, a deadly color for nails. “Color research shows that when a person is shown two items, one pure white and the other pure white with a little bit of blue, and asked to choose the brighter item, the person will choose the one with a little bit of blue,” Schoon explains.

A colored monomer is created by adding cosmetic-grade dyes to clear monomer. These dyes are called optical brighteners. When added to the liquid, optical brighteners enhance the existing color. Schoon compares optical brighteners to food coloring. “Cosmetic-grade dyes are soluble [dissolve] in monomer, just as food-grade dyes are soluble in edible items. It only takes a very small amount of dye — the exact amount is measured in thousandths of a percent — and adding it is a very simple process,” he explains.

NSI developed a pink liquid to enhance the nail bed color. Lin Halpern, clinical director of R & D for NSI (W. Conshohocken, Pa.), explains drat the biggest problem her company faced when developing the company’s pink Choice Balancing Liquid was finding the point of saturation. (The point of saturation is when something has absorbed as much as it can hold.) “Our test salons helped us find the point of saturation when we were developing Balancing. The monomer could only accept so much of an additional chemical. We had to find the right amount so that the color on the nail would be uniform and consistent from bottle to bottle and so there wouldn’t be sediment, either in the dap-pen dish or in the bottle, from adding too much,” Halpern says.

What Color Is Your Monomer?

Currently, there are four colored monomers on the market: Creative Nail Design Systems’ purple-blue Radical Solarnail Liquid, NSI’s pink Choice Balancing Liquid, Alpha 9’s (Van Nuys, Calif.) Royal Blue Liquid, and Tammy Taylor Products’ (Irvine, Calif.) green Summer Liquid. As far as application, storage, and cost of manufacturing are concerned, colored monomers and clear monomers are essentially the same. As a result, no additional cost is passed on to nail technicians. Brenda Bollard, owner of Bren’s Nails in Conroe, Texas, uses Summer Liquid in competitions, and says that she doesn’t pay any more for it than she paid for previous monomers, but she finds that the colors of powders on the nail are brighter.

Because if is only a dye, the chemical composition of a colored monomer doesn’t affect the application technique. In fact, the only discernible difference found by nail technicians we spoke with was a slight change in viscosity with NSI’s liquid. This is because Balancing is also formulated with a special bonding agent, says Halpern.

One thing you’ll need to keep an eye out for, says Schoon, is if you can actually see the tint of the monomer in you clients’ nails. “If you’re using Radical and the nails are starting to look blue, you’re not cleaning your brush or your dappen dish thoroughly. When this is the case leftover monomer evaporates and the dye is left behind,” he says. Then, when you add more monomer, the color becomes concentrated and actually colors the nail instead of just enhancing the existing color of the products.

The shades of these colored monomers are pretty and may tempt nail technicians to store them in clear bottles. But, as with regular monomers, colored monomers need to stay in their brown- glass or opaque-plastic containers. Creative Nail Design Systems says it encountered this problem with nail technicians who use its liquid because they wanted to display the monomer. Schoon explains that monomer is sensitive to light, and storing it in clear bottles causes it to react with light. “Monomers lose their strength when they are exposed to light. It actually starts to polymerize ahead of time. When you do go to use it, some of the chemical reactions will occur faster. Monomer exposed to light will also cause the acrylic to yellow Caster on the nail,” he says. The exception is that monomer exposed to light from just being in the dappen dish during a service won’t be corrupted; only monomer that is stored and exposed continuously to light will be affected, Schoon explains.

All the nail technicians we spoke with find that working with colored monomers improves their acrylic applications, regardless of the tint in the liquid. Marty Cooke, a nail technician at The Nail Loft in Salt Lake City and educator for NSI, participated in the company’s in-salon testing while perfecting Balancing Liquid’s formula, and says, “I don’t think there are any disadvantages to colored monomers at all. The nails you make with it adhere better. I think the pink monomer brings out a more natural color on the nail, and I can use it with all of NSI’s powders.” Colored monomers allow nail professionals to offer clients the absolute best that the nail industry’s technology has to offer — brighter, more even product color — without affecting price or application techniques.

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