The Science of Nails

Chemist’s Corner: Matte Top Coat

NAILS talked to industry scientist Doug Schoon and Nubar’s CEO, Noubar Abrahamian, to find out what makes matte top coats create a shine-free finish.

Known to transform glossy nails into a velvet manicure, matte top coats can add dimension and create a touchable texture to any look. NAILS talked to industry scientist Doug Schoon and Nubar’s CEO, Noubar Abrahamian, to find out what makes matte top coats create a shine-free finish.

NAILS: What is the chemical makeup of matte top coat and how does it work?
Doug Schoon: It’s as if you took a regular top coat and added a matting agent to it. That matting agent can be a type of powder mixed in the top coat designed to make it not dry in that smooth fashion you typically want. When the top coat dries, it evaporates in an uneven way and the matting agent reduces the shininess and clarity. The surface dries with a dimple, like an orange peel.
When matte top coat became fashionable, of course people started using the matting agents to mess up the surface to look less shiny. Think of taking a piece of sand paper to a mirror and you scratch the surface. The light will no longer reflect from the mirror’s rough surface. Or if you put baby powder or flour on the mirror, it would not reflect the light. The baby powder and the flour serve as matting agents but those found in the matte top coats serve as more sophisticated matting agents.

NAILS: On a microscopic scale, what does a matte finish look like?
DS: It looks like an orange peel with bumps and dimples on the surface, depending on how the matting surface was achieved. If you could shrink yourself to stand on an orange, it would look like that. Often, the matte effect is called the orange peel effect.

NAILS: Why are matte top coats slightly goopy?
DS: The matting agent that is in there makes it a little thicker and it dries a little faster with a rough finish.

NAILS: Do matte top coats tend to dry faster than regular top coats?
DS: The surface will become less tacky quicker. While the surface may feel solid a short time after application, there’s half as much product underneath that has to dry. It won’t be scratch-resistant, but you will be able to touch the surface. It will still take a while to completely dry.

NAILS: How are matte top coats made?
Noubar Abrahamian: It’s the same process as any other nail polish product but the ingredients are slightly different. There are different resins that bond all the chemicals together, and solids in matte top coats that make it have a rough surface when it dries.

Common Ingredients:

> Silica — a thickening agent that does not alter color

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