What's in Your Nail Polish Suspension Base?

It is very easy to get carried away with making your latest indie polish creation. You carefully select your base colours, decide on the range of glitters and then beaver away trying to achieve the best combinations until you come up with the perfect polish. But how often do we stop and think about what each individual chemical component is in our suspension base and what they do?

Yes we know about the BIG 3

DPB- dibutyl phthalate

and how we definitely do not want them in our polishes, but beyond that what else?

Well it is worth having a little background info about your nail polish suspension base and nail polish in general. Why you may ask? It may sound obvious but the more knowledge that you have about the ingredients that go into your final product, the more powerful that makes you. As the old saying goes "knowledge is power!" You will begin to understand what is happening when you start to alter your base i.e. thinning it for example.

So here is a basic breakdown of what the average nail polish will contain.


Solvents are used to enable all of the ingredients in the nail polish to mix together and they provide consistency. They also enable the polish to dry as solvents evaporate rapidly. So enough solvent is crucial but too much can actually prevent your polish from creating a nice film on the nail. Some of these solvents are Ethyl acetate, N Butyl acetate and Isopropyl alcohol. Toluene was widely used but is hardly found in nail polish any more.

Film Formers

This more often than not comes in the form of nitrocellulose. Nitrocellulose is responsible for producing the lovely smooth film that coats the nail. It is also highly flammable and was originally known as gun cotton.


They make the polish hard and glossy.


Now that we have our nice glossy hard film it is a little brittle. That's where the plasticizers come in and provide the necessary "bend and flex." This is crucial otherwise our polish would just chip all over the place. Camphor is a common plasticizer but is used less frequently as some people are sensitive to it.

Pigments and Pearls

These are the whole reason we went to the trouble of making the polish in the first place. The fabulous colours and effects!

Pigments can come in many forms such as oxides and ultramarines. Oxides and Ultramarines are great as they tend not to stain the nail bed. However the final colours can be a little muted.

Dyes are colours additives that will dissolve in the medium they are intended for. They tend to stain heavily.

Lakes are a blend of dyes and pigments and can stain but less so than dyes. They are incredibly vibrant and bright.

Micas/Pearls have a mineral base which can then be coloured with all of the above. Micas provide a lovely metallic, shimmery finish and blend extremely well with holographic pigments and glitters.

Tints often violet in colour are sometimes added to the suspension base. As Suspension base is simply a lacquer it will discolour to yellow over time. A slight violet pigment is used to counter act this yellowing as your nail polish ages. The violet tint will in no way affect the final colour of your polish.

And not to forget our glitters which must be solvent resistant in order to withstand the challenging environment of our nail polish. These glitters are generally polyester based.