Polish up Your Knowledge of Nail Varnish via the Royal Society of Chemistry

7 September 2023

Today, you can paint your nails almost every colour under the sun, from classic reds to wild rainbows and intricate patterns. But have you ever wondered about the chemistry behind the lacquers?

Cosmetic nail polish has been around for at least 5000 years. It originated in China and soon spread across the world. The ancient Egyptians used polish as an indicator of class status; workers wore clear polish, whereas wealthier individuals used henna – a red-orange dye from the henna plant, which contains lawsone (also known as hennotannic acid, C10H6O3). Ancient fashion icons used animal products, such as mixes of gum, beeswax and egg whites, to keep the glaze on their nails.


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