Science Behind Beauty Project

How crackle nail varnishes work

One of the fashion crazes that took over the cosmetics market last year was crackle nail polish. In all colours and from various different brand, this cool new nail look took has become an overnight hit! But how it work? Here’s a how to on the best way to apply and a simple explanation on how the magic works!

First apply a base coat – I use CHANEL BEAUTÉ DES ONGLES Manicure Base Protectrice – it works great as a protector, my nails are now never stained by dark colours and reds.

Second apply your base colour (you want this coat to be a very different colour to your crackle as that will give the best effect) – I’ve chosen black as well nothing contrasts better with white than black! Plus I’d rather the slightly subtler version of the crackle look and i think monochrome black and white achieves that! The polish I’ve used is Barry M Black (might as well all the way with Barry M on this one).

Then apply your crackle nail varnish – I wanted to try out the Barry M range so used Barry M Crackle White Frost. I’ve found that applying a relatively thick even coat is best as it covers the base colour better and cracks more evenly. Watch it shrink before your eyes – it’s quite cool and surprisingly easy to do!

Lastly apply a top coat to protect your new nail look – I use Sally Hansen Double Duty Base Coat – it’s not particularly expensive but really tough – I work in a lab so my hands and nails undergo pretty rough treatment – this makes my colour last much longer!

So now for the science! How does this miracle of the makeup world work?

It actually all stems from one key ingredient: ethanol (which is a type of alcohol) often used as a solvent for substances intended for human contact like medicines, flavourings, or the alcohol that ruins my nails in the lab!

Adding ethanol to the normal formulation of nail varnish actually makes it do something we all try to avoid with our normal nail varnish: dry unevenly. This is achieved by the two main properties of ethanol:

1. Ethanol evaporates very quickly

2. Adding even a small percentage of ethanol to a liquid reduces its the surface tension

So when the crackle varnish is applied, the ethanol in it evaporates quite quickly. This lowers the ethanol content in the varnish, leading to an increase in surface tension which makes the varnish bead up and dry unevenly instead of as a smooth layer.  And voila! Crackle-tastic nails every time!


3 thoughts on “How crackle nail varnishes work

  1. Hey! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog
    and look forward to new posts.

    Posted by nummerupplysningen | February 23, 2013, 4:18 pm
  2. You actually make it seem really easy along with your
    presentation but I in finding this topic to be
    really something which I think I would by no means understand.
    It sort of feels too complex and extremely extensive for me.

    I’m looking ahead to your next put up, I will try to get the hold of it!

    Posted by http://hardknightnow.com | June 21, 2013, 3:24 am
  3. ACTUALLY you just add some drops to the polish and this disturbs the way polish evaporates.

    Posted by Ruby Maria Watson | December 27, 2015, 1:45 am

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About me

Natacha is a research scientist and a lover of all things science! She love finding out interesting facts about all aspects of life, whether it’s how genetic engineering works or what the difference between crimped and straight hair is. There’s a bit of science behind every mystery and the Science Informant will help find the clues for everyone to enjoy and understand the amazing world of science!

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