Thursday, January 5, 2012

Say it With Me - Fluorophlogopite!

Source: Nails, Inc.
The other night, my special someone and I were sitting on the couch, and I was introduced to the "new hot thing" in fashion: magnetic nail polish

Apparently, as several DIY blogs explain, the "secret magnetic particles" contained in the polish "activate" in a magnetic field. Of course, a quick glance at the ingredients shows just plain iron powder, which, when dolled up with several layers of lacquer and clays, creates ripple patterns on the nail surface. 

But hey, with companies like LCN and Sephora charging to the tune of $16 USD (for a 10 mL bottle!) the price is comparable to standard lab reagents.

Sodium Zeolite A
Source: British Zeolite Association
But I digress. Looking through the ingredient list of the Trafalgar Square color, I felt totally out of my depth. Luckily, C&EN's "What's That Stuff?" feature came to my rescue, at least for a few of the common components (thanks, Carmen!). 

Of course, there's nitrocellulose, the shiny, potentially explosive major player, found for a time in movie film, gun cotton, and auto paint. Clays familiar to the bench chemist (bentonites, hectorites) make their way in as thickeners, including the fantastically-named bulking agent fluorophlogopite. This synthetic aluminosilicate calls to mind zeolites, inorganic structures used in fuel upgrading, gas storage, and catalysis.

One of the great features of chemical research: Even though you think you've seen it all, there's a surprise around the corner. After nitrocellulose, this particular brand uses an interesting copolymer of adipic acid, neopentyl glycol, and...trimellitic anhydride? I'd seen the first two, but never this, an interesting "triple-reactive" crosslinker (looks like maleic anhydride went for a crazy aromatic spin) which was first isolated in 1830 by Liebig and Wöhler, two heavyweights of 19th Century German chemistry. 

This tetracyclic curing agent, an all-star of the coal tar chemistry in the early 1900s, found use as a curing agent in polymers as early as the '30s. New uses in the last 15 years include protein charge ladders and luminescent materials research.

Update (1/21/2012): Over at Chemical Novelty, Travis has dug deep in the patent literature to really see what this product is all about. Go have a peek!


  1. yeah! lets put cross-linking reagents on organic solvents on our body! I love the things people will do in order to "look good"

  2. Great post, @SeeArrOh. Does the polish come with a magnet or are you responsible for that yourself? Have you looked into the five-minute-ago trend of crackle polish? My niece had some put on her nails over Xmas. You put on a base layer of regular polish and then put a layer of this crackle stuff over top. The top layer cracks within seconds, exposing the color beneath in places. Sounds like another post to me ;)

  3. The crackle stuff is already out? I haven't got to try it yet! I've also heard there's some new polish that is somewhere between a fake nail and standard nail polish. I know it's acrylic and it lasts longer than nail polish.

  4. @Lauren: The polish does indeed come with an "outer cap" with a "proprietary magnet." : ) I had heard of the crackle polish, but I've not seen it in use yet.

    Doesn't anyone make glow-in-the-dark or neon anymore?

  5. (puts on fashionista hat) Magnetic nail polish is sooo 2007. I remember wanting "Le Magnetique", a Lancome product that came in a gorgeous deep burgundy. It sold out at Sephora and Lancome counters before I could get my hands on it. I remember wondering why no other brands jumped on this at the time.

  6. I'm sorry, I'm only in Gen Chem II and haven't learned much yet... so I'm curious.. are these nail polishes dangerous? Sure wearing explosives around sounds bad, but would it actually react with something you might come in contact with?

  7. Thanks for the great post! It really piqued my interest on magnetic cosmetic compositions - so much so that I decided to do a little more digging around. It turns out that this technology is patent pending in the US and Europe, and is patented in Japan. I ended up writing a post on some the details of the chemistry of these magnetic compositions (as disclosed in the pending US patent applications) at my blog. Hope you enjoy!

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