Do you face challenges meeting consumer needs for nail polish and nail care products?  Fresh looking polish that dries quickly with lasting gloss is expected. Discoloration and chipping are common complaints formulators face.  We understand how difficult it can be to tweak your formulations to achieve the desired quality while aligning with rising regulations.

The content below provides information about cellulose acetate butyrate (CAB), one of the most critical ingredients in nail polish formulations, and how incorporation offers formulations better durability, unparalleled aesthetics, and greater sustainability.

What Causes Visual Defects in Nail Care Formulations?

Nitrocellulose and cellulose acetate butyrate are commonly used as film formers in nail polish formulations and coatings. These additives also ensure that coatings prevent visual defects by providing good leveling and flow properties, allowing for even coverage on nails. Nitrocellulose, however, can impart visual quality issues through its poor UV stability. This causes severe discoloration in most nail care products and is especially problematic in clear nail coats.

Tests were conducted to demonstrate the impact of yellowing from exposure to UV. The image on the left compares coatings formulated with cellulose acetate butyrate versus those formulated with nitrocellulose. These coatings were subjected to QUV accelerated weathering tests, which yielded significant yellowing in the nitrocellulose sample. The image on the right compares two solutions that were exposed to sunlight over six months. One solution was made with cellulose acetate butyrate, and the other was made with nitrocellulose. Again, the result indicated that solutions made with cellulose acetate butyrate remained clear and did not discolor due to UV exposure.



    Weathering Test
    18 Hours Exposure

    UV Stability

    Sunlight Test
    6 Months Exposure

In addition to discoloration issues, nitrocellulose also creates high solvent demand in formulations, creating compliance challenges with VOC control regulations.

Make Long-Lasting, Beautiful Nail Polish with Eastman Cellulose Acetate Butyrate

Eastman Cellulose Acetate Butyrate is a family of naturally derived cellulose-based polymers. They are preferred over nitrocellulose in many coating formulations that require superior gloss, durability, resistance to yellowing, and quick drying times. The following chart compares the benefits of using cellulose acetate butyrate ingredients in nail care formulations versus nitrocellulose.

    Properties Cellulose Acetates Nitrocellulose
    Chip Resistant
    Reduces cracking and chipping for longer-lasting nails
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    Fast Drying
    Reduces the possibility of streaking/smearing and improves wear resistance
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    Excellent Clarity & Shine
    Keeps colors vibrant and won’t dull
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    Prevents yellowing and increases vibrancy and gloss in UV-curable formulations
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    Safer and easier to handle due to low flammability
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    Storage Stability & Hazard Rating
    Allows safer storage and flexibility to buy in greater bulk
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    Smooth Application, Non-Tacky
    Allows application to wet surfaces
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How Should You Select an Eastman Cellulose Acetate Butyrate Grade?

    There are a variety of Eastman cellulose acetate butyrate grades engineered to provide specific benefits to nail care formulations. Three main variables in a cellulose acetate butyrate grade can determine the best fit for a given application: butyryl content, hydroxyl content, and viscosity. Butyryl content determines the degree of solubility, compatibility, and flexibility of formed films. Hydroxyl content determines alcohol solubility, moisture regain, and reactivity to form cross-linked systems. Viscosity is correlated with molecular weight, where lower molecular weights permit coatings formulations with a higher solids load.

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    Eastman Solus™ 2100 performance additive is the newest cellulose ester designed to meet lower VOC levels via lower solvent demand. Eastman Solus™ 2100 features very low viscosity, reducing the amount of solvent necessary to achieve a workable viscosity for coatings. Like the other cellulose acetate butyrate grades previously introduced, Solus™ 2100 also improves dry time, prevents yellowing, and is suitable for UV and LED cure systems. 

    Click here to learn more about Eastman Solus™  2100

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    Is it possible to blend nitrocellulose with cellulose esters?

    Yes. Some formulations utilize both materials by blending nitrocellulose in cellulose acetate butyrate solutions to improve yellowing resistance in films. This may be advantageous to lower the overall cost of the formulation. 


Eastman cellulose acetate butyrates (CABs) are the solution to achieve a nail care formulation with superb visual quality, durability, and increased sustainability. These naturally derived cellulose-based polymers allow formulators to incorporate bio content into their formulations while gaining better control over gloss, leveling, durability, resistance to yellowing from UV exposure, and dry time. On top of this, cellulose acetate butyrate benefits workplace safety as it is much safer to handle than nitrocellulose. For more information or to request a sample of Eastman cellulose acetate butyrate or Solus™ 2100, click below.

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