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I’ve always heard that teal polishes stain nails really bad, but I never really appreciated it until I wore the gorgeous Orly Teal Unreal and ended up with weird patchy stains on my nails, which you may have seen me post on Instagram:
Naturally this weird observation made me want to investigate further!
First up, here’s the breakdown of what I had on my nails to end up with this weird stain effect:
1. DIY PVA base coat
2. Nails Inc Kensington Caviar base coat
3. Orly Teal Unreal (2 coats)
4. Emily de Molly Copper Field (an Australian indie brand which uses suspension base from Beauty World, 1 coat)
5. Essence Gel Look top coat (1 coat)
6. Seche Vite top coat
7. OPI Matte top coat
Quite a lot of possibilities as to what happened, huh? So… I began purposely staining my nails. For Science.
I tried wearing Orly Teal Unreal with Seche Vite top coat, with no base coat, and… negligible additional staining! Huh. So clearly one of the other components had to be causing the terrible staining.
Method and results
Round 1 of the experiment: changing the layers on each nail. I applied the following combinations on the appropriate nail (I tried to keep the left hand quite similar for my stain removal experiment, which I’ll talk about on Friday!). Some of the nails were already patchily stained from the first couple of times I wore Teal Unreal.
Green = applied, red = not applied, period = 2 days:
And the results?
Quite clearly, the right index finger combo (PVA base, no additional base coat) is the worst for staining! On the contrary, simply adding one coat of base prevents staining significantly (compare it with the nails on the left hand), and two coats of regular base coat almost completely prevents staining (compare it with the middle finger on the right hand)!
Essence Gel Look top coat doesn’t seem to make a big difference to staining (compare the thumb with the rest of the fingers on the left hand – unfortunately the ring finger on my right hand was already stained in patches).
Round 2: The next thing I wanted to find out – do any of the other layers make the staining with the PVA base/no regular base combo worse?
Green = applied, red = not applied, period = 4 days:
The results this time:
Total stainage! You can see that the right index finger (which only suffered the 2 day exposure from the last round, but was protected with base coat this time) is slightly less stained than the rest, so time is definitely a factor. None of the other components (Aussie indie suspension base from Beauty World, Seche Vite, Matte top coat) seemed to make a difference to the staining.
Why is PVA so bad?
Like most polish companies, Orly’s ingredients list has the generic base components, plus a heap of pigments and glitters that the different polishes “may contain”, so there’s a bit of guesswork in working out which pigments are actually in each shade. My guess is that it’s CI 77288 (chromium oxide green), properly known as chromium(III) oxide – my experiments with stain removal made me more certain (I’ll talk about this in my stain removal post), plus a comparison of the colour with this franken by Dr Frankenpolish. Additionally, since the stain is the exact same colour as Teal Unreal, it’s probably one ingredient responsible, and not a combination of blue and yellow, like some other brands use (thanks to Tara of Loki’s Lacquer for her input on this!).
Chromium(III) oxide is a teal green, ionic (polar) compound which dissolves in acidic, watery/polar things, but not non-polar things like nail polish (as I’ve mentioned before, polar things dissolve other polar things, and non-polar things dissolve other non-polar things). As you might’ve guessed, PVA is acidic (mine is pH 2-3), and very watery! So my best guess is that over a period of a few days, the bright teal chromium(III) oxide seeps through the watery, acidic PVA and embeds itself into the watery, slightly less acidic nail surface.
On the other hand, base coat is non-watery and non-polar, plus quite non-permeable and not very acidic – the chromium(III) oxide simply can’t get through!
What’s the best way to minimise teals staining?
My conclusion: wear multiple coats of base coat when you’re wearing a stainy-looking teal, or one that you know contains CI 77288. Base coat can prevent staining, even with PVA base!
I hope you enjoyed this post, and it wasn’t too technical or confusing! On Friday, I’ll be sharing my results from my nail unstaining experiment, which I’m sure is the bit you’re all hankering after! Look out for that post 🙂