So you want to be an Indie Polish maker … A guide

Nail polish supplies

Make your own Indie Franken polish

The Micamoma guide for new Indie polishers!

Why should I make my own nail polish, there is so much choice out there already?

According to leading market researchers PMR the nail polish sector grew by more than 3% in 2012  http://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Market-Trends/Polish-cosmetics-sector-boosts-overall-CE-market-growth). In fact the polish sector contributed to an overall growth of the Central European cosmetic segment by 2% in 2012. So this is clear evidence that the sales of nail polish are increasing!

Indie polish makers have become so influential that they are setting trends that major brands follow. Some are so successful that they are selling 1000s of bottles every month. http://columbianewsservice.com/2013/03/upstarts-elbow-giants-in-booming-nail-polish-business/

The advantage that Indie polish makers have is that they can readily create new lines and be very experimental. A major company has to plan its collections months in advance, create thousands of units and would be reluctant to take risks on very daring creations as they might not sell. In fact Indie polish makers have forced the major companies to be more daring with their lines.

This all goes to prove that the Indie polish maker who is also often the end user can create original nail polish that others will want to wear. As an end user of nail polish they will have an intimate knowledge of what they value most about nail polish and ensure that their products deliver JUST that.

It is also lots of fun and very creative!

Why are there so many rules and regulations surrounding nail polish?

Most nail polish is lacquer based. That means that it contains solvents which are very volatile and flammable. Lacquer based nail polish also contains an ingredient called nitrocellulose. Nitrocellulose is responsible for the lovely smooth film that coats your nail. Is is also flammable. That’s why it is important not to smoke around nail polish suspension base and keep it way out of the reach of children.

As nitrocellulose and some of the other solvents in nail polish are classed as flammable there are strict international guidelines as to how these materials are shipped locally and internationally, particularly if they are flown. This is not a problem if you are sending small amounts of nail polish within the UK. If you want to send it internationally there are specialized couriers that may do this, but you will need a special agreement with them and shipping is expensive.

Can I send my nail polish through the post? I heard that it is not allowed at all.

Yes you can!! As of July 2013 Royal Mail prohibited the postage of nail polish overseas. However you can still send nail polish within the UK. This is a great solution for UK Indie polishers as it is also quite cheap.

Royal Mail allows customers to send a maximum of 4 bottles of nail polish per package.

So if your bottles of polish are 10mls each you can send 4 bottles per package via Royal Mail. The same if each bottle contained 5mls or 15mls, you can still send 4 bottles of nail polish per package. So if you sell your polish at £5 a pop that is 4 for £20 at a delivery cost of £2.60.

You will need to attach a Dangerous Goods label to your package which clearly identifies its contents (you can download them or ask at your local Post Office). You will also need to set up an account with Royal Mail to pay for postage online. Royal mail are funny like that.

To help keep costs down it might be possible to send your nail polish through the post for the cost of a large letter instead of a small packet. If your final package is less than 25mm thickness and no bigger than the size of a letter (please check Royal Mail for exact details) it can be sent as a large letter. Most 10ml plus nail polish bottles are greater than 25mm in thickness except for some. 5ml nail polish bottles tend to be thinner anyway. If you are looking for a 10ml bottle that is only 21mm thick look no further than the Micamoma Flat Square bottle. If packaged creatively you might get away with the large letter option and be able to offer cheaper P&P to your customers.

Can I use any glitter or pigment in my nail polish?

Nail polish is considered a cosmetic product. In the UK cosmetic products are governed by EU Law. That means that there are strict guidelines concerning the type of ingredients and colours/pigments that are used in cosmetics. If you are making nail polish just for personal use then it is not really an issue. Any cosmetic that is intended for use by others must only contain ingredients that are approved for use in the EU. Irrespective of whether it is for sale or a gift.

There are lots of pretty glitters and pigments available online particularly from the US that might be approved for use in other countries but not the EU. Glitter is not currently regulated by the FDA (Food Drug Administration) an American Regulatory body. So Indie polishers in the US can use almost any glitter that they like. In the EU however the colours that your glitters are coated with have to be allowed within the EU Cosmetics Directives. If they are not you cannot use them in your nail polish. It is important that you check the INCI numbers of the glitters and you ask suppliers to provide them along with MSDS before purchasing any supplies.

Why can’t I make my Indie nail polish with a normal clear coat I got down the shops?

Clear coat polishes tend to be quite thin and fluid. They are designed to provide a protective finishing layer over you manicure so they must create a nice even, smooth finish. Because they are so thin when you add micas, glitter and pigments they often eventually sink to the bottom of the bottle. In order to make glitter polishes or use micas and pigments, you will need to use Suspension base. It is made with special ingredients that help to keep your glitters, micas and pigments evenly distributed in your nail polish and prevent them from sinking to the bottom. This is vital if you want to make a professional product that performs as intended and not infuriate your customers.

I want to add colour to my nail polish. How can I do this?

There are a number of ways to colour your nail polish

Mica – Mica is a mineral that is ground into a fine powder and is coated with oxides, ultramarines, lakes and dyes. They provide a beautiful shimmery/metallic effect in your nail polish. Micas produce outstanding results when combined with holographic pigments to create the much loved “holo” polishes. Micas are an ideal way of colouring your nail polish as they readily mix with suspension base without clumping and streaking. And they hardly ever stain your nails.

Iron Oxides and Ultramarines – Iron oxides are compounds of iron used as colouring agents.

Ultramarine is a blue pigment composed of sodium, aluminum, silicate and sulfate. It was prized by ancient Egyptians.

Even though both of these types of pigments occur naturally they are produced synthetically for cosmetic use. This ensures that they are virtually free of any toxic heavy metals and are safe to use.

Iron oxides and ultramarines and are advantageous as they create virtually no staining on the nails.

Dyes are colours additives that will dissolve in the medium they are intended for. So you can get dyes that are water, oil and solvent soluble. They tend to stain heavily.

Lakes are a blend of dyes and other pigments and can stain but less so than dyes. They are incredibly vibrant and bright.

As iron oxides, ultramarines, lakes and dyes readily occur in powder form it is quite difficult to add them to nail polish suspension base without resulting clumping and streaking. The powder particles do not readily mix with the suspension base (which can be very thick and solvent based) and stick together. It is practically impossible to properly mix these powders into your suspension base and get them to evenly distribute without any clumping.

The best way to achieve coloured nail polish that you see on the high street is to use ready made coloured polish or concentrated liquid pigments.

So where do I go from here?

First of all take baby steps……

  • Buy a small amount of suspension base and glitters and pigments and play around until you feel comfortable working with them. Many Indie polish makers have their own techniques and preferences and you will be no different.
  • When you feel confident test out your new creations and get honest feedback.
  • Perfect your recipes and make sure that all of the ingredients are EU compliant/allowed before you begin to produce on a larger scale.
  • Keep detailed notes. There is nothing more frustrating than making a gorgeous nail polish and then not remembering how you did it.

When I am ready how do I sell my yummy nail polish?

To reduce costs and test the market most new indie sellers sell on craft focused web portals such as Etsy and Folksy.  This can be really useful as you can set up an online shop really quickly and get immediate feedback.

  • Be sure to make full use of the tag options and use meaningful descriptions and product names so that it is easy for customers to find you. Take full advantage of this. You can also conduct a search for products that match yours. Click on the top listings and at the bottom of the listing it will show what tags that seller has used. This might provide useful info to help you to get to the top of the searches as well.
  • Include a shop policy. Include a concise and easy to understand list of  Terms & Conditions. This will reassure prospective customers and encourage them to buy.
  • Pictures speak a thousand words. The quality of your photos is crucial! Nail polish is all about the visuals. People especially want to see how it will look on their nails. Make sure that your photos are of a high quality, crisp, clean and show off your gorgeous polish as well as they possibly can. Take time to find out how to take great photos.
  • The more products you list the better. It gives the impression that you are a serious enterprise because you have invested in your shop. It also gives the potential customer more choice so they are more likely to find something that suits them. More listings will give your shop more of a chance of being found on search results. You can also test different tags, titles and key words with different items to give you an even better chance of being found for different searches.

After you have made your millions you can transfer to a more dedicated website such as Big Cartel which caters for crafters who make their own products to sell. Last time we checked they had a free option which is useful for those on a budget.

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