Monday, January 27, 2014

How Many Manicures Are in a Bottle of Nail Polish?

If you are anything like me, you have never finished a bottle of nail polish. The bottle turns to gloopy sludge long before you work your way to the end. Still, the question lingers: if I buckled down and committed to a color, how many manicures can I actually get out of a bottle of nail polish?

I decided to investigate.

It's worth starting out by acknowledging the many flaws in my test design. First of all, base coats, top coats, and nail art had to be excluded. Secondly, y'all may not glop your nail polish onto your fingers as inartfully as I do. This would mean that you would use less polish (and also that you would be less likely to to accidentally the smudge the hell out of your manicure, but that's a different story!). Additionally, Julep was the only brand I measured, and they definitely have a thicker formula than, say, a quick-dry nail polish, if that is what you are using, so my findings may not generalize for that reason, as well. (On that same note: Julep's small bottles may have affected the outcome, as larger bottles could be less wasteful.) Still, I carried on!

Did I mention I'm not a nail polish blogger?
I'm reeeeeally not a nail polish blogger.

The first step was to measure how many grams of polish a manicure uses up. To do this, I dumped out a portion of my nail polish bottle into a makeshift tinfoil cup, and measured the mass. Then, I painted my nails, taking care to minimize any potential evaporation, and measured again. Obviously, this is much more wasteful than painting out of the bottle, so I ended up using a few Julep polishes for the deed, since I own so damn many of them.

Here's what I got:

Julep Payton (2 Coats)- 0.548g
Julep Joan (2 Coats)- 0.478g
Julep Mai (2 Coats)- 0.485g
Julep Annie (2 Coats)- 0.420g
Average grams per manicure: 0.483g

The next step was to determine how many grams are in a bottle of nail polish. I sacrificed Julep's AnneMarie to the cause. (Again, I'm pretty much swimming in Julep nail polishes at this point.) I poured out the polish the measured what came out. I considered the bottle to be empty when I held it upside down for thirty seconds and no drips came out.

You know I live on the edge because I attempted this on carpet.
(Mass of the tin foil cup was subtracted to get the final number.)

The contents of the bottle weighed in at 6.172g (This is the equivalent of 0.218oz.) Intuitively, I would expect that the mass of the polish would weigh more than 0.27oz, since nail polish is heavy and the bottle is 0.27 fluid ounces. However, it seems that a lot of that polish simply won't come out of the damn bottle.

6.172/0.483=12.78. Thus, a bottle of Julep nail polish, which contains 0.27 fluid ounces of product, holds about twelve manicures.

However, as we all know, most nail polish bottles are not 0.27 fluid ounces. Indeed, the standard size is 0.5 fluid ounces. (6.172/27)50=11.430. Thus, a standard nail polish bottle probably holds a little closer to 11.430g of product. 11.430/0.483=23.66. Assuming that everything generalizes acceptably, a standard 0.5 fluid ounce bottle of nail polish, then, probably holds something along the lines of twenty three manicures.

Add in your glitter and your nail art and your top coats and all that jazz, though, and I'm out of my league.

56 comments:

  1. This is great. I snorted with laughter at you living on the edge, pouring nail polish into tinfoil OVER THE CARPET.

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  2. This is actually brilliant, as it allows me to rationalize purchasing those Dior polishes that I've been denying myself. Now I can tell myself that at $24 a bottle, it's only about $1 per manicure (assuming I can finish it before it turns into a gloppy mess). And surely it's worth one measly dollar more, right? Right?

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    1. If you have been lusting after a Dior polish, you should buy at least one...

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  4. Just FYI, nail polish that has turned gloopy can be restored using nail polish thinner (NOT acetone!). Add a bit to the bottle and the polish is like new again!

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    1. I should definitely invest in one! I have so much nail polish at this point that I usually just trash the suckers.

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  5. Love this! Another factor that might increase the number of manicures is adding nail polish thinner -- my essie mademoiselle (a sheer shade) had ~1/8th of a bottle left, but I added some thinner, and it's back up to half a bottle. However, I'm not sure if the thinner affects the opacity of the shade...

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    1. That's another good point that I hadn't thought of!

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    2. You're thinning it. It will affect the sheerness (and wear), so it should not increase the # of manicures if you thin it significantly. (I mean you can't thin soup with water and get more meals of the same quality right?)

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  6. Lacquer thinner shouldn't affect the opacity, not in my experience anyways. I've seen OPI claim that there's something like 60 manis in their bottles, so I find this interesting. There are a few color, from OPI, that I KNOW I haven't used that much, but are quite low, and these are colors I've used long before I got into nail stamping (not that they could be used that way, but I digress). I think under 30 is more realistic, when you consider that many shades need more than the standard 2 coats.

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    1. Some shades need buttload of coats to become opaque!

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  7. Glad you did this test, I was going to suggest it! Once on the Makeupalley nail board, someone kept track of how many manis it took her to use up a mini bottle of nail polish, and it was something like 50 I think - so around 200 manicures per .5oz bottle. I am sure it varies a lot by person, she had short nails and noted that she does thin coats.

    For me, I've definitely done 5+ manis without making a visible difference in a (.5 oz) bottle, so I'm inclined to think I get at least 50 manis / 100 coats of polish or more, but I also have short nails and try to do thin coats.

    Also, I second (third? nth?) the suggestion for nail polish thinner for gloopy polish, nail polish never goes bad :)

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    1. That is interesting! Although I have never finished a bottle, I have a few half-full bottles of Julep and I have never used any polish more than 10-15 times... There just aren't enough hours!

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  8. Now we just need a formula to calculate how many actual uses you can get out of a bottle of polish before it goes goopy, assuming you wear the polish constantly. Factor in expiration dates, individual product size and how long on average the particular brand lasts without severe chipping (also assuming you don't bother to touch up small chips).

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    1. Want to volunteer to help?

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    2. The formula itself would be simple, assuming that:

      *You wear the same amount of polish with each manicure/ same nail length and # of coats
      *You remove the chipped manicure and replace it with a fresh one instead of touching up
      *Wear the polish every day

      and you had the information for all your variables.


      X= [(Y/Z)x]

      Where
      Y= Expiration Date (for the sake of this formula, the days until the product is no longer of usable quality)
      Y= Grams of product
      Z= Average gram per manicure
      x= Average wear (days) of manicure

      So, for a bottle of Julep Nail Polish, for your nails, and going by an expiration date of 1 year and assuming you get three blissful days of no chipping manicure perfection with each application, we have:


      X= [(6.127/.483)3]
      X= 38. 55 days

      Yay! Looks like you will easily be able to use a single Julep Polish up before it goes bad.

      Lots of imprecision in this formula, of course. Quite a bit of generalizing, for one, and also determining what constitutes "usable quality." Many people will argue that polishes never go bad, you just add polish thinner, but bacteria is a concern to some and I care more about whether or not the product is at optimal performance, especially for more expensive polishes.

      The expiration date being markedly shorter if you are constantly wearing the polish and opening the cap is also a factor that I am not skilled enough to figure out how to integrate (I'm just a social scientist, barely, and not even a good one at that), though it would go along the lines of FIRST determining the correlation between length of manicures and how quickly a polish expires. Shorter manicures means more manicures within a set time period, and more times opening the cap exposing the product to air, but you would actually have to run the test. Find a variety of different polishes, test their wear, then buy NEW polishes, and then every X amount of days, according to their wear time, open them up and swirl them around and expose them to air for an equal amount of time, say one minute (you could do a control for each polish, but how do you do that... without opening the bottle..., or just assume that the company's recommended expiry date as your controls) when a polish separates or noticeably looks like butt, record it. Then you just do the sexy sexy stats.

      Still, it is good to know if a product can conceivably be worn before it goes bad, or if a product is so long-wearing it is actually wasteful. And for cheaper brands that certainly do turn to rubbish quickly.

      Welp. And I just spent 20 minutes thinking about stats and nail polishes when I'm supposed to be designing a risk assessment. THIS IS WHAT YOUR BLOG HAS DONE TO ME I DON'T ACTUALLY LIKE STATS EVEN A LITTLE

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    3. YOU SECRETLY DO LIKE STATS.

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    4. Wha-what? It's not like I want compare means or anything, okay?...b-baka! ヽ(*≧ω≦)ノ

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  9. 23 actually sounds reasonable, sometimes I feel like I have used polish for a billion manicures and it's still there. Then again I am the kind of person who just adds some polish thinner when things get gloopy so I'm skewing the results for sure. I haven't thrown out a polish since I graduated high school. Which was a long time ago.

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    1. I am really impressed that you manage to re-use a bottle of polish so many times without getting bored!

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  10. Interesting! I would also say that my attention span is not much longer than 23 manicures, so this works...

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  11. Most nail polish doesn't get gloppy with time. I think gloppy polish is typically due to not having the cap screwed on tightly. The only polish I have get reliably gloppy are quick dry top coats and that's because they start drying out as I'm using them, being that it's what they're designed to do.

    I was lucky enough to find OPI Sanderella, Blue Moon Lagoon and What's Dune at my hairdresser's last year, sitting in a dusty corner on an old neglected display. These polishes were a LE collection released in 2003 and despite being 10 years old, were just like new. They did reek since they were from before the OPI formula change and were not 3-free, but other than that they were fine.

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    1. I've definitely had gloppy polish from bottles with the tops screwed on tight, especially if they are used a lot! My top coat of choice, Seche Vite, is notorious for glooping up. I can't finish a bottle because I just end up tossing the last third every time.

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    2. Seche Vite always glops because it dries out as you are using it. Buy Seche Restore -- it makes it like new. I have a ginormous bottle that was about $10 and I haven't even made a dent in it, despite having it for like 3 years and thinning out a lot of SV bottles.

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    3. Buy a big bottle of Seche Vite while you're at it! I've got one that cost me around 12 dollars for 2oz, much much more affordable than the little bottles. Also rather ironically my big bottle of Seche Restore should be arriving today.

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    4. I will definitely look into both of those ideas!

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  12. I wonder just how much of a difference thin vs. thick coats makes, because, just as the first example that comes to mind for me, I have a China Glaze polish (Agro) that I apply in thin coats, two per nail, for every manicure. I've had it for a couple of years and know that I've used it for /at least/ 20-25 manicures, and only about 1/3 of the bottle is gone, if that much! If you ever got the itch to try this with more brands, and try thin and thick coats, I'd love to see the results of that, but I'm sure that would be a pretty big undertaking!

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  13. Hum, this encourages me that I should be able to actually finish some of my nail polish, which seemed an impossible feat. I finally threw away a bottle of Revlon nail polish that I bought when I was in 7th (one of my first ever) because it had gotten gloopy, but that polish was 18 yrs old. I don't think another polish has ever gotten gloopy on me. I normally just get rid of polish when my taste changes (that Revlon was the last holdover from my goth years, a vampy red called "Vixen") or I lose it, or spill it. But I have plenty of polishes around 10 yrs old that are still going strong. Never needed polish thinner.

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  14. I'm super impressed with your ability to wrangle Julep bottles and not polish everywhere. They tumble like dominos.

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    1. I don't knock them over too often, for some reason. (The reason is definitely not gracefulness.)

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  15. Speaking of Julep, what's your take on the new Plie system they are crowdsourcing/funding? Just got the email today and I'm fascinated. And of course I signed up. Duh.

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    1. I love the idea. I LOVE IT. I have very high hopes. I'm not pre-ordering, though, because I see no reason, since I'm going to get it in May either way.

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    2. I love the concept, but hate the idea of replacing every damn cap. I understand that they want to sell a boatload of their fancy new caps, but there is no reason they could not have made something that worked with the existing undercaps.

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    3. I'm wondering if the cap is just something that you can put over the existing grooved round caps that they have (the ones underneath the square caps), that way you could just easily switch it to any bottle. That would be ideal. It wasn't clear to me though, based on the video.

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    4. They are saying you would have to replace caps, so I think not. I don't care, though, because I won't be replacing caps, I'll just only use it on new polishes.

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  16. In my experience 'goopiness' is mostly about formula and storage. I have polishes that are perfect four years after being stored and ones that have quite a bit of evaporation even with the caps on tight (I have a couple REALLY bad offenders in that category) after just a few months. Sometimes a loose cap is to blame but not always for me. Also some brands are just super thick to begin with and just require thinner to be at all usable.

    PS: I am happy to say that I've completely used up a bottle of polish before but considering I have like 500 polishes I'm pretty sure someone will be getting my collection in my will.

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    1. Keep 'em long enough and you can call them 'vintage'!

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  17. Awesome post! I love these ones - bring on the science, says I! I keep wondering what I could do, since I have an entire lab at my disposal, stuffed to the brim with lasers. I feel there's an interesting but not so practical experiment in there ;-) Which lipstick formula stands up best to a laser beam, perhaps?

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    1. If you do that, be sure to email me pictures.

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  19. Hey! I did this estimate using W&W black on swatch wheels (two coats, because I've gone through multiple bottles of this making dozens of wheels that required black as a background) and got right around 21 manicures (once converted up to how many manis a 15ml bottle would yield).

    I also measured the density of polish, or rather, a variety of suspension bases, and got right around 1.0 (within error, except for one brand with was actually a tiny bit less than 1.0). So it's reasonable to use weight to measure volume as well, assuming really heavy pigments aren't used (glow pigments would be heavy). ;D

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    1. Do you still have the data from that test?

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    2. For the density ones? Or the W&W estimates? Yes on first, no on latter (that was just counting all my wheels when I ran out of another bottle, all in one day).

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    3. The density ones! You should do a guest post.

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  20. Gods bless you for doing the math I am too damn lazy to do. 100000000000000000000 internet points!!

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  21. im having a very different problem with my nail polish i have never had a problem using an entire bottle of polish so much that i notice i am never able to use up the last bit of it in a bottle because the brush cant even touch it i am low income and lucky to even be able to afford nail polish at all to be throwing up a tiny bit at the very bottom any ideas?

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  22. We actually swatched a whole bottle of mini OPI and found that there were many more uses than implied by the calculations here (19 double-coat applications for 1/8 oz of product) http://blog.nailette.com/post/94834247836/youll-be-shocked-to-know-how-many-swatches-are-in-a

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