Which Nail Polish Lasts Longer: Matte or Shiny?

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Author: Sofia PC

Grade Level: 5th - 7th;  Type: Materials Science/ Chemistry


In this experiment, we will find out whether shiny nail polish lasts longer or matte nail polish.

Research Questions:

What are the ingredients that most nail polishes are made of?

Nail polish is a type of paint that adheres to the nails for cosmetic purposes. It comes in many different colors and finishes, and the decorative possibilities are virtually endless.

New trends show an increased amount of production of matte nail polishes. While traditional nail polishes are glossy and shiny, matte nail polishes have a dull,non-coated finish. Some users have speculated that matte nail polishes may not last as long because the formula is missing the “protective layer” of gloss that sites above the color on traditional nail polishes. Is this true? By performing this simple experiment, we can find out if matte or shiny nail polishes typically last longer.


  • Several bottles of nail polish (equal numbers of both variables: at least three different “glossy” nail polishes, at least three different “matte” nail polishes
  • False nails (or you can even use some thick aluminum sheeting)
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Pen/paper for notes

Experimental Procedure:

  1. First, paint the false nails (or about a 1” square of thick aluminum sheeting or metal) with each bottle of nail polish.
  2. Take a small piece of sandpaper and sand the first sample. Keep note of how many passes of the sandpaper it takes to completely remove the nail polish. Make sure to use a steady and moderate amount of force.
  3. Repeat the above for all of the nails, making sure the pressure and movements you apply are as consistent as possible.
  4. Compare your data and see which nail polish appears to have held up the longest. You may also want to look at the ingredients of the matte and shiny nail polish and note any differences you spot.
  5. Try this process a few times to ensure accuracy.

Suggested Chart

Number of Times it Took For Nail Polish to Scrape Off



Trial #1
Trial #2
Trial #3
Nail Polish #1













Nail Polish #1













Terms/Concepts:  Nail polish ingredients; Formaldehyde


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