What Is It?

Nitrocellulose, also known as Cellulose Nitrate, is one of the most useful film-formers known for the coatings, film, ink and adhesive industry. Cellulose is nitrated to form an ester, Nitrocellulose, which is then treated with either alcohol or water and sold as wet powder. In cosmetics and personal care products, Nitrocellulose is used in the formulation of nail creams and lotions, manicuring products, basecoats and undercoats, nail polish and enamels and nail polish removers.

Why Is It Used?

Nitrocellulose is the primary film former of the two film formers used in a typical nail lacquer formulation. Its excellent adhesion property to the natural nail makes it an indispensable ingredient in the nail lacquer formulation. Its other attributes are durability, toughness, solubility and quick solvent release under ambient drying conditions. Nail coatings formulated with nitrocellulose are semi-occlusive; that is, they protect the nail and at the same time allow the nail to breathe.

Scientific Facts

Nitrocellulose is produced from cellulose, a naturally occurring component in the cell wall of green plants. Nitrocellulose can be found as a vehicle in some over-the-counter (OTC) drug products for the removal of warts, corns, and calluses.

Safety Information

The Food and Drug Administration has reviewed the safety of Nitrocellulose and permits its use in paper and paperboard products used in food packaging. It is also approved for use as an indirect food additive.

Link to FDA Code of Federal Regulations for Nitrocellulose

Nitrocellulose may be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union.

More Scientific Information

Nitrocellulose is derived from cellulose, which is a natural polysaccharide obtained from plant fibers. In cosmetics and personal care products, Nitrocellulose functions as a film former and suspending agent (nonsurfactant).


Find out more about the regulation of over-the-counter drugs by the Food and Drug Administration OTC

Find out more about the regulation of Food Additives by the Food and Drug Administration