Beauty blogs like The Mercurial Magpie, Imperfectly Painted, and Ashley Is Polish Addicted allege that consumers who purchased Mentality polishes between April and June of this year are experiencing everything from redness to burning, and even reactions as extreme as onycholysis, or the separation of the nail from the nail bed. This is a disturbing issue in and of itself, but what people are really up in arms about is the way Mentality is handling the problem.
But the brand's attempts at a resolution quickly turned south after a recent post explained that Mentality is no longer able to refund customers because it has "reached a physical and financial limit." In addition, the brand promoted a 50%-off sale of its neon collection — which includes the same polishes being called out by customers.
The cosmetic chemists we spoke to didn't see any red flags within Mentality's polish ingredient lists, nor anything wrong with the citric acid that the brand mentioned might be at fault. "Reactions to nail polishes can happen for a couple of reasons: Some polishes contain formaldehyde, which is irritating to some people; [others] can also be formulated with acrylic polymers that may contain some unreacted monomers. These monomers can cause allergic reactions," explains Randy Schueller, cosmetic scientist and cofounder of The Beauty Brains. "The idea that citric acid is responsible for these problems makes no sense to me. It's possible that there are trace contaminants in one or more of the polish ingredients that are causing the problems, but that's just a wild guess." Adds cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson, "What we don't know is if the correct grade of the material is being used (cosmetic grade vs. industrial grade), are they using expired materials, are they adding the correct amount of the material in the batch ... these unknowns could be the cause of this issue.”
"What we don't know is if the correct grade of the material is being used (cosmetic grade vs. industrial grade), are they using expired materials, are they adding the correct amount of the material in the batch ... these unknowns could be the cause of this issue."
In an email to Jezebel, Dannels said that small-batch manufacturers aren't obligated to perform the same ingredient testing as larger ones (he also commented on Facebook that "testing is ridiculously expensive"), which leads us to believe that the polishes in question may not have been properly vetted before being put on the market. (And according to Wilson and Schueller, the FDA does not discriminate between large and small batch manufacturers.) While the FDA isn't legally required to test or approve cosmetic products — aside from color additives — the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring it's safe and not a risk to customers. "Product safety of private-label products is on the part of both the manufacturer and the brand,” adds Wilson. "If the manufacturer cannot provide a report showing the safety of the product, then it is up to the brand to conduct safety testing on their own."
While the root of the problem has yet to be determined, the entire situation was clearly handled poorly by the brand — and customers have every right to be angry. If you are one of those affected by Mentality's polishes, you can report your problems to the FDA.