Mentality Nail Polish, an indie brand with a seemingly faithful following, has become the subject of a fairly damning allegation: it destroys your nails.
The Mercurial Magpie, a beauty blog run by Kirby Hartline, has provided the most comprehensive account thus far. Basically, the story goes that consumers started to see nail lifting (something called onycholysis), redness, and burning sensations after using the polishes produced by the company from April-June of this year, causing your nails to go from looking relatively healthy to looking like this:
That is nasty. The craziest part, however, is how Mentality has handled a fairly straightforward issue of faulty or nonexistent product testing. That is, like an offended child.
On July 22, Mentality posted a statement to its Facebook page urging anyone who experienced “sensitivity” to the polish to discontinue use, and offered to replace any orders from the previous 60 days. They also blamed the sensitivity on a new base ingredient:
We purchased degassing equipment to remove air bubbles and found that Arminex base is very foamy, compared to the other manufacturers whose polish base does not foam upon degassing. The trapped air bubbles, we believe caused excessive odor and we are now suspicious of the citric acid used as a preservative.
They have since replaced the suspect base ingredient.
However, the Facebook message was viewed as a half-hearted attempt at reaching the large consumer base, which makes sense because the outrage didn’t really begin until August 21, when bloggers started to address the issue. That’s also when the co-owner, Danny Dannels began to go crazy.
On August 23, Mentality posted on Facebook that the company would no longer be able to issue any new refund requests. That same day, they offered a half-off sale on the polishes that were causing the side effects and posted about their UV Gel Black Line Holo Collection: “Perfect for when you are riled up enough to squabble for at least the next two weeks... Because kicking ass isn’t about being nice.”
That same day, Dannels posted on Facebook that he had fired a group of Mentality beauty bloggers, which is an odd move given that the bloggers aren’t paid and at least one of them publicly removed her support from the company this week. He says he “fired” them out of mercy.
“They need an ‘out’, because a group of very mean people are bullying them relentlessly online. So, they are all fired and I will pull their pictures from our website,” Dannels wrote.
“I am where Mentality has always come from. I am Mentality. I am an athlete. I am a scholar. I am a musician. I am an artist and a maker. I am also a fighter.”
Separate from the PR crisis is the fact that the polish company seems to have failed to test the Arminex base (which has become the possibly undeserving scapegoat for the nail damage, and also is virtually impossible to track down online) is the fact that the other polish ingredients haven’t even been tested because testing is “ridiculously expensive.”
“I believe that there is confusion about the term ‘testing’ in the public forum,” said Dannels in an email to Jezebel. “Quality control testing here happens constantly and we wear the various polish batches, often inadvertently. All of my clothes have polish on them. I exist in paint covered clothing like all persons that work with paint do. Mine are just more colorful.”
Dannels noted that Mentality is a small batch manufacturer and as such is not obligated to perform the same ingredient testing as are larger manufacturers.
“This is a weakness in the indie trade that I share with all makers.”
On the company’s website, the problematic product’s ingredients are listed as such:
Round Screen Printed Bottle Ingredients: Butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, nitrocellulose, acetyle tributyl citrate, phthalic anhydride/trimellitic anhydride/glycols copolumer, isopropyl alcohol, stearalkonium hectorite, adipic acid/fumaric acid/phthalic acid/tricyclodecane dimethanol copolymer, citric acid. *If you experience any sensitivity when using this particular product, please discontinue use immediately and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org*
The Food and Drug Administration is not obligated to test cosmetic products before they go to market, however the cosmetic distributor or manufacturer is legally responsible to ensure a product is safe.
“Although I’d never personally recommended this brand to my readers, they were a popular and respected brand in the community and I knew many of my readers were fans,” said Kirby Hartline, the woman behind Mercurial Magpie in an email to Jezebel.
“Mentality completely dropped the ball on notifying/warning their customers about this issue, so I felt as a member of the community I had a responsibility to get this information out there to let everyone know what was going on, since Mentality refused to do so and wanted to continue minimizing the victim’s injuries and sweeping things under the rug.”
“It’s a disappointing situation for the indie nail polish community as whole,” Hartline continued. “There are so many amazing brands who test extensively and would have made things right as soon as a problem occured. This situation with Mentality may turn people off of trying any brands at all.”
“Coco Chanel stated that ‘I do not care what they think about me. I do not think of them at all.’ I believe that my perspective is that I do not have time to think about the hateful posters. The people that still believe in me continue to request my work,” concluded Dannels in his email, noting that the more outrage that is generated, the easier it will be for him to take legal action to save the company.
“I will not survive unless they are screaming from the rooftops. Meanwhile, I have to make the polish. It is being demanded of me.”
Images via Instagram and Facebook.