Cosmetic Monster Comparison: Perfect Formula Pink Gel Coat vs. Salon Sciences Instant Artificials




It’s no industry secret that bulk of the smaller cosmetic companies use the same manufacturers – meaning its the same product with a different packaging. The moment I figured this out was when I worked at Headshots Photo Studio (best job ever) and we used a full coverage foundation – that Face Stockholm also sold for substantially more. – its now $48, but I’m sure it was much less back then.  How sobering.

the COMPARISON: I had been eyeing the Perfect Formula Pink Gel Coat ($30) for my very brittle nails – but chose to spend my money on other Lemmings instead. On a trip to Sally Beauty, I saw the Salon Sciences Instant Artificials ($8.49) which seemed to offer the same benefits. A good friend who had a bad experience with gel nails got the Perfect Formula to help her natural nails recover. Just to be sure I wasn’t missing out on a good thing,  I compared the ingredients.

Shockingly, the formulas are nearly identical except the Perfect Formula has formaldehyde and the Salon Sciences has acrylates copolymer (which is basically another acrylic). It made me laugh that Sephora listed the Perfect Formula as being formulated without: Parabens, Sulfates, Synthetic Fragrances,  Phthalates,  GMOs, Triclosan. But it has FORMALDEHYDE! Making Perfect Formula Pink Gel Coat not so “perfect” and another glaring example of why you need to read labels.

Salon Sciences Instant Artificials is a great product for those who need to heal damaged nails or just want a fast & polished manicure. Instant Artificials is also perfect for me since I rarely have time for a full manicure. My nails have grown in healthier and look brighter.

UPDATE (10-11-2013): In response to the comment made below – here’s what I read about formaldehyde:

Formaldehyde in Nail Hardeners (

“Formaldehyde is used in many different products, some of which are regulated as cosmetics. For example, formaldehyde is an important component of nail hardeners. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing ingredients are often used in other cosmetics as preservatives to protect against harmful bacteria, and formaldehyde also has been used in certain hair-smoothing or hair-straightening products. Different forms of formaldehyde have different names, such as “formalin” and “methylene glycol.”

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel concluded in December 2011 that formaldehyde and methylene glycol are safe for use in cosmetics when formulated to ensure use at the minimal effective concentration, but in no case should formalin concentration exceed 0.2% by weight. (This would be 0.074% by weight calculated as formaldehyde or 0.118% by weight calculated as methylene glycol.) CIR also found that formaldehyde and methylene glycol are safe under present practices of use and concentration in nail hardening products, where the concentration of formaldehyde is typically higher than the 0.2% level noted for cosmetics generally. “Present practices of use” include instructions to avoid skin contact. However, CIR found that formaldehyde and methylene glycol are unsafe in the present practices of use and concentration in hair smoothing products; see FDA, OSHA Act on Brazilian Blowout and the related Warning Letter.

Nail hardeners that contain formaldehyde may cause an irritation or allergic reaction to those sensitized to this compound. There is also some evidence that certain individuals may become allergic to toluene sulfonamide–formaldehyde resin, a common ingredient in nail preparations. If you are allergic to formaldehyde, have previously experienced an allergic reaction to nail preparations, or for any other reason wish to avoid this ingredient, be sure to read the product ingredient statement on the label to determine whether formaldehyde or related ingredients, such as formalin and toluene sulfonamide-formaldehyde resin, are present.”

There are numerous other articles that go back and forth about whether formaldehyde or other chemicals are “bad” for you when used in cosmetics. Yes – I drank the formaldehyde-free Kool Aid. However, the point of this comparison had more to do with finding a product that was $21 less (or $21.51 for you persnickety math buffs) than the Perfect Formula.

MONSTER SEARCH: Deborah Lippmann products are beautifully free of formaldehyde, Toluene and Dibutyl Phthalate. My two favorites: Across the Universe (dark turquoise with blue and green big glitter) and Diamonds & Pearls (golden rosey baby glitter – which looks great over all those awful “greige” colors). Rock Top Coat by European Secrets (Sally Beauty) is also formaldehyde and toluene free – and is the most hardcore top coat I’ve found.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: “This “Suit of Armor” creates a sheer pink coating that strengthens and hardens natural nails so they grow beautifully long and strong. Its keratin-rich formula includes an optical brightener that filters out any yellow appearance in your nails, bringing out the natural color in your nail bed and making the whites of your nails appear whiter.” – Sephora
PERFECT FORMULA PINK GEL COAT INGREDIENTS: Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Phthalic Anhydride/Trimellitic Anhydride/Glycols Copolymer, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Camphor, Disodium Distyrylbiphenyl Disulfonate, Etocrylene, Formaldehyde, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Calcium Pantothenate, D&C Red no.6 (CI15850), D&C Violet No. 2 (CI 60725). (From Sephora Website)
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: Salon Science Instant Artificials is the perfect alternative to achieving artificial nails without the damaging side effects. Instant Artificals mimics the hardness of artificials with just one application. The results are visibly thicker nails with a polished shine! Easily removed with regular nail polish remover. Toluene, Formaldehyde & DBP free.
SALON SCIENCES INSTANT ARTIFICIALS INGREDIENTS: Butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, nitrocellulose, phthalic anhydride/trimellitic anhydride/ glycols copolymer, acetyl tributyl citrate, acrylates copolymer, stearalkonium hectorite, camphor, etocrylene, hydrolyzed keratin, calcium pantothenate, red 6 (ci15850), violet 2 (ci 60725). (From Sally Beauty Website)
**Colored ingredients are the same as in the Perfect Formula Pink Gel Coat.

SALON SCIENCE INSTANT ARTIFICIALSSalon Sciences Instant Artificials and European Secrets Rock Top Coat are available at Sally Beauty Supply.


9 thoughts on “Cosmetic Monster Comparison: Perfect Formula Pink Gel Coat vs. Salon Sciences Instant Artificials

  1. Oh my gosh! I can’t believe I stumbled on your article JUST IN TIME!!! I literally have a $30 bottle of Perfect Formula in my “cue-vee-see” shopping basket, which I am going to remove as soon as I’m done writing this. Sorry, Kyoo-Vee, but THIRTY DOLLARS?????
    So, THANK YOUUUU!!! I now have to set aside a huge chunk of time to read your entire site, especially about dupes, cos I love paying around with makeup, and at the rate im going, I’m going to be living in my car when I retire, lol, but I will look gorgeous!

  2. I started using SS a few months ago. I wanted to give my nails a break from glue on nails. My nails have grown and gotten stronger, Now they look like they are glue on’s. It also protects my nails while I work. I am a Cosmetologist and my hands are constantly in water, shampoo, chemicals, etc. LOVE IT.

  3. It has FORMALDEHYDE because that is the active ingredient. Formaldehyde strengthens the bonds between the protein molecules in your nail. Sure, it’s important to read the ingredients list – but what is the use of reading it if you don’t bother to understand it?

    1. The focus of the article had more to do with the price difference vs. formaldehyde. That said, formaldehyde can cause allergic reactions in those with sensitivity and it has become a featured ingredient on the “DOES NOT CONTAIN” bandwagon. True – it has its benefits. Its not in concentrations high enough to be inhaled and be considered a carcinogen. BUT if the choice is between a product with our without? Some of us prefer without – regardless of the benefit and FDA “safety” guidelines.

      As consumers we will never fully understand every ingredient listed on our products. We do know that there are certain ingredients that should be avoided – if possible and if it is a concern. I appreciate the insight though. Certain posts will list more about ingredients – but it isn’t the focus of this blog.

  4. Hi, I as well was looking for a dupe as I was running out of the Perfect Formula product and while I don’t like that cost my nails can’t live with out the stuff. Ugh.. hate that. Note however you can get it at Sephora if you have one so you don’t have to pay the shipping.

    Anyway I went out and got the Salon Sciences instant Artificials to see if there would be a difference even with out the formaldehyde. Unfortunately you missed an ingredient. The Salon Science’s product is also missing Disodium Distyrylbiphenyl Disulfonate which when I looked it up I noticed it’s used to whiten and is also used as an SPF to filter out the sun. It’s put in conditioners and anti aging products.

    I think the price for the Perfect Formula Pink Gel is ridiculous but when I compared the two of them I do think the other ingredients make a difference. Especially for SPF, whitening and I’ll keep my thoughts to myself on the Formaldehyde. I just really wanted to point out so that others knew. I went back to my old stuff, :o(

  5. Would love to see an update on this post especially after the person named leigha noted the brightening spf ingredient is also not in the Sally’s product. I would like an alternative to perfect formula because my fingers hands and up my arms tingle when I use the product sometimes which concerns me. But I love the results on my poor nails. Appreciate the comparison and info from the initial post tho!

  6. I can’t find a better nail product for the life of me! PF is PERFECT! I use it as a base coat and sometimes top coat to last longer. I have tried MANY store bought products and nothing compares. I hate the price but I love this stuff and so do my nails. Using pink gel coat alone for 2 weeks made my nails grow extremely fast and now in just 1 month it looks like I have artificial nails. I am still trying to find a better product with no luck. I will stick with this for now…I really love it!

  7. Sadly, I think they changed the formula. I have been using the Physicians Formula for years. I had one bottle left of the old packaging and decided to put it aside. I’ve been through 3 bottles of the new package and my nails have become thin and broken. I switched to the old bottle the past month and my nails are nomlonger cracking and chipping…. So… I’m assuming it’s not something medically different about my nails, but that they have changed the formula. The new version is much faster to dry and chips off within 2 days. The old version would stay on for a week+ and still look fine. Bummer.

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