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Daryl Chew


It’s hard not to root for Daryl Chew, founder of Nail Deck, an eight-year-old homegrown label of nail polish lacquer. While Nail Deck began as a distributor and retailer of 15 US-based nail polish brands, it has since evolved into a label that primarily differentiates itself by an unorthodox goal: wanting to reduce nail polish waste.

Customisation is a big part of their sustainability efforts. Says Daryl, “Through my interactions with customers, I found out many people have buyers’ remorse because the colours they buy often turn out differently painted on nails. The idea [of customisation] was that if we could create nail polish in the perfect colour for the buyer, we would be able to reduce the chance of buyers’ remorse.” 

But customisation is only one step Nail Deck takes towards reducing waste. Earlier this year, Nail Deck rolled out a recycling initiative to further combat nail polish waste. Behold Mission One Billion.


Daryl, tell us more about Mission One Billion.

Mission One Billion is something that has been on my mind since Day 1 of Nail Deck. I learned that almost every nail polish user has a “nail polish graveyard” — a drawer of old and unused nail polish — so the more nail polish bottles I sold, the guiltier I started to feel about inevitably contributing to this graveyard.

Nail polish graveyard?

“Nail polish graveyard” is a term I came up with in reference to that drawer of old nail polish bottles that a lot of people have. I used to ask my then-girlfriend (now wife) and others why they wouldn’t throw away their old nail polish bottles. Sometimes the reason boils down to sentimental value: people want to keep their first bottle of nail polish, a limited edition colour, or even the colour they wore to prom. But other times, it’s simply because they just don’t know how to dispose of them.


Can't you recycle nail polish bottles?

Well, not quite. I only found out about this in 2017 when I was doing a massive clean-up in the office. I realised I had accumulated hundreds — if not thousands — of five-year-old nail polish bottles and I wasn’t sure if I could just drop them all off at a recycling bin. So I contacted recycling collection companies in Singapore, and one after another, they shared that if a bottle of nail polish is found in the recycling bin, it is discarded for fear it would explode in incineration plants due to its highly flammable nature.


If a bottle of nail polish is found in the recycling bin, it is discarded for fear it would explode in incineration plants due to its highly flammable nature.


How does Mission One Billion come into play then?

Instead of keeping unused nail polish bottles or throwing them out as rubbish, we encourage all nail polish lovers to send us their old polish bottles to be recycled or upcycled. And in return, we reward them with online credit to shop at our online store!

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How can people send in their bottles and what do you plan to do with them?

Of course! If there aren’t a lot of bottles, people can always send them to our workspace at 79 Ayer Rajah Crescent, #04-04, Singapore 139955 via mail. Otherwise, they can always let us know in advance and drop them off personally too. We understand that Ayer Rajah might be a little out of the way for some so we’re currently working on having a list of retailers who identify with our mission and can be collection centres too.

Editor’s Note: Nail Deck will also be having a mini collection box for old nail polish bottles at The Gifting Edition 2019.

Our plan is to upcycle the collected bottles in two ways: 

  1. Bottles that are clean and barely used can be donated to organisations that can benefit from them, such as nail salons armed with a social mission

  2. Bottles that can’t be re-used are cleaned out and repurposed as reed diffuser bottles

Why is Mission One Billion so important to you?

We wanted to raise awareness about the importance of reducing nail polish waste because there are approximately one billion nail polish bottles produced and sold in a year and no proper way to recycle them, especially in Singapore. We also believe that the planet shouldn’t have to sacrifice for beauty. 

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Is this also why your formula is 100% vegan and cruelty-free?

Yes. It was really tough when we had to remove the animal-based pigment, carmine red, from our list of raw ingredients because that meant not being able to produce certain shades of red. It’s a gorgeous, deep shade of red used in most cosmetic products. But it is also derived from the wings of the female cochineal insect — in fact, it reportedly takes 70,000 of these insects just to produce one pound of red pigment. 


We also believe that the planet shouldn't have to sacrifice for beauty.


We’re also nine-free, which means we’re free of nine harmful chemicals commonly found in older nail polish formulations, such as toxins like toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) that make nail polish a hazardous household waste. These days most brands are at least 3-free but we wanted to go a few steps further because it’s important for health and environmental reasons.

How else can we reduce nail polish waste?

An easy way to reduce waste is to take proper care of your nail polish bottles. A lot of times the inner grooves of the bottle cap are clogged with polish, which prevents the bottle from closing tightly. This causes the nail polish to dry out faster and also makes it harder for the bottles to be cleaned out. You can also invest in a small bottle of thinner to extend the lifespan of your nail polish so it doesn’t get too dry. 

Join Daryl and Nail Deck in their effort to reduce nail polish waste by dropping off your unused nail polish bottles at the collection box located in Blue Room on Level 2. The Gifting Edition 2019. Nov 15-17, levels 2 & 3 of the F1 Pit Building.

Designer Conversations is an interview series done in collaboration with Public Culture, an editorial experience studio that believes in connection over communication. This feature was photographed by Christopher Wong for Boutique Fairs Singapore and Public Culture.