- An enhanced method is developed for analysis of third-order nonlinearities in optical nanostructures with a scalar magnetic field frequency-domain formulation; it is shown to produce fast and accurate results for 2D problems without a superfluous vector electric field formalism. While a standard TM representation using cubic nonlinear susceptibility results in an intractable implicit equation, our technique alleviates this problem. In addition to a universal approach, simpler, more efficient solutions are proposed for media having solely either a real (lossless Kerr-type medium) or an imaginary (nonlinear absorbing medium) nonlinearity. Combining these solutions with a finite-element method, we show simulation examples validated with alternative approaches. © 2009 Optical Society of America OCIS codes: 050.1755, 160.3918, 160.4330.