Nail Polish Guide: Understanding Different Formulas & Finishes
Life was much simpler in high school when you tried to imitate your mum and paint your nails with liquid paper. Walk into a salon today, and you’ll quickly be overwhelmed with the number of nail polishes and finishes available to transform your manicure from dull to dulcet. It’s more than choosing between pink #145 or Bondi Beach in late February before cocktails blue — it’s balancing the right finish, texture and formula to match your aesthetic and mood and create a statement you can show off to your girlfriends.
While restorative manicures have long been practised, nail products are constantly being put to the test with new formulations and putting different twists on classic techniques. If you’re passionate about nail art and want to learn the difference between powder dip, gel nails and builder gel nail polish, our blog will teach you about the various types of finishes and formulas to help you nail your signature look — pun intended.
Start with the basics — your base and top coat
A gleaming manicure requires a flawless foundation to build potent colour and achieve a durable finish. Typically made from a combination of resins, polymers, plasticisers and other materials that help promote stronger adhesive and quick drying properties, your top and bottom coats are intrinsic nail supplies every nail artist and beauty maven needs in their kit.
Each manicure starts with a base coat to provide a protective barrier against your nail polish to prevent it from staining your natural nail and prime it to help your colour bond and adhere. After applying your colour, your nail technician will layer a top coat to help prevent it from chipping and peeling during everyday wear, prolong the life of your manicure and leave a lustrous finish to make your new beauty treatment glow.
Keep it simple with a traditional nail polish
Traditional nail polishes are the most basic nail salon supplies that form the basis of most nail tech’s colour collections. They are available in every finish you can think of — from matte to glossy or are pigmented with mica which delivers a bright shimmer look. They’re often the first nail polish beauty beginners start with as they air dry and are easy to apply.
However, they’re more prone to chipping and peeling, requiring you to visit your nail tech on a fortnightly basis or more frequently to replace your manicured nails, which can be a little inconvenient.
Get jelly over gel nails
Gel nail polish is every girl’s BFF that has boomed in recent years for its velvety glossy finish that can last several weeks without losing its shine. They are made from a combination of oligomers and polymers with a thicker viscose consistency, and they can be applied on top of your natural nail or extensions. With a high-performing formulation, these nail products require an expert technique and a little patience, as each coat needs to be cured by UV light.
For more advanced nail artists, builder gel or BIAB (builder gel in a bottle) features a thicker texture that’s used to sculpt your nails and help extend your nails. They are cured by UV light, and they maintain an extra durable finish to prolong the life of your manicure, making it easy to maintain a polished look for longer.
Acrylic nails — the OG
As one of the oldest nail products available to elevate your manicure, acrylics are a powder mixed with a monomer to create a gummy compound that hardens into shiny, plastic-like nail polish. They’re many girls’ go-to nail art as they are exceptionally durable and can last three to four weeks and be in-filled up to two occasions before a new set is needed.
On the other hand, polygel is a hybrid between acrylics and gel nail polish that can be used to shape, sculpt and fill in your nails or help extend them. With a gel consistency set by UV light, they’re exceptionally durable to leave you with a statement look for longer periods between salon visits.
Dip it low with dip powder nails
As one of the newest nail salon supplies that err on the side of alchemy and art, dip powder nail polish creates a unique reaction by applying a base coat and dipping it into a pot of milled coloured powder until you reach the desired potency. An activator is then applied, which initiates a chemical reaction that hardens the powder and creates a strong, durable coating on the nails. Your nail tech will then file the nails to the desired length and shape.
Famous for delivering potent finishes lasting up to a month, powder dip nail manicures are considered more gentle on nails than other alternatives and don’t require lengthy curing times under UV light.
The various types of nail polish finish
- Creme — Creme nail polish is a classic and popular type characterised by its smooth and solid colour without any shimmer or glitter.
- Chrome — Also known as metallic nail polishes, they create a mirror-like effect on the nails that leaves a high-shine, reflective finish, resembling the appearance of polished metal.
- Glitter — Glitter nail polish is infused with tiny shimmering particles that add sparkle and shine to the nails. It can range from subtle to bold, depending on the concentration of glitter in the polish.
- Pearl — Pearl nail polish has a soft and pearly sheen that gives the nails a sophisticated and luminous finish. It is often slightly iridescent, creating a subtle play of colours in the light.