This guide to nail polish finishes covers both finishes found in water based nail polishes and conventional nail polishes. Shopping for a nail polish, but not quite sure what all the terms mean? Let’s sort out the various nail polish finishes.
Water Based Nail Polish Finishes
These nail polish finishes can be found in water based nail polishes.
Solid opaque single tone color without any shimmer or glitter.
If you like the creme look, many of the Scotch Naturals water based nail polishes have a creme finish.
Dull flat looking polish. No gloss or shine.
Similar to a matte finish, but with subtle shimmer.
Sheer polish. You can see the visible nail line (VNL) through the polish. Often used for french manicures, since you can see the white tips through the polish.
Acquarella offers some translucent polishes that can be used for french manicures or alone.
Subtle shimmering color mixed very evenly in base color. Smaller shimmering particles than glitter but bigger than frost.
Contains tiny mica particles that reflect light.
Shimmer particles flash a different color than the base color.
Iridescent polishes are available from Suncoat.
Metallic shimmer mixed in the base color. Often in metal colors like gold or silver.
Chunky visible glitter particles suspended in a clear or colored base.
Available as a top coat from Hopscotch Kids or from Piggy Paint.
Neon nail polish actually refers more to the color of the polish than the finish. Bright colors usually with a creme or semi-matte finish. The neon nail polish shown below has a shimmery finish.
Also available from Keeki Pure and Simple or Piggy Paint’s new Project Earth line for teenagers.
Glow in the Dark
Emits light in the dark.
Available from Keeki Pure and Simple or Piggy Paint’s Project Earth line.
Other Nail Polish Finishes
If you are looking for a nail polish with one of these finishes, you will probably have to go with a conventional nail polish.
Polish that is painted over another color and creates a cracked or shattered texture.
Micro beads that are sprinkled onto nail polish while it is drying. Looks like candy sprinkles!
Regular nitrocellulose polishes containing iron oxide dust in the formula. You hold a magnet close to the wet polish surface which draws the iron to the surface and forms a wavy design.
Similar to a creme, in that it contains no shimmer or glitter. Has a cellophane-like appearance that is semi-translucent.
Contain flakes that are bigger than shimmer and are of irregular size and shape. Like mini opals shining all colors of the rainbow.
Creates a rainbow of colors in bright lighting.
Makes your nails look like metal. Almost mirror like.
A shimmer polish that appears as two or more shades, depending on the light.
Metallic with grainy shimmer added.
What is your favorite nail polish finish? Are there any other finishes that I am missing?