Difference Between Nail Polish and Nail Lacquer

Both nail polish and nail lacquer refer to a varnish or lacquer applied to fingernails or toes to color them or to make them look shiny. Nail polish, nail lacquer, nail varnish, nail enamel are different names for the same product. Different cosmetic brands use above names for various products to make the products more exotic and appealing. However, some people are of the view that nail lacquer is thicker, darker and, therefore, take more time to dry off. But, this opinion has not been confirmed by any cosmetic brand or proved by any acceptable method as of yet.

What is Nail Polish/Lacquer

Nail polish is sold in small bottles, and it can be applied on fingernails and toes with a tiny brush. The lacquer hardens and forms a shiny coating on the nail few minutes after applying. This coating is resistant to water and chips; this coating can also last for several days before it begins to chip and fall off. This can also be removed by applying nail polish remover, which is specially designed to remove nail polish.

Main Difference - Nail Polish vs Nail Lacquer

Nail polish may contain different ingredients. However, there are some common ingredients or bases in all these products. Plasticizers, dyes and pigments, opalescent pigments, adhesive polymers and thickening agents are essential elements in the production of nail polish.

Apart from the obvious differences in various brands, nail polish/lacquer can also be classified into different categories. Below given are some common classifications:

Base Coat is a clear, milky-colored, or opaque pink polish that is used before the application of the nail polish. It can strengthen nails, help polish adhere to the nail and restore moisture to the nail.

Top Coat is a clear, transparent nail polish that is used after applying the (colored) nail polish to the nail.

Matte is a normal nail polish, but it has a dull finish rather than a shiny and glossy finish.

Difference Between Nail Polish and Nail Lacquer

Difference Between Nail Polish and Nail Lacquer

As we stated at the beginning of the article, there is no clear cut difference between nail polish and nail lacquer. Although some people believe that nail lacquer is thicker and darker, this is not acknowledged by the manufacturers.

A product which is promoted as nail lacquer is sometimes described by the same company as a nail product. For example, Butter London Nail Lacquer ( the brand name) is described as a heavily pigmented, high-fashion nail polish. Therefore, it becomes clear that both terms are equivalent.

In addition, the term lacquer is increasingly being used by many cosmetic companies. For example, mainstream brands like O·P·I (American based) and Butter London (based in the UK) use the term nail lacquer.

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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