Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish: Is there a Difference?

There are a lot of terms used to describe nail products and sometimes this can become confusing. So, we decided to do some research on nail lacquer and nail varnish to try to find out the differences, if any.

Is there a difference between Nail Lacquer and Nail Varnish? The difference between nail polish and nail lacquer as well as nail varnish and nail enamel is negligible, all these products are the same. Nail lacquers are mistakenly thought to be thicker based on their consistency and chip-resistant qualities than nail polish, nail enamel and nail varnish. However, all these products have the same strengthening quality and protective ability that leaves a shiny and glossy finish on the nails.

Most women everywhere have at one time or another used color on their nails. Whether it is a bright or pastel color or a very natural looking color. Not only does it make your hands look prettier, but can boost your confidence, make you feel poised and can also make you feel put together as the colors can be coordinated to your outfit.

There are a huge variation of colors and finishing's available on the market so, plenty of choice to cater for everyone. You can change color depending on how you feel, what mood you are in.

Nail Polish – What is it?

Nail polish is a liquid film applied to fingernails and toenails as a form of decoration whilst also providing to the nails due its coating when it dries and hardens. Nail polish generally consists of several ingredients including an organic polymer, ensuring minimal cracking or peeling.

It was first made in China leading back to 3000 BC, by mixing beeswax, gum Arabic, gelatin, egg whites and vegetable dyes. Nail polish comes in a variety of color and finishes which can not only protect the nail but is also fashionable and can give you either a shiny or a matt finish to your nails. It can be used on your toenails and/or your fingernails. Great way to add color. Although most women wear nail polish on their fingernails, maybe on a regular basis, in the Summer most women would probably use nail polish on their toe nails especially when wearing sandals as this definitely makes most women feel good and they can see how pretty their feet look.

It was first made in China leading back to 3000 BC, by mixing beeswax, gum Arabic, gelatin, egg whites and vegetable dyes. Nail polish comes in a variety of color and finishes which can not only protect the nail but is also fashionable and can give you either a shiny or a matt finish to your nails. It can be used on your toenails and/or your fingernails as a great way to add color. Although most women wear nail polish on their fingernails, maybe on a regular basis, in the Summer most women would probably use nail polish on their toe nails especially when wearing sandals as this definitely makes most women feel good and they can see how pretty their feet look.

Nail Lacquer – What is this?

Nail lacquer is a liquid film applied to fingernails and toenails, to decorate and protect the nails as it hardens and dries. Nail lacquer contains several ingredients to give it strength when dry including a polymer, which helps in reducing peeling and cracking.

'Lacre' is kind of a sealing wax, the work 'Lacre' originates from the French language. When applied to the nails is dries off quickly. When applied and this is a type of nail polish or varnish. This nail product adds color and shine to your finger and toenails.

This nail product when used, creates a protective covering as the substance being used is like a thin film or coating on your nails which dries quickly. This product is made by dissolving a substance called ethyl acetate into nitrocellulose. Companies and manufacturers use different terms to market and brand their products. This can either be called nail polish, nail lacquer, nail enamel or nail varnish so in this case, there is no real difference between the two-terminology used. There are all the same products.

There are no differences between nail lacquer or nail polish, although there is a misconception that nail lacquer are thicker in consistency and therefore believed to be more durable or more chip-resistant then nail polish. Both nail lacquer and nail polish offer the same strength and protectiveness for your nails. However, you may find some brands offer more shine or more gloss and this can be varied. You can opt for a shiny or a matt finish to your nails. You can even add nail art to your nails and colors are vast and varied and can even be combined together to give you a different color altogether.

How many coats of nail polish is best?

Nail polish needs to be applied as a series of coats to get the best results, with 3 coats comprising a base coat, second coat and top coat being sufficient. It's best however to keep applying additional coats until there are no longer any visible streaks or any discoloration visible through the polish.

Let's take a look at the different type of coats than can be applied to nails.

First Coat – Base Coat

This is the very first application on your nails which encourages the polish not only to stick to your nails but, acts as a means of protecting your nails from being damaged by the effects of using polish. When using dark colors, the base coat, will also act as a means protection by preventing your nails for staining. This will aid the overall look of your polish by not only giving you a more even finish but will help to keep your polish from peeling or chipping.

Second Coat

This would be the actual application of your polish. There are a number of colors and finishes on the market and the drying time can vary. Some products on the market claim to dry as quickly as 60 seconds. Depending on the color, you could either just use one coat of polish or sometimes, depending on your desired effect, you could use your polish twice, but after your first coat is completely dry.

Last Coat – Topcoat

This basically seals your polish and thus offering additional protection against your polish getting chipped and sometimes can help with the polish lasting for a longer period of time. It not only acts as a sealant to your polish but can also give you that shiny or glossy look to your nails.

How many types of nail polish are there?

There are 7 different types of nail polish including Crème, Metallic, Gel, Chrome, Pearl, Glitter and Matte styles. With Crème being the basic offering to more sophisticated styles in Glitter and Matt, which takes the shine out of the polish.

This can vary from the initial color you choose, your decision on whether you want a shiny or a matt finish. Matt polish will give you a shine free look to your nails and the time it dries could be longer. There are a number of products available on the market to consider too, you need to decide whether you want your varnish to be long-lasting, cruelty-free, do you want to strengthened your nails, do you want it to be quick-dry and chip-free.

Many nail polish bottles lined up in different colors
Different nail polish colors

You need to consider your nails' needs when choosing the nail polish. Try and use a base coat and aim for nail polish which can strengthened your nails.

As mentioned before, always use a base coat as this will not only seal your color in but stop your nails from staining, peeling or even chipping.

The only way to know which type suits you best, is merely a case of trial and error. You may find a particular brand offers you the right finish for you over another brand. This is very much a personal choice.

Always use a base coat, polish and then a topcoat, as this will offer you the best end result rather then going for products that offer to combine the base and topcoat together i.e. all-in-one base and topcoat.

Choosing the color that suits you can be fun. You'll find that you will have to try variations in colors too as you will find that maybe maroon suits your skin coloring rather then a deep red color.

Some color may be too pale and therefore will do nothing for your skin tone. But if you are after a paler tone then try and opt for pastel or nude colors.

You can vary and combine metallics alongside your polish. You could polish half your nail in one color and the other half in a different color. You could polish the tip of your nails in metallics, maybe in gold or silver. You could polish your cuticles in one color and the rest of your nails in a different color. You can use shapes to differentiate colors, you could paint one half diagonally or horizontally and the other half in a different color. There are a vast number of possibilities when using nail polish.

The last decision you need to make is to decide what type of finish you want, a shiny or a matt finish to you nails. Don't forget you can even use topcoats with glitter particles to give you that extra special finish. The possibilities are endless.

Colors v Skin Tones

In my opinion, I think anyone can wear any color, it is a very personal choice and the color of your skin should not really affect your decision.

There are a vast number of colors of polishes available on the market which generally can be used by anyone. Colors can be applied to any skin tone; however, you may find some colors can have a variation to the end look to your nails depending on your skin tone. We all have different tastes and what we perceive to be nice on our nails, someone else may disagree.

Choosing a color of polish is a choice, it could depend on the mood you are in, what you are wearing, or where you are going.

If you are feeling very confident and want to be noticed in a crowd, you may go for bright colors such as reds, dark blues, purples, silver, gold, maroons or oranges.

If you are dressing up, maybe during Halloween, then you will probably be going for very dark colors such as, blacks and maybe silver.

For interviews, it is always best to stay neutral so maybe go for a nude color such as a very light pink. If your nails are in good condition, then you could just put on a topcoat which just adds a shine to your nails.

During Christmas time, most people will go for variation in the Reds with silver or gold.

Generally bright colors, even metallic colors can be used by anyone. Having said that, the colors can look different on each different skin tone but, does not necessarily mean that the color does not suit you or that you cannot use particular colors.

How do you protect your nails from nail polish?

Using bright colors on a daily/weekly basis may cause a slight yellow tinge to your nails. This does not mean your nails are damaged but merely that your nails are stained by the lacquer's pigments. If this occurs, just make sure that a base coat is always applied as this will help with the prevention of staining your nails.

Nails are found underneath your cuticles where the blood-enriched oxygen is supplied. Therefore, when you paint your nails you are not disturbing any living cells of the nails thus, the polishing of your nails does not have an affect on your nails breaking or splitting.

The only thing which will affect the state of your nails are the harsh ingredients being used. These ingredients can cause you to have dry and brittle nails. The main chemicals are:-

  • Toluene
  • Camphor
  • Formaldehyde
  • DBP (Dibutyl phthalate)
  • Formaldehyde Resin

What can you do if you have damaged your nails?

We can sometimes get dry and brittle nails. Not only from the chemicals in the nail polish but also from the removal process. Wear and tear can affect our nails quite considerably. If you notice your nails appear to be suffering from nail polish, simply take a break from wearing nail polish and moisturize your nails. You can readily buy products which target strengthening your nails which are already incorporated in your base coat. You could use Vaseline to help the damage to your nails or simply soak your nails in olive or a bath oil.

What to do if you have thin are nails?

If you notice that your nails are getting thin i.e. your nails bend easily then it's definitely time to give them extra care and attention. Normal nail strengthens could still be damaging your nails as they contain harmful chemicals so try and opt for products that not only strengthen and hydrate your nails but, are natural. One example of this you could purchase is, 'Jason Purifying Tea Tree Nail Saver'.

What does it mean if you have white spots on your nails?

If you notice small white spots on your nails, this is called keratin granulation. It basically means that your nails are drying out due to your nail polish having an adverse reaction on your nail bed. The keratin is clumping together and that is why your nails are getting stains/white spots are forming on your nails.

You should consider stopping from wearing nail polish for a short period of time to aid your nails to recover and return to their normal color. This could take one week or a few months to up to 6 months depending how sever the discoloration is. This can also depend on how quickly your nails grow. In the most sever cases it might be a case of growing out your nails.

White spots can also be caused by deficiencies in minerals and vitamins, I remember when I was a child and I had a few white spots on my nails one summer. I asked my grandma what these were, and she said, it showed how many true friends I had. Great as a child to believe these spots were true friends but in reality, I had a vitamin deficiency and only when I went to school, where I had milk everyday, instead of haphazardly earlier, did the spots disappear, as it was a calcium deficiency.

Why are my nails flaking and peeling?

Dehydration if one of the main reasons for the flaking and peeling of the nails. This is another sign of weak nails. Stop using nail polish for a while to help your nails regain moisture thus giving them time to get stronger and healthier. Products to use are things like moisturizing cuticle oils which are easily available to purchase.

Try the following treatments prior to using nail varnish

Moisturize

Vitamin E is a great moisturizer for weak and brittle nails and is readily available in various stores. Stop using nail polish and instead concentrate to getting the moisture back to your nails. Vitamin E oil can be applied directly onto your nails ensuring a drop is added to each nail individually and rubbed in. The oil will remain on your nails but will slowly soak in which can strengthened your nails from within so it will not dissolve completely.

Vitamin E will not only fortify your nails but is rich in collage, this in turn will aid any further damage to your nails. This is a great way to provide your nails with antioxidants which will promote healthier nails. You can also used Jojoba Oil, which will again affect the condition of your nails by penetrating deeply and feeds from within, via the roots.

There are hand sheet masks available which can also aid in improving the condition of your nails but, the results will vary according to the ingredients and the usage amount of the product.

Nail filer

Nail filers can vary and the best type to use is a fine-grid cushioned nail filer which is less abrasive. You do, however, have to ensure that you file your nails gently when filing the tips of your nails. If you are aggressive with filing the tops of your nails, especially just before applying your nail polish, please be aware that this could result in thinning your nail plate and damage your nail bed further.

Girl having nails filed
Nail filing

Nail varnish remover

Nail varnish is removed using acetone products and is readily available on the market. However, this can result in making your nails very dry as the acetone dissolves the varnish. The best way to remove your polish is to use acetone-free products as these products will hydrate your nails as some of the ingredients included are oil based such as, soybean and Vitamin E. These will protect your nails as nail polish is being removed. If you are getting a manicure from a salon, call ahead and ensure that they are able to offer you an acetone-free product when taking off your exiting varnish.

Final thoughts

Nail polish and nail lacquer are the same thing, where nails are painted using a myriad of different colors. The painting of the nails for decorative effect can also provide protection by strengthening the nails, however too much painting on a regular basis can lead to the nails becoming weakened and damaged, so it's best to give the nails a break once in a while.

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