Nail Polish Dictionary

Please Note: To find a term quickly, bring up the search-within-webpage function and type a term to locate it (i.e. "Ctrl+F" for Windows). These may not be all the terms you have ever heard of or seen. Most of these definitions are carried over from Peachy Polish and The Nail Buff. If something is missing and/or should be added, please contact me at so this list can be updated. I will update with visual examples when possible/available. Thank you!

For the non-picture version (for those who don't want to wait forever for load times, please click HERE).


3-Free: a polish that does not contain Toulene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) & Formaldehyde in its ingredients.

3-Stroke Method: a method of applying polish where only 3 brushstrokes are used.

4-Free: a polish that does not contain Toulene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde and Camphor.

5-Free: a polish that does not contain Toulene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde, Camphor and Formaldehyde Resin.



Blobbicure: a nail art technique of "blobbing" nail polish on the nail to create a design, which may include a number of layers that may or may not be sponged to remove excess. The signature blobbicure shows distinct negative spaces between the blobbed areas.

An example of a Blobbicure (Sourced here)

Blog Sale: a sale set up by someone who runs a blog, where they sell previously owned new or lightly used items.

Bubble Nails: an effect created using acrylic nail techniques to create a "bubble" shaped nail, known to be a fad nail trend.

Example of Bubble Nails (Sourced here)


Cat Eye: An effect created using magnetic polish and a strong neodymium magnet, creating a "cat eye" design.

Example of Cat Eye Effect

Chunky Glitter: a polish with large glitter particles creating a "chunky" look, often requiring two or more coats of topcoat to create a smooth finish.

Example of a Chunky Glitter (Sourced here)

Circle Gradient: see "Gradient." A nail art technique of applying a gradient design that is circular. This is created by using two or more polishes, the first creating a large "O" on a makeup sponge and the next polishes making "Os" inward until a final filled circle in the middle.

Example of a Circle Gradient with stamping (Sourced here)

Clean-Up: the act of using a makeup brush, art brush, or nail art brush to clean the edges around your polished nail to create a crisp, clean line using nail polish remover.

Example of  Clean-Up (Sourced here)

Core: a polish or collection that is part of a brand’s permanent line and therefore not at risk of being discontinued.

Crackle (aka Shatter): a type of polish that you apply on top of another that dries quickly and retracts across the surface of the nail as it dries, creating a cracked finish. Some crackle polishes work more effectively over a coat of topcoat.

Example of Crackle/Shatter Polish (Sourced here)

Crelly: a type of formula that is similar to a creme (in opacity) but is "squishy" looking and sometimes a bit sheer on the first coat.  It is buildable and is a popular base for glitter as it creates depth via layers.

Example of traditional Crelly (Sourced here)

Example of a Glitter-Crelly (Sourced here)

Example of a Flakie-Crelly (Sourced here)

Crelly-Shimmer: a polish with a crelly formula with a fine ribbon of shimmer running throughout.

Example of a Crelly-Shimmer (Sourced here)

Creme: a creamy, opaque polish with a glossy finish.  Usually opaque in 1-2 coats.

Example of a Creme (Sourced here)

Cruelty Free: products that are not tested on animals. (Click HERE for a list of beauty companies that do and do not test on animals.)


Decant: a small (mini) sized bottle filled with polish from a full sized bottle.  Usually done to share a polish with someone who might not otherwise be able to own it.

Destash: a sale set up by someone who doesn’t have a blog, where they sell previously owned, new, or lightly used items.

DISO: an acronym for Desperately In Search Of.  Used in polish sale groups, forums, etc. when a person is looking for a certain item and is usually willing to go to great lengths to obtain it. Example: “DISO Chanel Holographic!  I’ve been looking for it for so long!”

Dotticure: a nail art technique where dots are applied to create designs and/or an all-over effect.

Example of a design-based Dotticure (Sourced here)

Example of a scattered Dotticure (Sourced here)

Dottie Gradient (aka "Gradient Dotticure"): see "Gradient" and "Dotticure." A nail art technique where varying shades of polish are dotted from light to dark (or vice versa) down or across the nail over a base to create the effect of a gradient using layered dots.

Example of a blended Dottie Gradient (Sourced here)

Example of a spaced "Gradient Dotticure" (Sourced here)

Double Stamping: a nail art technique using the regular nail art stamping method but layering two designs on top of one another.

Example of Double Stamping (Sourced here)

Dry Brush: A nail art technique where you wipe off most of the polish on the brush and then lightly drag it over the top of the nail to create a dry, cracked, distressed and/or weathered look.

Example of the Dry Brush technique's results (Sourced here)

Dry Marble:   a nail art technique where polish marbleized without using water (see water marble). One method is haphazardly blobbing nail polish onto the nail and then smudge with a piece of plastic to emulate the look of marbled stone.

A second method is to apply blobs of nail polish onto the nail and then smudge using a nail art brush.

Example of smudging polish on nail with art brush for dry marble (Sourced here)

A third method is to apply blobs of nail polish onto a silicone nail art mat and smudge using a nail art brush or tool, then applying the dried result to the nail as a decal.

Example of technique using silicone mat (Sourced here)

Duochrome:  a polish that shifts between two colors depending on the angle and lighting.

Example of a Duochrome polish (Sourced here)

Dupe:   There are two forms of dupes: (1) An exact copy of an original polish recreated by a different brand. (2) Where two or more brands' individual colors created independently are indistinguishable from one another.

Example of Dupes (See original post here)



Finish: having a particular texture or appearance when the polish is dry.  Example: “This polish has a glossy finish.” An excellent post covering finishes can be found HERE.

Fishing: the act of putting in a lot of effort to get glitter from a nail polish onto the brush. Sometimes requiring tools (like a straightened paperclip) to mix up the polish and get at the glitters. Example: “It required a lot of fishing to get those big glitters on my nails.”

Flakes/Flakies: small sized flecked glitters that come in a variety of colors and are not uniform in shape.

Example of partial coverage (topper) Flakes/Flakies (Sourced here)

Example of full coverage Flakes/Flakies (Sourced here)

Foil (aka "Nail Foil"): a nail art material that traditionally comes in a roll. Foil application glue or alternatives are applied to the bare/polished nail and the foil is pressed to the nail shiny side up. The foil adheres to the celophane-like material, but when the material is pulled away from the nail, the foil remains adhered to the stickiness of the applied glue.

Nail Foil Application Tutorial (Sourced here)

Foil (Polish): a type of finish that has high shine and a metallic base with very fine particles which creates a sparkly but smooth, finish.

Example of Foil Polish (Sourced here)

Foil Method: a technique used to remove glitter or gel nail polish.  Using a cotton ball/cotton pad and pure acetone or other known effective polish remover (i.e. Zoya Remove Plus acetone-free polish remover), place the cotton ball/pad on the nail, then wrap foil around it and leave it sitting for 5-10 minutes.  Glitter or gel polish should slide right off. A tutorial can be found HERE.

Foil Method (Sourced tutorial here)

Formula: the result of the polish's ingredients which affect the application experience. Example: “The formula was thick.  It dried too quickly and was hard to use. Had to add thinner to make it usable.” or "The formula was perfect, applying smoothly and evenly."

Franken: When multiple pre-made polishes are used to create one personalized color.  May also include solvent resistant glitter, spectraflair, etc.

Frankener: a person who creates “Frankens”.

Frankening: the act of creating a “Franken.”

Free Edge: the very tip of your nail when it goes beyond the tip of your finger. The underside of the nail is usually visible.

Sourced here

Frost: a type of finish that has a frosted appearance.  This style of polish was especially popular in the 1980s/1990s.

Sourced here

Fuzzy Nails: a nail trend where a base polish is applied and a fuzzy material is then applied on top creating a literal "fuzzy" texture. Known as being novel, but impractical. Fuzz can be long or short and made from a number of materials including faux fur, cotton ball shreds, and other clinging materials that are "fuzzy."

Example of Fuzzy Nail Trend (Sourced here)


Glitter: a type of polish that has glitter in it. Traditionally refers to a polish that is opaque with glitter, but can also refer to sparse glitter polishes known as "Glitter Toppers."

Example of Glitter Polish: KBShimmer "Set In Ocean" (Sourced here)

Gradient: a form of nail art that can be defined similarly to a linear color gradient in computer graphics: a linear color gradient is specified by two points with a color at each point and blending seamlessly toward the center.

To create this look on nails, you use 2 (or more polishes)  with one color toward one part of the nail bed and another color toward the opposing side, the colors blending together in the middle of the nail. Similar to the way a sunset might look when pink fades to orange.  Often confused with or considered interchangeable with "Ombre Nails" (99% of Ombre Nails can be a gradient but not all Gradient Nails can be an ombre; see "Ombre Nails").

Example of a 2 polish gradient (Sourced here)

Example of a 3 polish gradient (Sourced here)

Example of a multiple polish gradient (Sourced here)


Half-Moon Manicure: a form of nail art where nails are painted a base color then taped off using a circular piece of tape at the moon or lunula of your nail.  Then painted with a different color to create the look of a half moon.

Example of Half Moon nail art (Sourced here)

Haul: getting a large amount of items all at once.

Helmer: popular among the nail polish community for being a convenient and organized way to store nail polish, especially since the height of the drawers are perfect for holding the majority of polishes standing up without issue. A Helmer is a small set of drawers from IKEA, similar to a file cabinet, and can store upwards of 500 polishes. The Helmer comes in several colors and is popular with American bloggers. Product link here.

Hidden Shimmer:  a type of shimmer that is apparent in the bottle but mostly or completely disappears when it dries on the nail.

Example of Hidden Shimmer (Sourced here)

Holo: short for "holographic." Holo(graphic) polishes have very fine microshimmer-like material (Spectraflair) that gives off a rainbow-like effect when viewed at different angles and in different lighting. Holo can be either linear or scattered.

Example of holo(graphic) polish (Sourced here)

HTF: stands for Hard To Find.  These are polishes that are usually discontinued or limited edition and in high demand.  Therefore sometimes costing a lot of money (in eBay or swap groups.) Example: “OPI DS Glamour for sale. HTF.”

Hungry Glitter: comes in two forms: (1) Glitter polish whose glitter particles are large enough and/or dense enough to creates spaces between particles. When a topcoat layer is applied, the topcoat fills in those spaces, leaving the textured surface intact. Imagine a jar full of large rocks and then adding sand; the sand falls through and fills the gaps rather than just sit at the top. It may take two or more coats of topcoat to achieve a smooth surface. (2) Glitter polish with large glitter pieces (see "Chunky Glitter") that creates an uneven surface, requiring many coats to achieve a smooth surface.

Example of "Chunky Glitter" that is a Hungry Glitter (Sourced here)


Indie or Indie Polish: a handmade/hand-mixed polish usually sold by the creators themselves on websites such as Etsy, Big Cartel, etc.  (There are also 3rd party websites that sell polishes on behalf of the creator such as,, etc.)

Example of Indie Polish by KBShimmer (Sourced here)

ISO: stands for In Search Of.  Used in polish sale groups, forums, etc. when a person is looking for a certain item.  Example: “ISO Lynnderella Liquid Valentine.”


Jelly: a type of finish that has a squishy appearance and sheer application.

Example of a Jelly Polish (Sourced here)

Jelly Sandwich: a technique where you layer jelly polish, a glitter polish and then another coat of the jelly polish on top.

Example of a Jelly Sandwich manicure (Video tutorial here)



Latex (Latex Barrier, Liquid Latex, Liquid Palisade, Latex Tape, Poli Peel, etc.): a product (sold by many different brands or you can make your own) that is painted around the nail bed to protect the skin while creating nail art that is easily peeled off when finished.

Example of liquid latex (Sourced here)

Lemming: Per Urban Dictionary: “A lemming refers to a purchase/wished-for-item which results from reading an enthusiastic post about a new fabulous product. Overcome by compulsion, readers follow like lemmings diving off a cliff.”  Can be a noun or verb.  Examples: “That polish is one of my biggest lemmings!” or “I am totally lemming the new OPI Collection after reading her blog post!”

Linear Holographic: When a polish has smaller particles creating a strong holographic effect.

Example of Linear Holographic polish (Sourced here)


Manicure/Mani: a cosmetic treatment of the hands involving cutting, shaping, and often painting of the nails, removal of the cuticles, and softening of the skin.

Mani Shot/Mani Bomb: similar to a bath bomb but in a smaller size, it’s a concoction that, when placed in water, fizzes and bubbles.  It’s used to moisturize and soothe hands and/or feet.

Matte: a type of finish this results in dull, non-shiny look.

Example of Matte Finish (Sourced here)

Matte Top Coat:  a top coat (various brands make matte top coats) that can go over any polish to give it a matte finish.

Mainstream: a polish made by a large company such as Revlon, OPI, China Glaze, etc. Usually sold in drug and/or department stores and many online retailers.

Melmer: a smaller, particle board version of a Helmer.  Found at Michael’s Craft Store.

Example of a Melmer (Sourced here)

Metallic: a type of finish that is high in shine and mirror-like. Due to its formula, it can sometimes show brush-strokes or nail imperfections.

Example of a Metallic nail polish (Sourced here)

Multichrome: a polish that shifts between multiple colors depending on the angle and lighting.

Example of a Multichrome polish (Sourced here)


Nail Buddy (aka Polish Buddy, Polish Pal or Swap Buddy): a friend or acquaintance in the nail polish community who sends you polishes and/or other items (often times these are items that you can not get in your area) in exchange for payment.  Or a friend or acquaintance in the nail polish community with whom you swap items with. (Also see: “Swap”).

Nail Mail: can be one of three things: (1) when you receive nail polish in the mail that you may have ordered online or through a blog sale; (2) when you and a friend (or nail buddy) swap polishes, nail supplies and/or treats and exchange them in the mail; (3) when you pay a friend or nail buddy to buy polishes for you that they send to you in the mail. Example: “I can’t wait to get home, I’m expecting nail mail [from Jane]!”

No-Buy: an allotted amount of time picked out by an individual, during which they will not buy any nail polish. Example: “I can’t get the new collection because I’m on a no-buy.”

NOTD: stands for Nails Of The Day.  Example: “My NOTD are KBShimmer Hex Appeal!”

NP: stands for "Nail Polish".


Ombre: a look created by using two methods:

(1) 5 polishes in the same color family but just “one-off” from each other painted individual on each nail from lightest to darkest to create a gradual color change (Often confused with Gradient Nails).

Example of traditional Ombre manicure (Sourced here)

(2) Three or more polishes of the same color but "one-off" from each other in shade are painted on a sponge from lightest to darkest to create a gradual color change. This is technically also a gradient, but an Ombre only uses one color in many shades, unlike gradients. Thus any ombre can be a gradient, but not all gradients can be ombre.

Example of a sponged Ombre (Video Tutorial here)


Pedicure/Pedi: a cosmetic treatment of the feet and toenails involving cutting, often painting of the nails, and softening of the skin.

Peel-Off Basecoat: a type of basecoat, usually used under hard to remove glitter polishes that peels off the nail without damaging the nail bed.  These are either store bought (OPI and essence make one) or made at home.

Example of Peel-Off Basecoat Method (Sourced here)

Pond Manicure: a nail art technique where a jelly nail polish and nail art is layered multiple times creating depth and dimension to the overall look.

Example of a Pond Manicure tutorial (Sourced here)



Reverse Gradient: see "Gradient." A nail art technique where a gradient is applied to the nail, then a design barrier (such as nail vinyls) is applied to the nail. The same gradient is then applied in reverse over the design barrier, after which the barrier is removed followed by a topcoat. Another method is to apply the reverse gradient by Stamping Gradient.

Example of a Reverse Gradient using the barrier method (Sourced here)

Example of a Reverse Gradient Using Nail Vinyls (Sourced Here)

Reverse Stamping: A nail art technique using the basics of stamping but “coloring-in” the underside of the stamped design before placing on the nail.

Example of Reverse Stamping (Sourced here)

Ruffian: a manicure style where nails are painted one color and then painted a different color on top but with a gap between the cuticle and nail walls and the second polish to show the polish underneath in a crescent shape.

Example of Ruffian Nails (Sourced here)


Saran Wrap Technique (aka “Glad Wrap Technique” or “Shrink Wrap Technique”): a form of nail art  that creates a two-tone marble-like design using saran wrap (not to be confused with water marbling.) There are 2 techniques used to create this look:

(1) Paint your nails as you normally would and allow it to dry, then paint a different color on top and using a scrunched up ball of saran wrap, lightly dab the top layer of polish while it’s still wet.

(2) Paint your nails as you normally would and allow it to dry, then take a scrunched up ball of saran wrap and brush some polish on it.  Then, touch the saran wrap to the nail.

Both methods allow for the color underneath to show through.  Top it off with a top coat to even out the look.  

Example of the result of the Saran Wrap technique (Video tutorial here)

Satin: a type of finish that gives the polish a luster that is a blend between shine and matte.

Example of a Satin finish (Sourced here)

Scattered Holographic: a polish that has larger and less dense holographic particles.  Often appearing to look more like a shimmer polish.

Scraper: a product made of thin, flat plastic that is used to scrape the excess polish off of a stamping plate while doing stamping nail art.  It could be something as simple as an old gift card or credit card, or a piece of plastic specifically designed for this.

Shattered Glass: a nail art technique using iridescent cellophane wrapping cut in small pieces and laid on the nail to create a “shattered glass” effect.

Example of Shattered Glass effect (Sourced here)

Sheer: a type of finish that is intended to be translucent when applied. Some Sheers can be built up to opacity after three or more coats, but they are meant to be worn transparent.

(Source link broken)

Shimmer: a type of finish with shimmer, usually in a colored base.

Example of a Shimmer polish (Sourced here)

Shrinkage: something that may happen to a new manicure after a fast-dry topcoat is applied.  The polish underneath shrinks away from the tips (and/or cuticles) of the nails making it look like there is obvious wear/tip wear. A common problem for many people when using Seche Vite topcoat.

Example of Shrinkage (Sourced here)

Shreds: medium to large-size shredded glitters that come in a variety of colors and are not uniform in shape.

Skittle: a manicure where there is a different color on each nail.

Example of a Skittle Manicure (Sourced here)

Skittlette: a manicure where there is a variety of different colors and designs on each nail or on accent nails.

Example of a Skittlette Manicure (Sourced here)

Spectraflair: from Wikipedia:
“A specialized diffractive colorant for automotive and industrial coatings that show multiple rainbow colors as the viewing angle changes. This pigment is based on microscopic aluminum flakes layered with glass and inorganic pigments. The combination of SpectraFlair’s rainbow-like color, aluminum core, and fine particle size creates an iridescent, liquid silver metallic appearance.”  Spectaflair is often used by indie makers or frankeners to create linear or scattered holographic polishes.

Spun Sugar: a nail art technique where semi-dried nail polish is strung over the tops of your nails. Similar to the spun sugar technique used in baking.

Example of Spun Sugar Technique (Sourced here)

Stamper: a nail art tool used to transfer stamping designs, usually with a silicone top/head that is fitted in a metal or plastic handle. May be opaque or clear stamping head.

(Sourced here)

Stamping: a nail art technique using stamping polish and stamping plates (see definitions below), a scraper and a stamper (see definitions above) where a design is transferred from the plate to the stamper and then from the stamper to the nail.

Example of Nail Stamping

Stamping Marble: a nail art technique using regular polishes blobbed onto a stamper and then dabbed onto the nail to create a marbled effect.

Example of Stamped Marble (Sourced here)

Stamping Plates: metal plates with designs etched into them that are used for stamping nail art. There are many different brands that make them and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs.

Example of a MoYou London Stamping Plate (Sourced here)

Stamping Polish: nail polish that is very opaque and thicker than regular polish and is used specifically for stamping nail art. They are generally only ideal for stamping and not for painting your nails, many being prone to staining. There are many different brands that make stamping polish and it comes in many colors and finishes.

Stash: a person’s personal collection of nail polish.

Striping Tape (aka Nail Art Tape): very thin, colored tape.  Used for nail art or to create precise lines when creating nail art.

Example of Striping Tape applied to nail for design (Sourced here)

Example of Striping Tape applied & removed for nail art (Sourced here)

Swap: when you and a friend (or nail buddy) swap polishes, nail supplies and/or treats.  (Also see “Nail Mail.”)

Swaplifter:  A person who makes a deal with another person to swap nail polish or goods but they never hold up their end of the deal.  Example: “I sent the polishes to her but it turns out she is a swaplifter because I never got polishes from her!”

Swatch: when a polish is applied to one or more nails (or on a swatch wheel) for a brief period of time.  Usually done in order to photograph it for a blog post.

Swatch Book: a "book" that when opened displays rows and columns of fake nails that have applied nail polish. Used to display swatched polish or nail art.

Example of Swatch Book (My Own)

Swatch Stick: a plastic stick with a fake nail attached to it.  Used to swatch polish or practice nail art.

Example of Swatch Sticks (Sourced here)

Swatch Wheel (aka Nail Wheel): a plastic circle with multiple fake nails attached to it.  Used to swatch polish or practice nail art.

Example of a Swatch Wheel (Sourced here)


Texture: a type of finish that purposely has a gritty, bumpy, lumpy and/or other textured appearance. The texture can feel like anything from leather to rough sandpaper.

Example of Texture nail polish (Sourced here)

Thermal: a type of nail polish that changes color when exposed to warm or cold.

Example of a Thermal polish (Sourced here)

Tip Wear: when the nail polish rubs off of the tips of your nails from everyday wear.


Undie(s): polish you would wear underneath another polish. Usually used under a glitter polish that has a clear base or a polish that is too sheer to be worn alone.

Untried(s): polish(es) that you have purchased but remain unused. Example: “I got that collection over a month ago and it’s still in my untrieds.”


VHTF: stands for Very Hard To Find.  Example: “Enchanted Polish Marge’s Blue Beehive is VHTF.”

VNL: stands for Visible Nail Line. When you wear a polish (often sheers or jellies) and the free edge of your nail can be seen through the polish.

Example of Visible Nail Line (Sourced here)


Watercolor: a type of nail art involving five main methods:

(1) A small blot of polish is put on the nail, then while still wet, a drop of acetone is put on top to spread the polish out in a watercolor effect.

Example of acetone watercolor technique (Sourced here)

(2) A matte topcoat is layered over polish and once fully dry, Sharpie markers (Sharpie fabric markers work best) are used to apply marks to the mattified nail, after which rubbing alcohol (90% best) is applied to the marks to dilute and spread the ink.

Example of Sharpie Watercolor technique (Sourced here)

(3) A matte topcoat is layered over polish and once fully dry, use water in actual watercolor paints or diluted acrylic paints to apply as if painting watercolor.

(Sourced here)

(4) The sheer technique involves diluted polish, jelly polish, or sheer polish to create layers to create a design.

(Sourced here)

(5) The plastic bag technique involves blobbing colors onto the nail and gently placing and pulling away a piece of plastic bag (video below).

Example of the plastic bag technique for Watercolor manicure (Sourced here)

Additional methods:

Example of a Salt Watercolor manicure (Video tutorial here)

Example using Sponge Watercolor technique (Tutorial video here)

Water Decals/Waterslide Decals: a nail art product. A design is printed on a special kind of material and placed against a paper backing.  You soak it in warm water and place the decal on your nail. The decal can be a full nail or small design.

Example of Water Slide decals over pink polish (Sourced here)

Waterfall: a type of nail are where thin stripes are painted starting at the base of the nail and fad out toward (but not at) the tips of the nails to create the resemblance of a waterfall.

Example of a Waterfall manicure (Sourced here)

Watermarble: a type of nail art where drops of polish are added to water and swirled and/or stroked with a fine detail tool.  You then place your nail in (one at a time) for a marbled effect.

Example of Water Marble Tutorial (Original tutorial here)

Wrap Your Tips: the act of brushing polish over the tips of your nails to create a seal and "finished" look. This significantly extends wear time and helps reduce early chipping.

Example of Wrapping Your Tips (Sourced here)