Many years ago, I was a nail polish newbie, and I know from personal experience that some of the odd nail terms can be confuzzling. So here’s my handy little cheat-sheet to nail tech terminology…
Acetone: Solvent used to break down and remove nail polish and acrylic nails. A chemical in the ketone family. Acetone is neither better nor worse than non-acetone polish removers.
Acrylic nails: Two-part system of liquid (monomer) and powder (polymer). This type of product can be applied with one color of acrylic, pink and white acrylic for a Permanent French look, or can be applied with colored acrylic, glitter acrylic or in any combination. Commonly called “fake nails”.
Scientific details on Acrylic: Hardened and cured coating that comes from a precise mix ratio of liquid monomer and powdered polymer. Most acrylic monomers are made primarily from Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA). Polymers contain approximately 70% EMA and 30% MMA (Methyl Methacrylate), and a very small percentage of initiator, such as Benzoyl Peroxide. Note: MMA is not harmful when it is a solid (powder/polymer), but is considered harmful in its’ liquid form (monomer). Nail techs should avoid acrylic systems with MMA monomer.
Almost-black: a polish color that looks black or very, very close to black in normal light. In sunshine or bright indoor lighting you can typically see some hint of navy, purple or other dark color tinted in the polish.
American Manicure: A variation of the French Manicure (FM) where more a more natural white (i.e. not as bright as the white used in a French Manicure). The nail bed itself is typically colored in a more sheer manner (versus a more opaque nail bed in a FM).
Base coat: Typically a clear nail formula that is applied under colored nail polish. Base coats help prevent yellowing/staining of the nails, ease in polish removal, and can help increase length of wear. For best results, match your base coat to your polish – if your nail polish is Big 3 Free, use a base coat that is too; if it’s Big 3 polish, use a base coat that has formaldehyde. Popular base coats include CND’s Sticky and Dermelect’s Launchpad.
Big 3 Free: Refers to nail polish formulas that do not contain toluene, formaldehyde, and DBP (dibutyl phthalate). Acronym – B3F. For further information check out All Lacquered Up’s guide to the Big 3 Chemicals.
Chevron: In nails, refers to a style of French Manicure. Instead of following the natural curve of the nail tip with white or colored polish, an precise ^ (an inverted V) is used.
A diagram of fingernail parts
Cream or creme: A nail polish, lacquer, or enamel that has absolutely no glitter, shimmer, metallic properties.
Cuticle drag: Term used when a nail polish applies thinner, more translucent, towards the cuticle area. The color “drags” away from the cuticle area towards the main part of the nail bed. It can take several coats to cover this, or with some polishes- it never really covers.