Whether you’re headed to the salon or giving yourself an at-home manicure, you may come to notice that there’s more than one type of nail polish to choose from. Yup—aside from the traditional formula you’ve been using since you were a child, there are actually six types of nail polish worth knowing. Some, like gel polish, you may be familiar with while others, like shellac, may be totally new territory. Whatever the case, you can consider this your guide to the seven different types of nail polish you should know.
Let’s start with the basics—no pun intended. Your basic nail polish is what you’ve been using since before you wore makeup. It’s offered in a variety of finishes—from natural to matte to holographic. This type of nail polish isn’t the most long-lasting—you can expect to make it through a week (sometimes less) without becoming victim to a chipped mani.
Another popular type is gel polish. This is a hard gel that your nail technician will apply (or you if you’ve mastered an at-home gel mani) overtop your bare nail. Gel polish is used in conjunction with a UV light to cure (AKA set) it. You can expect it to last for around two weeks. It can be used to extend your nail shape and give you a longer length, like acrylics.
Speaking of acrylic nails, this is another common polish type. Acrylic polish is made from a combination of liquid and powder. This mixture is applied onto your bare nail. As it dries, acrylic nail polish hardens and can be filed to your desired shape. It can also be used to extend the length of your natural nail. Acrylics also last around two weeks.
If you’re wondering what type of nail polish is best for your nails, allow us to point you in the direction of breathable polish. In short, breathable nail polish allows oxygen and water to pass through your polish and to your nails, rather than creating a barrier between your nails and the elements. This water-permeable polish will give your nails a chance to, well, breathe, which is of utmost importance if you find you can’t go without having a perfectly painted mani. Get more of the details in our article, What Is Breathable Nail Polish and Should You Be Using It?. Breathable nail polish tends to have the same wearability as the basic option we mentioned earlier, lasting around one week.
Think of a hybrid between acrylic and gel nail polish and you have PolyGel. Essentially, this polish was designed for nail technicians to use to give a flawless manicure. It has a gel-like consistency that’s applied on top of your bare nails using an acrylic brush. Then, it can be shaped to your liking and cured with an LED or UV light. PolyGel nail polish is one of the longest-lasting polish options. It can last up to 21 days with proper maintenance.
6. Dip Powder
Dip powder nail polish is another type that has a long lifespan. In fact, it can last around three weeks to a month, which explains why it’s become such a polish option. To use dip powder polish, your nail technician will first apply a base coat, then a layer of pigmented powder. This process will be repeated (with excess powder being removed each time) until you’re left with an opaque manicure. To finish it off, a layer of clear powder and a sealant is applied.
Last but not least, we have Shellac. Just like PoyGel polish is a hybrid between gel and acrylic, Shellac nail polish is a cross between gel and basic formulas. It’s applied to bare nails and cured with a UV light. Shellac nail polish can’t be used to extend the length of your nails. Typically, you can expect this type of polish to last around two weeks.
Next up: Now that you’re fluent in the different types of nail polish, here’s How To Make Your Nail Polish Last Longer.