The Finish Line

As fashion designers experiment with different textures on the runway, nail polish manufacturers keep up with an array of stylish nail polish finish offerings — from the traditional cream to the edgy suede. One nail tech shares her expertise to help you sort through all of the jargon and match the appropriate client to the appropriate finish.


Finish:  Matte

Description:  Matte finishes are flat with minimal to zero light reflection. Nearly all nail polish manufacturers offer either matte polishes or matte top coats.

Who’s That Girl? A matte polish wearer is a fashion risk-taker who is not necessarily tied to a trend. In general, matte polishes have a shorter wear time than traditional colors and finishes.


Finish: Plastic 

Description:  Plastic is not quite glossy and not quite matte, sort of like the yellow rain slicker you had as a kid. The semi-glossy look has also been likened to rubber, latex, and satin. Orly’s Plastix collection offers four fun plastic-finish shades.

Who’s That Girl? The client who would rock the plastic finish has a sense of what’s trendy, and she wants everyone to know it. Example clients include fashion stylists, musicians (male or female), fashion editors, and fashionable nail techs.

Finish:  Sheer

Description:  This finish allows the natural nail to show through. Polishes in translucent finishes are available in a variety of colors but are not supposed to hide the nail plate with a typical two coat application. Essie, SpaRitual, and Zoya make some of the most beautiful sheer colors.

Who’s That Girl? Sheers suit several client types, including those in occupations that are fashionably conservative (like a nurse or lawyer), but fashion-focused clients may also opt for sheers if they abhor seeing chips in their nails (sheer chips aren’t as noticeable) or if they don’t want their nails to outshine their other fashion accessories.

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