Finish:  Chrome/Foil

Description: This is a sunglasses-required, super-shiny finish that can be likened to the finish on a Harley Davidson exhaust pipe or a gold bangle. Deborah Lippmann offers Stardust, a platinum metallic. CND has three fab chromes in Gold, Copper, and Silver. Orly offers a three-shade Foil FX collection that really looks like shiny foil on the nail plate. Beyoncé helped popularize the chrome finish in her “Single Ladies” video. She wore Minx nail coatings in Golden Lightning. (Minx isn’t a polish, but the video is a great example of what a chrome finish looks like.)

Who’s That Girl? The chrome client loves attention, and her nails are just as important an accessory as her Louis Vuitton Courtney clutch or her Chanel fabric basket bag. Common occupations for chrome ladies include bartender, socialite, or a pop star. Also, your nail art clients will adore Minx’s patterned chrome finishes.

Finish:  Cream/Crème/Opaque

Description: Creams are a great option when you want to marbleize several colors together. The full-coverage is also great for French manicures. Be sure to use a protective base coat to avoid any nail bed staining. You can purchase a cream from your favorite polish manufacturer, as they all offer creams in a wide variety of shades. For a great orange, try Whack from Illamasqua (a U.K.- based cosmetics manufacturer) or for a bold yellow, try Bernadette Thompson’s La Bonita.

Who’s That Girl? These finishes are classics and work on everyone. Give your client “mannequin hands” by matching the color of her skin tone or feel free to use a deep color or a super bright one. Creams and opaques are especially great for clients who may suffer from darkened nail plates, as they provide full-coverage.


Finish:  Frost/Shimmer 

Description:  Shimmers are reflective and, depending on the lighting, can appear opalescent showing mostly cool tones. When envisioning a frost, imagine a mirror with a gush of warm breath. (You can still see the color but it’s slightly muted, giving it the frosty effect.) When you check with most color lines, you’ll notice every cream has a complementary shimmer or frost. Barielle has a silvery shimmer called Out Greygeous or, for a frosty red, try Sparitual’s Stiletto.

Who’s That Girl? Shimmers and frosts are more classic finishes that will work for all of your clients. A shimmer or frost is a glammed up version of your cream or opaque polish. If a creamy color is too much for a client, then point her toward its shimmery or frosty colored cousin. As a former shimmer girl, I can tell you most shimmer clients are one polish change away from becoming full-blown sparklers.

Finish:  Glitter/Sparkle

Description:  Bring on the bling! Many sparkle finishes have glitter, though the particles tend to be smaller than those in all-out glitter polishes. I find that these finishes tend to dry faster and are more resilient (get fewer chips) than other finishes. But the downside is glitter polishes may be tough to remove. Check out the Sparkle Collection by Zoya or Deborah Lippmann's glittery Across the Universe (which was used at Fall 2010 New York Fashion Week in the Lela Rose show).

Who’s That Girl? The sparkle and glitter girl is a show-off but not in the naughty sense. This client is your advertisement, so make sure her polish job is fabulous! You can nudge the shy girl client into trying glitter and sparkles on her toes. I’ll bet that before the polish dries, she’ll want it on her fingers!



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.


Finish: Suede

Description: Suede colors have a textured look, may appear nubby to the eye, and generally have minimal shine. To picture this finish, think of a soft jacket, a fabulous high heel, or felt paper. OPI has seven suede colors and suggests that your clients wear suede without a base or top coat.

Who's That Girl? The suede client is a nail polish lover because, similar to matte, this finish does not wear as long as traditional finishes. She is looking for something a little different and may want her nails to be a conversation starter.

Finish: Wax

Description: A waxy finish gives more of a muted color finish, like a hand dipped in paraffin. You can still see the skin color but it’s more translucent. Ginger + Liz Colour Collection offer two wax coat colors, and I am craving more.

Who's That Girl? Like a matte polish wearer, a wax coat wearer is a fashion risk-taker who isn’t afraid to make a statement.

Alicia Jai is a Washington D.C.-based freelance manicurist who services a salon-based and celebrity clientele.

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