Showing up everywhere from automotive paint to mannequins to a myriad of beauty products (including lip colors and even hair products), the no-shine matte look has recently exploded in the nail industry too. More than a dozen professional nail polish brands have launched either a matte color line, a matte top coat, or both — and many of these launches were announced in just the last few months. “It’s all about a unique texture on the nails and a matte finish is very fashion-forward,” says Essie Weingarten, founder and president of Essie Cosmetics; Weingarten developed Essie Cosmetics’ first matte formula to match the matte finish of Mercedes-Benz Black Series during last season’s Fashion Week.

Once relegated to men, a matte finish is now being touted by women everywhere as a fresh, edgy, and confident style. The lack of glossiness increases the impact of the polish color itself, letting it “wow” without any distractions.

On a microscopic scale, a matte finish has a rough surface, explains Doug Schoon, chief scientific advisor for CND. A matte polish or top coat formula will include an ingredient, usually some kind of powder (like silica), to make the polish scatter light rather than reflecting it back to the eye. “Mirror finishes reflect light back to the eye, while matte finishes scatter light,” Schoon says.

Because the formula and the look are different, experts offer their advice for how best to apply these products:

> Work quickly, because matte polishes dry more quickly than traditional polishes. “The ingredient added to cause the matte finish does not need to dry. Therefore there is less solvent in the coating, so it dries faster,” Schoon says. Mattes will usually feel thicker during application, he adds.

> Don’t use a top coat or drying products during application. A glossy top coat will ruin the matte finish, making it appear glossy instead. You can try using a matte top coat (normally used to turn a glossy polish matte), which will keep the finish but may distort the color.

> Experts differ on whether to apply a base coat first or not. (Check the bottle to see if your manufacturer makes a recommendation.) On Zoya Nail Polish’s blog, the company says, “If you apply a matte polish to a base coat that has not fully dried, what occurs is that the polish and the base coat dry at completely different rates causing problems shrinking, rigidness, and a goopy mess that may take all day to dry.” The manufacturer goes on to say you can use a base coat with its matte polishes, but you must wait for the base coat to dry.

> Advise your clients that a matte polish will usually not wear as long as a traditional glossy polish (especially if you’re not using base and top coats).

> Don’t apply cuticle oils or lotions to the fingernails during a matte manicure. This will make the surface reflect more light, which will make it look glossy. However, once the oil wears off, the matte effect will return.

> Celebrity manicurist Elle, who helps create Barielle’s color lines, recommends applying a matte top coat with a striper brush to create texture between glossy and matte finishes for an eye-catching new nail look.

> Suzi Weiss-Fischman, executive VP and artistic director of OPI, suggests wearing OPI Matte together with the traditional gloss formula of the same OPI color (like on this month’s cover). “You can do a matte nail with a matching gloss tip, or a gloss nail with a matte edge. It’s like mixing different textures of the same color in an outfit.”

View a slideshow of available matte polishes and top coats by clicking here.


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