Nail Lacquer Finish Guide: Meet 14 Important Finishes!

So, you’re reading a review on a nail lacquer. You see it has a crème finish, or jelly, or metallic, and in your mind you are saying… “what!?” This was me about 5 years ago too. As my addiction to nail lacquers grew, my need for certain textures and finishes grew too.

For example, I am a crème and jelly fanatic.  I hate crackle and most sheer finishes.

With the help of my nail editor Janice (she provided all the photos, let’s thank her!) I created a guide spotlighting 14 important nail lacquer finishes. This will help you identify what finishes you love the most, and help you on your way to becoming a seasoned nail lacquer addict.


Crème  is by far the most common finish and my favorite of them all. Creme finishes are without glitter, shimmer or texture. Cremes tend to apply well with two coats and have a shiny finish.

Lacquer pictured: NARS Amchoor


Shimmer finished lacquers are colored with an added hit of glitter. The glitter tends to have a very fine texture and normally it’s silver.  Shimmers also do well with two coats.

Lacquer pictured: Revlon Street Wear Forest


Matte finished lacquers dry without any shine to them. They dry the fastest of all textures. Neons tend to fall under the matte finish. It’s rare you find a true neon shade that does NOT dry matte. Mattes tend to be streaky and you find yourself needing an average of three coats.

Lacquer pictured: ManGlaze The Death Tar

sand 2

Sand textured lacquers is one of the newest finishes to hit the market (and I suspect will crash and burn like shatter). A sand like particle is suspended in colored lacquer making the finish bumpy and matte.  Sand finish lacquers work well in one coat.

Lacquer pictured:  Zoya Stevie


Jelly is a popular finish amongst polish aficionados. Jelly finish lacquers are very shiny and where they make up for shine they lack opacity, making the jelly sandwich a relevant term. Glitters fair well when suspended in jelly finished lacquers because of the lack of opacity.

Lacquer pictured: New York Summer Hot Rocket Pink


Shatter was born in 2012 and died in 2012. Shatter dried on the nails in a broken glass like pattern. Shatters tend to be matte in finish as well.  Shatter can be a chore to apply because the base color had to be completely dry to apply shatter on top.

Lacquer pictured: Cover Girl Crackle Ghost over MAC Baby Goth Girl


Holographic is another popular finish in the lacquer world. Holographic lacquers contain a light reflective glitter that turns rainbow. Indie brands are infamous for their holographic lacquers.

Lacquer pictured: Chanel Holographic


Sheer finished lacquers are self explanatory. They work well for French and American manicures.

Lacquer pictured: Essie Rock Candy


Pearl finish lacquers have a satin look to them because these lacquers normally have a very finely milled white glitter added to the base color.

Lacquer pictured: Chanel Antilope


Chrome finish lacquers have a very strong resemblance to actual metal. They tend to come in shades of gold, silver, copper and other metals.

Lacquer pictured: China Glaze Millenium


Glitter finish lacquers come in the widest assortment of any other lacquer. Glitter finishes tend to be rough and gritty like liquid sand.

Lacquer pictured: HARE King of Carat Flowers over Essie Lilacism

duo chrome

Duo chrome finish lacquers change colors thanks to light reflecting off the lacquer. Duo chromes tend to be very bold and obvious shifts and can change 2-3 colors.

Lacquer Pictured: Nubar Peacock Feathers


Iridescent is not to be confused with duo chromes because the flash of color tends to be very soft and not as obvious as duo chromes.

Lacquer pictured: Illamasqua Hemlock


Magnetic finished lacquers contain metal shavings that you hold a special magnet to in order to create special magnetic patterns.

Lacquer pictured: Sinful Colors Polar Opposites

Of all the finishes shown, what is your favorite?

More about Aprill

Aprill Coleman is an award-winning beauty, lifestyle and wellness blogger and freelance writer based in Jackson, Mississippi.

2 thoughts on “Nail Lacquer Finish Guide: Meet 14 Important Finishes!

  1. Lydia328

    Jelly all day!


  2. Yolanda Beatty



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