What Is Nail Lacquer? A Comprehensive Guide to Lacquer Nail Polish

July 25, 2023 6 min read

nail lacquer

In the colorful and creative world of nail care, there are almost endless possibilities to decorate and tend to our nails. Ranging from standard nail polishes to gel nails and now nail lacquers, the spectrum of choices can be overwhelming. Each product boasts unique qualities, offering users a different experience. 

Understanding these differences can significantly improve our nail care routines, ensuring we make informed choices that cater to our specific needs. This article shines a spotlight on one such product: nail lacquer. But what is nail lacquer exactly, and how does it compare to other nail products?

Nail lacquer is not just another term for regular nail polish. It is a distinct product with specific attributes that make it a favorite for many beauty enthusiasts and professionals alike.

By delving into the comprehensive world of nail lacquers, we will uncover what sets it apart from the others. Welcome to this journey of exploration and discovery, unraveling the secrets of durable, vibrant, and resilient nail lacquer.


Nail Lacquer vs. Nail Polish vs. Nail Varnish

Understanding what a nail lacquer is begins with breaking down its basic components and taking into account its unique characteristics.

The term 'lacquer' originates from the process of 'lacquering,' which refers to applying a hard, protective finish to materials. Similarly, nail lacquer offers a hard-wearing finish that is less likely to chip or peel compared to regular nail polish, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a longer-lasting manicure. 

Its formulation, which includes a mix of nitrocellulose dissolved in a solvent, plasticizers, and pigments for color, offers a luscious, high-shine finish that is distinctively characteristic of nail lacquer.

Furthermore, nail lacquer is not synonymous with nail varnish. While they are both used for similar purposes, they differ in formulation and finish. Varnish usually has a thinner consistency and tends to provide a subtler shine compared to the vibrant finish offered by lacquer.

When it comes to distinguishing traditional nail polish and nail lacquer, it's important to note that while all nail lacquers can be considered a type of nail polish, not all nail polishes are lacquers. Nail polish typically lack the hard-wearing, chip-resistant, thick-coating qualities of lacquer, making them less durable.

To summarize, nail lacquer is a hardy, lustrous type of nail polish that is formulated to offer long-lasting wear and a high-gloss finish. It sits somewhere between regular nail polish and gel polish on the nail product spectrum, offering more durability than the former but less commitment than the latter. Whether you're a manicure enthusiast looking for a chip-resistant option or someone who simply enjoys a glossy, salon-quality finish at home, nail lacquer could be the perfect product for you.

History of Nail Lacquers

The colorful journey of nail adornment dates back thousands of years, but the story of nail lacquers, as we know them today, has more recent roots. The early 20th century saw the emergence of standard nail polishes, and by the 1920s, women were painting their nails to beautify their look and express their style. However, these polishes were far from the durable, high-gloss lacquers we have today.

The evolution of modern nail lacquers can be traced back to the automotive industry. In the 1920s, car paint inspired the creation of colored nail enamels. The introduction of nitrocellulose as a primary component in such a nail enamel revolutionized the industry, leading to the production of a shiny, resilient product - the nail lacquer. 

It wasn't until the mid-20th century that nail lacquers started gaining traction, becoming more popular as they offered an improvement over standard nail polishes in terms of longevity and smooth and glossy finish.

Nail lacquers evolved over time, with formulations continually improving and various brands diversifying their color ranges. The market for nail lacquers expanded dramatically, fueled by consumer desire for salon-quality, durable manicures at home. Today, these products are a staple in the beauty industry, providing a long-lasting, high-gloss finish unmatched by traditional nail polish.

Spilled nail polish

The Durability and Advantages of Lacquer Nail Polish

Nail lacquer's primary advantage, and what sets it apart from traditional nail polishes, is its exceptional durability. This superior durability stems from its unique formula because it is typically composed of resins and plasticizers, which create a hard, resistant layer on the nail that is less likely to chip or peel. Coupled with this, the presence of a higher concentration of pigments offers a more vibrant, full-bodied color payoff.

So, what is the lacquer nail polish's biggest advantage? Here are several key benefits:

  1. Long-Lasting: Thanks to its hard-wearing formula, such lacquer tends to last longer on the nails without chipping or peeling. This makes it ideal for individuals who want their manicures to withstand day-to-day activities and remain fresh-looking for a more extended period.
  2. High-Gloss Finish: Nail lacquer's high pigmentation and unique composition lend it a rich, glossy finish. This lustrous sheen can often replicate the look of a salon-quality gel manicure without the need for UV lamps or the difficulty of removal.
  3. Greater Color Payoff: As mentioned, nail lacquers often have a higher pigment concentration, which provides vibrant colors with fewer coats.
  4. Versatility: Nail lacquers are suitable for various uses, from everyday wear to special occasions, thanks to their wide range of colors and finishes.

Let's put it this way: nail lacquer and regular nail polish are like apples and oranges, they both have their merits. Sure, regular nail polish gives you lots of different colors to play with, but it doesn't quite measure up when it comes to staying power and resistance to chipping. If you're on the hunt for a nail product that can handle the hustle and bustle of daily life while offering a vibrant, glossy finish, nail lacquer takes the cake - no question about it.


A Step-By-Step Guide to Applying Nail Lacquer

Perfecting the application of nail lacquer can be the difference between a salon-quality manicure and a mediocre one. Here's a step-by-step guide to applying nail lacquer for maximum durability and shine:

  1. Preparation: Start by cleaning your nails thoroughly and removing any old polish. Then, file your nails to your desired shape.
  2. Base Coat: Apply a thin layer of base coat to your nails. This helps the lacquer adhere better to your nails, thereby increasing its longevity.
  3. Application: Apply the first thin coat of nail lacquer, starting from the base of your nail and moving towards the tip. Let it dry completely before applying a second coat to ensure maximum coverage and durability.
  4. Top Coat: Apply a clear protective layer over the dried lacquer. This step adds some extra nail protection, further boosting the shine and longevity of the lacquer.

While following these steps, avoid common mistakes like shaking the bottle, which can create air bubbles and disrupt the smooth finish. Instead, roll it gently between your palms to mix the lacquer. Also, avoid thick coats as they take longer to dry and are more prone to smudging.

To maintain the lacquer's shine and longevity, regularly apply a clear top coat every few days and moisturize your cuticles. This will prevent chipping and keep your nails looking glossy and fresh. Remember, proper application and maintenance can significantly extend the life of your nail lacquer, leaving you with a beautiful manicure that stands the test of time.


To conclude, diving into the world of nail lacquer unveils a treasure trove of possibilities for nail care and beauty. Offering more than just an expanded palette of colors, nail lacquer promises durability, a high-gloss finish, and remarkable resistance to everyday wear and tear. This makes it a preferred choice for those seeking long-lasting, salon-quality manicures from the comfort of their homes.

With a better understanding of what lacquer nail polish is, how it differs from regular nail polish and nail varnish, and how to correctly apply it for maximum shine and longevity, you're well-equipped to make an informed choice. By avoiding common application mistakes and committing to a consistent maintenance routine, you can maximize the benefits of this product.

The world of nail lacquer is dynamic, vibrant, and resilient, just like the product itself. Whether you're a nail care novice or a seasoned enthusiast, lacquer offers a chance to elevate your nail game, promising beauty, resilience, and shine in every stroke.

Here at ella+mila, we offer various types of nail polish, including lacquers, in different colors and styles so that everyone can find what they are looking for. Nails painted with our products will last as long as possible because they are made from high-quality components and with the use of modern, most effective techniques.

So, go ahead, venture into this exciting realm and explore the colorful possibilities that ella+mila nail lacquer brings to your fingertips!