Different Types of Nail Polish Finishes

Different Types of Nail Polish Finishes

Hey everyone, hope you’ve had a great weekend!

I badly need a manicure—I have on an already-chipping OPI Number One Nemesis polish on my nails, but we’re staying at a different house right now so I don’t have my nail stuff with me and I can’t go to a nail salon. I was mentally scanning my little polish collection at home and that got me thinking about the different types of nail polish finishes I’ve learned about and come across in my growing addiction to nail polishes.

Well, here are the different types of nail polish finishes that I know of:

Different Types of Nail Polish Finishes

  • Matte 

This nail polish finish has a completely gloss-free and shine-free appearance. There are loads of matte nail polishes to be found out there, but this finish can also be achieved using a matte top coat, like Essie’s Matte About You (used in the photo above), which transforms any glossy polish into a matte one.


  • Creme
The most common and simplest finish, for me, that’s creme. These have no shimmer, glitter, or out-of-the-ordinary particle or effect. Just color with a, well, cream-like appearance. Just in case you need further illustration, check out the photo above of OPI Thanks a WindMillion, which is a beautiful, muted green creme!
 Different Types of Nail Polish Finishes
  • Shimmer
Pretty much self-explanatory, a nail polish with a shimmer finish contains small, reflective particles. Often a polish can contain various colors of shimmers, or just one. The color of the shimmers can be the same or similar as the base, or contrasting to it. The size of the shimmers can be very fine and only visible upon close inspection, or bigger and more evident upon first look.
Different Types of Nail Polish Finishes
China Glaze Optical Illusion. I really like this glitter bomb of a polish.
  • Glitter
Glitter differentiates from shimmer in that it contains larger reflective particles, that are often also more shiny and overall look pretty flashy. I personally love glitter. They’re great for a pick-me-up and when I want some bling on my nails. Now glitter comes in different shapes in sizes as well. So there are polishes that have round, hex, bar, square, and even star and heart-shaped glitter!
Different Types of Nail Polish Finishes
Swatch of China Glaze Camisole, a frost finish
  • Frost
Big in the 80s, frost finish polishes are composed of very fine, cool-toned shimmer particles that give the polish a frosty appearance. Not one of my faves but I don’t totally hate it.
Different Types of Nail Polish Finishes
  • Holo
Now this one I love! Holo finishes contain fine, multicolored particles that give the polish a seemingly holographic effect when it’s viewed in bright light or direct sunlight. These are a treat to see on the nails and fun to wear, in my opinion.
Different Types of Nail Polish Finishes
  • Jelly
This sounds so yummy, and can look yummy too! Or at least it does to me. I like polishes with jelly finishes because they look all squishy on the nails. As the name implies, this finish is characterized by a semi-transparent, jelly-like appearance. This is often sheer and has a shiny, plush finish.
  • Duochrome
Yet another one of the finishes I’m fond of, a duochrome polish can flash two or more different colors when it shifts angles. I find these cool and while away time looking at it shift colors when I’m driving and stuck in traffic. I can’t believe I don’t have a single review of a duochrome polish yet (hence, no pic). Will have one soon!
Different Types of Nail Polish Finishes
  • Suede/Sand
Suede and Sand finishes are the same thing to me, identified by a matte finish packed with tiny, fine sand-like shimmers and a slightly gritty, or sand-like texture.
  • Metallic
Another self-explanatory one, these, to me, tend to look like molten metal on nails. Highly reflective and often come in shades of gold and silver. Essie has just released a collection of incredible-looking metallics, called the Mirror Metallics Collection, which I’ll definitely be getting one of the polishes from, so I’ll have a photo here soon for an example of a metallic polish.
Different Types of Nail Polish Finishes
This is Cult Nails Seduction, a flakie with a purple base
  • Flakie
I am still not tired of flakies! These polishes contain flakes that flash iridescent, and sometimes shifting colors. These may have a clear or sheer base. I love these!

Whew! I know probably I missed some finishes, but I chose to include the ones I’m really familiar with and have actually used. Lemme know what else I should add!

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4 Responses to Different Types of Nail Polish Finishes

  1. Samantha says:

    I like this article, Ida! :D
    I don’t like frost finishes now. There was a time when all I used to use was frost finishes, and I guess I just got bored of them!
    I am into creme finishes these days, and mild shimmer. Glitter I love, but I don’t want to wear it to work, so I don’t wear it at all! :(
    I want sand and matte nail polishes. I can’t find a matte top coat around here nor can I find any matte nail polish :(

    • Ida says:

      Thanks girl! When you have like a mini vacation from work then you can do glitter! Life’s too short not to wear what you really wanna wear. :) Ooh, that’s too bad! Here there are loads of cheap ones at the mall…in case you come across an Etude House they have matte polishes and a matte top coat too.

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