Difference Between Nail Polish and Nail Lacquer

Is there a difference between nail polish and nail lacquer? We use these words interchangeably, but are they really the same thing? 

It can be confusing when you’re picking a nail polish and the bottle says ‘lacquer’. You’ve probably shrugged and bought it anyway. 

It does the same thing, right?

But what if there is a difference between them? We’ve done some research to find out the truth. 

Now, let’s dive into a comparison between nail polish and nail lacquer. You can decide for yourself whether they are the same or not. 

What This Article Covers:

Nail Lacquer Vs Nail Polish: Comparison

Nail Polish

Nail polish is a film-forming polymer. It’s dissolved in a solvent and is used to color or decorate nails. 

It dates back to 3000BCE China, where they used natural ingredients to create the color. It was common practice to color nails using egg whites, beeswax, vegetable dyes, etc.  

In India, it’s common to dye nails using henna as well. 

So, is nail polish paint? And if not, then what is the difference between nail polish and nail paint? Unfortunately, we won’t get into that in this article. 

Let’s take a quick look at the different types of nail polish.

Types of Nail Polish

  • This is either clear or milk-colored.
  • It’s applied to the surface of the nail before the colored polish.
  • It ensures the nail polish sticks.
  • It can strengthen nails like our Nail Armor Strengthening Basecoat.

nail lacquer vs nail polish

Breathable 2-in-1Nail Polish
  • Generally quick-drying.
  • Has a thinner consistency.
  • Multiple coats are needed.
  • Wide range of nail polish color options.



Quick-Dry Topcoat
  • This is a clear polish that goes over the colored polish.
  • It acts as a protective barrier to prevent peeling and chipping.
  • There are types of nail polish finishes like glossy or matte.
  • Doesn’t dry as fast unless it’s a fast-drying topcoat.

nail polish vs nail lacquer

Matte Topcoat 
  • Can be a regular colored polish or a topcoat.
  • Matte polish has a complete lack of shine.
  • It provides an edgier look.
  • Dark colors or pastels look best in matte. 

difference between nail polish and lacquer

Gel Nail Polish

Professional gel nail polish is a little different from regular polish or lacquer. It has an entirely different chemical composition. 

Where nail polish and lacquer are porous, gel nail polish is not. To learn more, read what is gel nail polish made of.

nail polish vs lacquer

Let’s look at gel nail polish's pros and cons. 

  • Gel nail polish is thick and becomes hard when it dries.
  • It can’t air-dry and needs to be cured under a UV lamp. That’s the main difference between gel nail polish and regular.
  • Lasts up to 3 weeks or longer.
  • Need to be soaked off with acetone. 

Nail Lacquer

Nail lacquer is also known as varnish. It has a slightly thicker composition than regular nail polish. 

what is the difference between nail lacquer and nail polish

It protects and strengthens nails while making them glossy. Lacquer tends to be more durable and long-lasting than regular polish. 

nail lacquer vs gel polish

Some lacquers have special effects like glitter or even glow-in-the-dark.

nail enamel vs nail polish


Is Nail Polish Lacquer?

We all use nail polish and nail lacquer synonymously, and it’s understandable. They are very similar and in truth, most nail polishes are also lacquers. 

Lacquer takes longer to dry, though (7-minutes or longer). Lacquer will also more likely contain some glitter or shimmer. 

The distinctions between the two are so slight that it’s hardly worth the effort. The only real plus of using lacquer is that it tends to last longer on the nails. 

Choosing Your Nail Polish

When picking your nail polish, the color is usually the biggest factor. Whether you like bold statement colors or more lowkey pastels, we all have our favorite. 

But color isn’t the only factor you need to consider when buying nail polish. Quick-dry polish, chip-free, cruelty-free, long-lasting, should be considered too. 

Here’s a look at other factors to consider before buying nail polish:

difference between nail lacquer and nail polish

  • Using a basecoat and topcoat helps your manicure last longer. Don’t skimp on these!
  • All-in-one polishes are usually not as good. The manicure won’t last as long as using 3 different types of polishes.

Remember that it’s okay to experiment with different colors, types, and finishes. You might decide that glossy isn’t for you and you prefer matte. 

Your preference could differ with different seasons too. 

Many of us choose our nail color based on our moods or outfits. The best part of wearing nail polish is that you don’t have to limit yourself. 

Nail Polish and Nail Lacquer: Summary

The difference between nail polish and nail lacquer is small. That’s why they are synonymous with each other. 

While lacquer doesn’t have as many colors as polish, it makes up for it in other areas. 

You can often find glittery or shimmery lacquer. These are great for special occasions or when you’re feeling glamorous. 

Lacquer is a bit thicker than regular polish and is slower to dry. But that’s not a problem if you use our Spritz Dry

nail lacquer vs nail polish difference

Nail polish gives nails a designer look while the lacquer is glossy. You can use them together on their own, and you can’t go wrong with either. 

Happy nail painting and stay glamorous!

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