What Kind of Paint Is Nail Polish?

What kind of paint is nail polish? Is it paint? Or is it something else entirely? 

Have you heard someone say that nail polish is “basically paint”, and you’ve become curious? You wouldn’t be the first to wonder.

Before we can answer your question, we should first explain what nail polish is. It’s a polish, right? Then why is it sometimes called a lacquer? And is there a difference? 

There is a slight difference between nail polish and lacquer. But it’s hardly noticeable. 

This is why we use the terms interchangeably. And since most polishes are also lacquers, there's no harm in it.

Right, back to your main question: what kind of paint is nail polish? Let’s find out. 

Is Nail Polish Paint?

Most nail polishes used today are considered lacquer, which is a type of paint. And since lacquer is paint, it means that nail polish is too. 

can you use acrylic paint as nail polish

What is the difference between nail polish and nail paint? As with nail polish and nail lacquer, there isn’t much difference. 

Nail paint is for decoration, while nail polish is for color and gloss. When nail paint dries, it doesn’t have any shine. 

If the nail paint doesn’t stain the nail, then it will most likely wash off without a topcoat. But, if you use something like henna, then the color will stain your nails. 

It will look matte when it dries, but a topcoat will fix that.

Acrylic Paint vs Nail Lacquer

As we said, nail polish is a lacquer. But what does this mean and what is a lacquer?

Lacquer is a quick-drying paint that’s used to protect wooden furniture. Think of it as a varnish. It protects and adds shine to the furniture. 

Nail polish serves the same purpose for nails. 

Lacquer dries quickly because of the solvent(s) it contains. When the solvent in the lacquer is exposed to the air, it evaporates. 

This happens with nail polish as well, since it also contains solvents. 

There are many types of nail polish and types of nail polish finishes. These include:

is nail polish paint

Can Nail Polish Paint

What is the difference between nail polish and nail paint

What is the difference between nail paint and nail polish

Can You Use Acrylic Paint as Nail Polish

There are also gel and chrome nail polish and finishes. But these use a different formula and are not lacquer. 

Acrylic paint is fast-drying too. It’s also water-soluble, which means it’s easier to clean up than nail polish. Once it dries, it’s flexible and water-resistant (at least on canvas). 

It’s one of the most versatile and least-toxic paint mediums. 

Can You Use Acrylic Paint as Nail Polish?

If you’ve wanted to experiment with acrylic paint on your nails, go for it. Acrylic paint is safe to use on your nails. There are no harmful side effects since acrylic paint is non-toxic. 

It’s great for adding nail art to your manicure. The paint allows you to take your time with your nail art too. Nail polish gets thick and lumpy when exposed to the air for too long. 

This doesn’t happen with acrylic paint. And if the paint gets a little dry? Use a spray bottle with clean water to wet it again. 

When using acrylic paint for your nails, the process is the same as a regular manicure. 

Can You Use Nail Polish as Paint

First, add your base coat, then add your paint or color nail polish. If you want, you can add nail art with acrylic paint too. Finally, complete the manicure with your top coat

is nail polish same as paint

Since acrylic paint dries fast, you won’t have to wait long to add your topcoat. And yes, the topcoat is essential. 

The paint will dry into a matte finish and it will likely wash away when your nails get wet. 

The top coat seals in the paint and protects your manicure from chipping and peeling. If you do want a matte-finish look, use a matte-topcoat instead. 

Can You Use Nail Polish as Paint?

Yes, you can use nail polish as paint. If you’ve ever spilled your polish on wooden furniture then you know this to be true. 

Nail polish is a lacquer (varnish) and works well on wooden furniture. 

Do you have a small piece of wooden furniture that you’d like to protect? Use a clear polish or top coat. This will work well on a wooden jewelry box or something similar. 

Can it be used on canvas? Yes, it can, but likely only for small details (unless you’re using a small canvas). There’s just not enough nail polish in that small bottle for a big canvas. 

As we said above, gel polish is not the same as nail lacquer. The differences between gel nail polish vs regular nail polish are too great. 

The ingredients in gel nail polish are completely different. Gel polish doesn’t have a solvent and it’s non-porous. 

Because of its composition, gel polish doesn’t air-dry. Instead, it’s cured under a UV or LED lamp. While it has many pros, we can say that using it as paint is not one of them. 

If you’d like to learn more, see this article about gel nail polish’s pros and cons.

The Verdict

What kind of paint is nail polish? Nail polish is a lacquer or varnish. And much like varnish, nail polish protects nails and gives them a glossy appearance. 

Of course, it’s come a long way from simple creme polishes. There are hundreds of different types and colors available. 

There’s a color for every mood, outfit, and season. You can even use nail polish to paint your furniture! 

The opposite is true as well. Acrylic paint is great for nails and allows you to be creative with your nail art. If you have some acrylic paint lying around, why not experiment? 

It’s a great girl’s-night or slumber-party idea too! Invite your friends over and take turns creating nail art for each other.

What Kind of Paint should be Nail Polish

Have fun with it and don’t forget to seal it in with a top coat. For the best range of nail lacquer, check out our Wild Natured Lacquer

Happy nail painting.

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