Polish Lingo Dictionary

Hello there! This page is dedicated to helping everyone understand what I mean when I use certain polish-related terms in blog posts. I think it's such a fantastic way for everyone to be on the same page in terms of nail blogger lingo. Enjoy! DISCLAIMER: I first saw this idea on the blog called Peachy Polish, so all credit for these definitions goes to Valesha!


3-Free: A polish that does not contain Toulene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) & Formaldehyde in its ingredients.
4-Free: A polish that does not contain Toulene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) & Formaldehyde and also is not tested on animals. (Click HERE for a list of beauty companies that do and do not test on animals.)
Blog Sale: A sale set up by someone who runs a blog, where they sell previously owned new or lightly used items.
Clean-Up: When you use a makeup brush, art brush or nail art brush to clean the edges around your polished nail, creating a crisp, clean line.
Crackle (aka Shatter): A type of polish that you apply on top of another that dries quickly and shatters as it dries, creating a cracked finish. (Click here to see an example - the black here is a crackle polish). 
Crelly: A type of finish that is similar to a creme (in opacity) but is squishy and sometimes a bit sheer on the first coat. It is possible to build these to an opaque coverage.
Crelly-Shimmer: A polish with a crelly finish with a fine ribbon of shimmer running throughout.
Creme: A creamy, opaque polish with a glossy finish. Usually opaque in 1-2 coats.
Decant: A small (mini) sized bottle of polish created by pouring polish from a full sized bottle.  Usually done to share a polish with someone who might not otherwise be able to own it.
Destash: The act of going through one's polish collection and getting rid of/selling/giving away polishes that are no longer used or wanted.
DISO: Stands for Desperately In Search Of.  Used in polish sale groups, forums, etc. when a person is looking for a certain item and is usually willing to go to great lengths to obtain it.  (Example: "DISO Chanel Holographic!  I've been looking for it for so long!")
Duochrome: A polish that shifts between two colors depending on the angle and lighting.
Dupe: An exact copy of a polish recreated by a different brand.
Finish:  The appearance a polish has when it's dry or its type. Some possible finishes are textured, matte, glitter, creme, jelly, duochrome, and holographic. An extensive list of polish finishes can be found here
Foil: A type of finish that has high shine and a metallic base with very fine particles which creates a sparkly but smooth, finish.
Foil Method: A technique used to remove glitter or gel nail polish.  Using a cotton ball/cotton pad and pure acetone, place the cotton ball/pad on the nail, then wrap foil around it and leave it sitting for 5-10 minutes.  Glitter or gel polish should slide right off.  (Tutorial).
Formula: How the polish applies. (Example: "The formula was not very good.  It was sticky and hard to use.")
Franken: When multiple pre-made polishes are used to create one personalized color.  May also include solvent resistant glitter, spectraflair, etc. Stems from the word "Frankenstein."
Frankener: A person who creates "Frankens."
Frankening: The act of creating a "Franken."
Free Edge: The very tip of your nail where it goes beyond the tip of your finger. The underside of the nail is usually visible.  (Diagram)
Frost: A type of finish that has a frosted appearance. This style of polish was especially popular in the 80’s/90’s. 
Glitter: A type of polish that has glitter in it.  
Gradient: A form of nail art where one color fades into another, blending in between. To create this look on nails, you use 2 or more polishes of different color families. NOT the same as Ombre!!! (Examples: two-color gradient)
Half Moon Manicure: A form of nail art where the lunula of the nail is a different color than the rest of the nail. (Example)
Haul: Getting a large amount of (usually nail-related) items all at once.
Helmer: Popular in the nail polish community for being a convenient and organized way to store nail polish. A Helmer is a small set of drawers unique to IKEA, similar to a file cabinet and can store upwards of 500 polishes.
Hidden Shimmer: A type of shimmer that is apparent in the bottle but mostly or completely disappears when it dries on the nail. (Example)
Holo: Short for holographic.  Holo(graphic) polishes have very fine microshimmer-like material (Spectraflair) that gives off a rainbow-like effect when viewed at different angles and in different lighting. Holo polishes can be either linear or scattered. 
HTF: Stands for Hard To Find. These are polishes that are usually discontinued or limited edition and in high demand, therefore sometimes costing a lot of money. (Example: "OPI DS Glamour for sale. HTF.")
Hungry Glitter: A glitter polish that seems to suck up the topcoat, therefore usually requiring multiple layers of topcoat to get a smooth finish.
Indie or Indie Polish:   A handmade/hand-mixed polish usually sold by the creators themselves on websites such as Etsy, Big Cartel, etc. There are also 3rd party websites that sell polishes on behalf of the creators such as Llarowe.comHarlowandCo.org, etc.
ISO: Stands for In Search Of. Used in polish sale groups, forums, etc. when a person is looking for a certain item.  (Example: "ISO Lynnderella Liquid Valentine.")
Jelly: A type of finish that has a squishy appearance and sheer application.
Jelly Sandwich: A technique where you layer jelly polish, a glitter polish and then another coat of the jelly polish on top. This gives an interesting effect of depth.
Lemming: Per Urban Dictionary: “A lemming refers to a purchase/wished-for-item which results from reading an enthusiastic post about a new fabulous product. Overcome by compulsion, readers follow like lemmings diving off a cliff.”  Can be a noun or verb.  (Examples: "That polish is one of my biggest lemmings!" or "I am totally lemming the new OPI Collection after reading her blog post!")
Leadlight Technique: A technique which utilizes a white base color with an image stamped in black polish. Sheer or jelly polishes are then used over the design to give color, and since the polishes are sheer or jelly, they do not distort the black design. This gives a stained glass effect. (Example from the creator of the technique)

Linear Holographic: When a polish has smaller particles creating a strong holographic effect. This creates what is known as a "flame," or a rainbow arc across the nail in some lights. (Example)
Mainstream: A polish made by a large company such as Revlon, OPI, China Glaze, etc. Usually sold in drug and/or department stores and many online retailers.  
Melmer: A smaller, particle board version of a Helmer.  Found at Michael’s Craft Store and Hobby Lobby. Technically called a Jetmax Storage Cube.
Metallic: A type of finish that resembles a metal.  Due to it’s formula, it can sometimes show brush-strokes or nail imperfections.
Multichrome: A polish that shifts between multiple colors depending on the angle and lighting. (Example)
Nail Buddy (aka Polish Buddy, Polish Pal or Swap Buddy): A friend or acquaintance in the nail polish community who sends you polishes and/or other items (often times these are items that you can not get in your area) in exchange for payment. Or a friend or acquaintance in the nail polish community with whom you swap items with. (See also "Swap")
Nail Mail: Can be one of three things:
  1.  When you receive nail polish in the mail that you may have ordered online or through a blog sale; 
  2. When you and a friend (or nail buddy) swap polishes, nail supplies and/or treats and exchange them in the mail; 
  3. When you pay a friend or nail buddy to buy polishes for you that they send to you in the mail.  


No-Buy: An allotted amount of time picked out by an individual, during which they will not buy any nail polish or polish related items.
NOTD: Stands for Nails Of The Day. 
NP:  Stands for Nail Polish.
Ombre:  A nail art look similar to a gradient (see Gradient) but involving colors of the same color family.  NOT the same as Gradient!!! (Example)
Peel-Off Basecoat:  A type of basecoat, usually used under hard to remove glitter polishes that peels off the nail without damaging the nail bed.  These can be either store bought (OPI and Essence make one) or made at home. A tutorial can be found here
Ruffian:   A nail art look where nails are painted one color and then painted a different color on top but with a gap between the cuticle and nail walls so the second polish shows the polish underneath in a crescent shape. (Example)
Saran Wrap Technique (aka “Glad Wrap Techinique” or “Shrink Wrap Technique”):   A form of nail art  that creates a two-tone marble like design  using saran wrap. Not to be confused with water marbling.  There are 2 techniques used to create this look:
  1. Paint your nails as you normally would and allow them to dry. Then paint a different color on top and using a scrunched up ball of saran wrap, lightly dab the top layer of polish while it’s still wet.
  2. Paint your nails as you normally would and allow them to dry. Then take a scrunched up ball of saran wrap and brush some polish on it.  Touch the saran wrap to the nail, creating the desired look.


Scattered Holographic:   A polish that has larger and less dense holographic particles. Often appearing to look more like a shimmer polish. (Example)
Sheer: A type of polish that is intended to be translucent when applied. Some sheer polishes can be built up to opacity after 3 or more coats but they are meant to be worn transparent so that the nail line is visible.
Shimmer: A type of polish finish with shimmer, usually in a colored base. 
Shrinkage: Something that happens to a new manicure after a topcoat is applied. The polish underneath shrinks away from the tips (and/or cuticles) of the nails making it look like there is obvious wear/tip wear. A common problem for many people when using Seche Vite topcoat.
Skittlette: "Not quite a full skittles look, a skittlette manicure is one with at least two different accent nails. Pick any formation/order you wish, but for a true skittlette at least two nails need to be the same (the others can all be different) OR two pairs of identical nails and a different nail." Source

Spectraflair: From Wikipedia: "A specialized diffractive colorant for automotive and industrial coatings that show multiple rainbow colors as the viewing angle changes. This pigment is based on microscopic aluminum flakes layered with glass and inorganic pigments. The combination of SpectraFlair’s rainbow-like color, aluminum core, and fine particle size creates an iridescent, liquid silver metallic appearance."  Spectaflair is often used by indie makers or frankeners to create linear or scattered holographic polishes. (Example)
Stash: A person’s personal collection of nail polish.
Striping Tape: Very thin, colored tape.  Used for nail art or to create precise lines when creating nail art.
Swap: When you and a friend (or nail buddy) trade polishes, nail supplies and/or treats. (See also "Nail Mail.")
Swatch: When a polish is applied to one or more nails (or on a swatch wheel) for a brief period of time. Usually done in order to photograph it for a blog post.
Swatch Stick: A plastic stick with a fake nail attached to it.  Used to swatch polish or practice nail art.
Swatch Wheel (aka Nail Wheel): A plastic circle with multiple fake nails attached to it. Used to swatch polish or practice nail art.
Texture: A type of finish that purposely has a gritty, bumpy, lumpy and/or other textured appearance when the polish is dry. The texture can feel like anything from leather to rough sandpaper.
Undies: A polish you would wear underneath another polish.  Usually used under a glitter polish that has a clear base or a polish that is too sheer to be worn alone.
Untried(s): Polish(es) that you have purchased but remain unused.  
VHTF: Stands for Very Hard To Find.  
VNL: Stands for Visible Nail Line. When you wear a polish (often sheers or jellies) and you can see the white (tip/free edge) of your nail through the polish.
Watercolor:  A type of nail art where a small blot of polish is put on the nail, then, while still wet, a drop of acetone is put on top to spread the polish out in a watercolor effect. 
Water Marble: A type of nail art where drops of polish are added to water and swirled.  You then place your nail in (one at a time) for a marbled effect.  (Example)
Wrap Tips:  The acting of brushing polish over the free edge of your nails. This deters against shrinkage when applying topcoat.

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