Difference between Nail Polish and Lacquer

Key difference: Nail polish and nail lacquer are nail liquids used for the purpose of nail protection. Nail polish is a varnish applied on the nails to make them shiny, whereas nail lacquer is a solution which is thicker in comparison to nail polish.

According to Collins Dictionaries, a nail polish is defined as: “a quick-drying lacquer applied to colour the nails or make them shiny”.

Nail polishes give a shiny effect on the nails, and protect the nails by providing a thick cover of colors. They also provide a thick coating to the nails, due to which the nails remains protected from the external factors like cracking and flaking. They provide a trendy and fashionable look to the nails, and enrich the nails with a greater look by making them presentable.

Most nail polishes are made of nitrocellulose dissolved in a solvent (e.g. butyl acetate or ethyl acetate) along with various pigments and colors. Their basic components include: film forming agents (such as silver halide), resins and plasticizers, solvents, and coloring agents.

Generally, a lacquer is a solution of nitrocellulose in an alcohol. To apply a lacquer to something is to give a smooth and glossy finish to that substance.

Nail lacquers are nail polishes, which add thickness to the nailsThey are known as varnishes which dry off quickly, when applied to the nails. They provide a lustrous look to the nails with an embellishment. They give a fashionable and trendy look to the nails. They are available in dark colors, which are used to represent the moods of an individual. Lacquers also have special effects such as an opalescent shimmer or glitter, which enhances or simply adds an element of fun.

Most nail lacquers are a mixture of many different chemicals. A solvent such as ethyl acetate provides a liquid base in which the varnishes and other ingredients are suspended. Resins bonds to the nail, causing the lacquer to stay in place, and the thickeners keep the lacquers color particles evenly distributed throughout the liquid.

Comparison between Nail polish and Lacquer:


Nail polish


Used for

They are specially used to color and decorate the nails.

They are especially used in order to protect the nails.


The nitrocellulose is mixed with the solvents in their composition.

The nitrocellulose is mixed with the alcohol in their composition.

Thickness criteria

The thickness of nail polish is less as compared to the nail lacquers.

They are known for their thickness.


They provide a presentable and designer look to the nails.

They provide a shine and glow to the nails.


They give a decorative look.

They strengthen the nails by providing a thick covering.


They are available in shades and mixed colors.

They are available in particular colors in the market.

Image Courtesy: verawylde.blogspot.com, main.stylelist.com

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