If you haven’t heard, self-care is one of my favorites! After attempting to do my own manicures and pedicures every few weeks, I’m reminded of why I go to a salon. (Foot massage, anyone?) 

Honestly, this is the one time in the one place I can’t make a decision quickly. Normally, I’m a super-fast decision-maker, but when you tell me to, “Pick a color,” I’m like… How?!

This, after deciding if you want gel, shellac, dip, acrylic, etc. But we’re not here to debate that today. Today, it’s nail lacquer vs nail polish. No, it’s not the same. Yes, there is a difference.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

While some may think nail lacquer is just a fancier name for nail polish, the two are actually formulated differently. Regular nail polish uses solvents while nail lacquer uses alcohol. A solvent is a liquid, typically one other than water, used for dissolving other substances. Let me break this down even further.

Nail polish is used mainly for decorative purposes. Polish comes in many different colors and is used in nail art. However, it easily fades and chips and offers little protection to the nails. (This is actually while I usually opt for gel nails instead of polishing my own at home.)

Nail lacquer, when applied, is thicker than nail polish and therefore takes longer to dry. The range of colors is often not as diverse, but nail lacquer provides protection to the nails that nail polish does not.

Is Nail Polish Bad for My Nails?

As we know, normal nail polish uses specific solvents to combine colors and make nail polish stick to your nails. These basic components are formaldehyde resin, toluene, and phthalates. Because science is over my head, this is what I’ve learned in layman’s terms regarding these toxic ingredients.


This chemical is commonly used in the embalming process and can cause skin irritation and negatively impact the nervous and immune system.


Extended exposure to the chemical Toluene can lead to headaches, dizziness, and, in severe cases, more serious reproductive damage.

Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)

The chemical works to prevent nail polish from becoming brittle but has been proven to impair the hormonal development of male fetuses and in some cases cause early-onset menopause.

Duke University and Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 26 volunteers to check if chemicals like triphenyl phosphate or TPHP are absorbed by the body after applying nail polish. TPHP is controversial as this is a known compound that can affect the endocrine system.

All 26 women tested had higher levels of THP, even 20 hours after they had their nails painted. So, our body is able to absorb chemicals found in nail polish, but again, even though these are harmful ingredients, a salon manicure is not dangerous due to the amount of what’s inside the nail paints.

Should you be Worried About the Chemicals From Nail Polish?

While doctors know that harmful chemicals can still be absorbed through the nails, most dermatologists agree that what is absorbed by the body may not be significant enough to cause health issues. The amount is very minimal.

There is also no evidence to prove that nail polish has a long-term effect on the body. However, if you do want to try natural nail polish, click here for a list of 16 best natural nail polishes.

4 Best Nail Polish Brands

Now that we know that nail polish is safe for your nails, let’s take a look at the various brands and different types of nail polish brands. Some of these linked are affiliate links.

1. Essie Sheer Luck Nail Polish

Click here to buy it for $7.75 on Amazon.

Rumor has it this is the go-to nail polish of the Queen and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton. This nail polish consistently receives multiple awards for its smooth and glossy finish. Users also like the easy application and longevity of the nail polish.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

2. Côte Natural Nude Toxin-Free Nail Polish 

Click here to buy it for $20 on Amazon.

Côte is not the only toxin-free nail polish in the market right now but this nail polish takes the cake as the best. The brand does not use formaldehyde and harmful substance in its formula. This nail polish also provides good color payoff, durable, and lasts longer than other polishes. 

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

3. Chanel Ballerina Nail Polish

Click here to buy it for $28.

Own a piece of Chanel by getting their classic nail polish. True to their brand, they have a range of classic colors. Ballerina is a favorite. This type of nail polish is easy to apply and one coat provides a great color pay-off.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

4. Sally Hansen Color Therapy Pampered in Pink Nail Polish

Click here to buy it for $9.

From luxurious Chanel, we also have the budget-friendly drugstore brand, Sally Hansen. This line is great as it contains Argan oil that protects your nails. The dry time is speedy and one coat is enough. Click here to choose from 32 different shades.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

Can I Use Nail Lacquer to Treat Brittle Nails?

Nail lacquer can help in strengthening brittle nails because it uses fewer chemicals and is thicker.

If you want to protect and condition your nail, read along as I tell you other nail products that can help you maintain a healthy strong nails.

4 Best Nail Lacquer Brands

1. Jin Soon Nail Lacquer

Click here to buy it for $18 on Amazon.

Like Côte, Jin Soon is also toxin-free. The brand is also vegan and cruelty-free. In addition to formulating their nail lacquer without harmful chemicals, this nail polish performs well. The color is vibrant and the polish stays.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

2. OPI Nail Lacquer 

Click here to buy it for $9 on Amazon.

A cult favorite, OPI nail lacquer has remained a preferred brand by women as it provides a wide range of colors, stays long, and applies easily. This is the brand you may find prominent at your local nail salon.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

3. Maybelline New York Color Show Nail Lacquer

Click here to buy it for $7 on Amazon.

The cheapest in the bunch, Maybelline Color Show provides the biggest bang for buck purchase. This nail lacquer performed better than any brand in terms of longevity and the shine and gloss are phenomenal. Click here to view more colors.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

4. Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Lacquer

Click here to buy it for $7 on Amazon.

As the name implies, this is a miracle product. This finishes off like a nail gel without the use of a UV lamp. Now, you can have salon finished nails without spending a lot.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

What About Gel Nail Polish?

Gel nail polish is a trend that’s newer than nail polish and nail lacquer. I like to choose salon gel manicures at my local nail salon because it can last you up to a month without chipping. You can wash dishes, bathe your kids, even do gardening and your nails will look just as good as they did the day you got them done.

I also like this option because your nails are supported with the hardening effect of the hard gel polish so there is almost no nail breaking or color chipping.

The only disadvantage of getting a gel manicure or using gel polish is that you need a nail technician to remove it and apply it for you. Nail polish remover will not work. There are some tools that make it possible for you to do this at home but seeing a nail technician will deliver the best results.

With a gel manicure, you place your skin and nails under a UV light. For that reason, some people use an SPF on their hands.

Now that we discussed nail polish, nail lacquer, and gel manicures, let’s discuss the basecoat and topcoat because this plays a big part in your manicures staying put.

Using a Base Coat

Like a good foundation, you need a good base coat before applying nail polish or nail lacquer. Here’s some benefit of putting on a good base coat first.

1. Base Coats Make Your Manicure Last Longer

Base coats serve two purposes. One is protecting your nails while the other makes the nail color stick making the days of wear much longer. 

2. Base Coats Prevent Nail Polish from Staining your Nails

Don’t you just hate the nail stains you get from nail polish? If you’ve ever experienced this, you probably try to hide it by putting on another round of nail polish or a darker shade to cover up the discoloration. You can also let your natural nails rest, but you’ll see the stains. To avoid this, always put in a base coat to protect your nails.

3. Base Coats Strengthen Your Nails

If you have brittle nails and uneven surfaces, there are special base coats to seal in the ridges and protect your nail enamel. Think of it as a protective layer.

Using a Top Coat

We can’t talk about base coats and leave out the other bookend – top coats. These topcoats are mixed with moisturizing agents. Contrary to belief, a topcoat does not only provide shine and sheer to your manicure. They do more than that.

Here are a few benefits of a topcoat for your manicure.

1. Top Coats Gives High Gloss and Shine and Make Nails Feel Smooth

If you want a flawless coat of nail polish, make sure to finish with a good top coat. It makes a lot of difference in the final look of your manicure.

2. Top Coats Help Nail Polish Stay Longer

The sheen protective coat protects nail polish from being chipped or damaged with daily activity.

3. Top Coats can Hide and Fill in Small Imperfections on Your Nails

Top coats act as a hardener for the nail filling in some gaps in the nails. It can even fix streaks or lines that you may see while the nail polish was being applied.

4. Top Coats Makes Nail Art Stick Better to Your Nails

Who doesn’t like art being on their nails? It’s a fun, creative change. Because it takes too much time, you want to make sure the art lasts. 

Speaking of nail art, let’s talk about nail trends.

Best Nail Trends

1. Bare Nails

During the COVID shut down, many people opted for bare nails. With all the washing and sanitizing of hands, people wanted to keep their nails bare. To maintain short, bare, and clean nails all you have to do is get a good hand cream and nail oil for your nail beds. Keep your nails trimmed after a regular manicure and you’re set!

2. Press-on Nails

Another good alternative to DIY nails is press-on nails. They are convenient and come in many beautiful designs. They are also not expensive. You can buy great ones on Amazon. Click here for my favorite set.

For these, you will need to master the technique of sticking these on your nails. After a few days, the press-on nails will start to fall off and disappear one by one.

The glue on the press on nails also leaves a residue that can make your nails feel rough and uneven, so be prepared to lightly file or buff that dried glue off in the removal process.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

3. Subtle Metallic Accents

Women are adding metallic accents to their nail polish for that extra glam. These look great on all skin tones. If you can’t find a good salon, you can use press-on nails to get the look or use metallic nail polish to copy metallic accents. 

Click here for gorgeous metallic press-ons on Amazon.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

4. Graphic Minimalism

Graphic minimalism is using different colors for common design for negative space and it’s also a new take on the french tip or traditional manicure. You can use things in your house like a bobby pin and eyeliner brushes to experiment and copy this look at home.

Click here for graphic minimalism press-ons on Amazon.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

5. Mismatched Nail Color

Mismatched nails have been a popular nail trend in recent years. It’s fun and creative, so why not? You can choose to do just one nail differently, like the ring finger for example. You can also paint them like a checkerboard, change colors after every other nail, whatever it is – just have fun.

6. Animal Prints

Having your nails decorated with animal print is also trendy nail art that is coming back from years past. You can use cute prints like zebra, leopard, or cow. These prints can be achieved with minimal use of brushes. You can also use press-on nails.

Click here for animal print press-on nails on Amazon.

Nail Lacquer vs Nail Polish

What are your favorite beauty products? What kind of nail varnish do you like on your own nails? Do you use non-toxic nail polish for your DIY manicure? Visit me on Instagram at @ChristinaAllDay and let me know.

  1. Amanda says:

    Have you tried colorstreet dry nailpolish?

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I'm Christina!

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 a millennial mom here to inspire you to live your best life without feeling anY mom guilt.

Thanks for stopping by for my unfiltered approach to family and lifestyle where I share what helps me run my family, business, and life while being lazy AF as often as possible. (Bubble bath, anyone?)



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