This Glossary series contains some of the terminology associated with natural and artificial nails, procedures, and a few important product or additive definitions as I understand them. Many of these terms are confusing, difficult to pronounce and understand at first, especially the chemical and medical ones! I’m an interested Nail Technician and by no means a scientist or expert. This glossary is something I wished I’d had access to when I was just starting out.
Occasionally I will edit these posts to add or amend information, as and when I learn more or come across new terminology. The beauty of this industry is that it’s constantly evolving as new scientific discoveries and product developments become available.
I’d love to hear if you have any suggestions, additions or edits to this series. It’s definitely a work in progress and has taken over a year to get this far. I’m hoping this will become a useful up to date resource for all professional nail technicians and students.
Accent Nail / Nails: One or two nails which are painted differently on each hand as a highlight, or design feature.
Acrylic: A polymerised polymer coating. This coating is formed through the combination of an exact mix ratio of monomer liquid to polymer powder. Today’s acrylic monomers (liquid) are made with Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA) due to its inherent flexibility. Acrylic polymers (powder) contain approximately 70% EMA, and 30% MMA (Methyl Methacrylate). This combination of chemicals is used on the nails to create enhancements that are both flexible and strong, mimicking the natural nails flexibility and strength.
Adhesive: A chemical that causes two surfaces to stick together. For example nail glue.
Allergen: A substance capable of producing an exaggerated or adverse reaction, such as sneezing, coughing, rash or irritation in sensitive individuals, or over a long period of exposure. SEE “Over Exposure”
Allergic Reaction: Allergic reaction, or an allergy, is an adverse reaction by the body usually characterised by skin redness, itching, blisters and localised swelling. Can be very dangerous in extreme circumstance, for example of swelling occurs in the throat and obstructs breathing. SEE “Anaphylaxis”
Anaphylaxis or Anaphylactic Shock: A serious, life-threatening allergic reaction. The most common reactions are to foods, insect stings, medications and latex. If you are allergic to a substance, your immune system overreacts to this allergen by releasing histamines that cause allergy symptoms. People with severe allergies will often carry an epipen with them that delivers life saving medication.
Apex: the structural balance point of a nail enhancement. It works as the counterbalance to the extension of the free edge. This is possibly the most important part of any enhancement when it comes to ensuring longevity and to protect against service breakdowns like lifting.
Aquarelle: a nail art technique also known as watercolour nails, the technique is borrowed from the world of fine art and creates a fabulous design reminiscent of water colour paintings.
Artificial Nails: describes any sort of nail enhancement including Hard Gel, Acrylic or press ons.
Baby Boomer: a nail art technique using an ombré effect to update the classic French manicure, the pink and white colours are blended to create a subtle shaded design. SEE Ombré.
Bacteria: A single cell organism. Some bacteria are capable of causing disease. SEE Pseudomonas.
Balance Point Positioning: Stabilising your working hand on your other hand for steady control.
Benzoyl Peroxide: Is both a medication in its own right and an industrial chemical used in plastics and nail acrylics. As a medication, it is used to treat mild to moderate acne. As a chemical used in the nail industry it is a heat-sensitive initiator used in monomer and polymer acrylic systems.
Breathing Zone: The two foot sphere around each persons mouth, from which all your breathing air is drawn.
Brittleness: A descriptive term for a property of the nail indicating that the nail is has hardness and rigidity but little tensile strength (or flexibility); breaking easily with a comparatively smooth fracture, like glass.
Builder Gel: a hard gel product designed to create nail enhancements, can also be used over the natural nail in an overlay to add strength. SEE Overlay
Burnishing: a nail art technique, after patting the glitter on to the nail, burnishing is the process of brushing your glitter into the sticky layer of a gel coating to encourage the glitter particles to lay as flush as possible to the nail to create a smooth layer.