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.
Gel (Nails): Gel is often referred to as not being acrylic, when in fact they are both based on the methacrylate and the acrylate family, and are indeed acrylic. Gels are made by pre-joining some of the monomers into short chains called oligomers. Gels create rigid surface coatings and are usually cured by exposure to ultra violet light. SEE Oligomers.
Gel polish: a UV / LED cured nail coating that typically lasts longer than nail polish, depending on the product / client gel polish can last anything for 2 to 4 weeks.
Greenies: the green staining on the nail which is a by product of the pseudomonas bacteria. Usually found under lifted enhancements where liquid and the pseudomonas pathogen has got in. SEE pseudomonas.
Grit: the level of abrasiveness of a nail file. The higher the grit number of a nail file, the more gentle the file. It is recommended never to use a lower grit file than a 240 on the natural nail, this avoids damaging the structure of the nail. Lower grit files are great for hand filing enhancements as they remove mire product in one stroke that higher grit files.
Hangnail: a tiny, torn piece of skin, more specifically eponychium or proximal nail fold, next to a finger or toe nail.
Hardness: A measure of how easily a substance is scratched or dented. An important factor when selecting the correct nail coating for a client.
Hard Gel: a gel product that’s typically used to create enhancements, this type of gel can not be removed by soaking off, it can only be filed off.
Hazardous Ingredient: Any substance which may be capable of causing physical or health related injury to an exposed individual. Examples are Toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate are sometimes referred to in the industry as the “toxic trio”, however nowadays products are designed to be free of these.
Hydroxyl Ethyl Methacrylate (HEMA): HEMA is a protein specific monomer that will seek out and firmly attach itself to the protein in the nail plate. HEMA is used as an additive to improve adhesion, but is one of the most common allergens in over exposure cases. It is being phased out of many nail coatings however if used at industry standard safe levels, and not applied to the skin shouldn’t cause any problems. Unless you have already developed a sensitivity.
Hyponychium: the hyponychium is the portion of the epidermis under the free edge of the nail. It creates a seal under the nail, between the nail and the finger