Expert beauty guide: The nail terminology you should know

With the approaching cold weather it’s important to look after your hands and nails but do you know the correct terminology and what to ask for with your…
Manicure  - nail terminology

Do you know the difference between a manicure and a pedicure? Do you know your gels from your acrylics? And what about your lunula from your cuticle?

Well now’s the time to learn, has listed all the important nail terminology that can leave you feeling confused. They’ve also described exactly what airbrushing, tips, enamel and nail beds mean.

On the list includes definitions of acetone, free edges, monomer and polymer and fills.


This is the process of painting the finger nails. It usually starts with a hand treatment, then a removal of the cuticles and shaping of the nails. This is then finished with nail polish and a top coat.


This is the same as a manicure, except on the feet rather than the fingers. Moisturising and exfoliating the feet also take place during a pedicure.


Acrylics form a hard-protective layer over your natural nails. They are usually used to extend the nail. They can be painted and shaped as desired.


This is a solvent that’s used to remove nail polish, gel nails and acrylic nails.


Acrylics are usually filled in every two to three weeks once the acrylic nail has started to outgrow the base of the real nail. This is usually referred to as an ‘acrylic fill in’ or ‘fills’.

Free edge

This is the part of the nail that extends over the fingertip.

Gel nails - nail terminology

Gel nails

To achieve a long-lasting glossy polish, many people opt for gel nails. It is applied similarly to normal nail polish, except each layer of polish and top coat is cured under a UV light. 

Gel light

This is the UV light that’s used to dry and harden gel nails.


This is the small half circle at the bottom of your nail that tends to be a shade lighter than the rest of your nails.


This is the art of applying decoration to nails using an airbrush gun.


This is the small section of the skin that sits just below the lunula. It sits around the base of the finger nails and toenails and is usually removed when having a manicure or pedicure.

Nail enamel

Nail enamel is just another phrase for nail polish.

Nail bed

This is the skin underneath your nails and toes.

Nail buffing - nail terminology


This is an act of polishing the nail using a buffer file. It also helps to remove any nail debris when getting acrylic nails applied.

Nail tips

A tip is the artificial nail plastic that’s used to add to the length to the tips of the nails when getting acrylics. They are applied just beneath the tip and are then clipped and filed down and coated over with monomer and polymer.

Monomer and Polymer

By using a brush the monomer (liquid) and then polymer (powder) are both dipped into and applied over the nail tip. The manicurist will apply a small bead of the monomer and polymer onto the nail but will work the bead up and down the nail until the solution is blended seamlessly into the nail. Once dried this is then finished with polish. 

Top coat

This a clear polish that’s applied to the top of your nails to stop them from chipping.

Round or square

This is the question many manicurists will ask you when doing your nails. It simply means if you want the shape of the tip to be rounded, or slightly squarer.

If you liked this guide to nail terminology, you’ll find more beauty tips for older women on our fashion and beauty channel. Alternatively, read how Vitamin H plays a significant role in maintaining healthy nails and hair after 50.

Last modified: July 18, 2023

Written by 10:17 am Fashion & Beauty, Beauty