Nail Glossary

nail glossary      This glossary explains terminology related to natural and artificial nail care  products and procedures.

Acetone: This is a solvent used to dissolve nail polish and acrylics. It is a chemical in the ketone family. Pure acetone is more effective in dissolving nail polish and acrylics.

Acid Primer: Acrylic acid primer; usually refers to methacrylic acid type primers (MAP) that promote adhesion between the natural nail and enhancement product.

Acrylic Nails: Hardened and cured coating that results from a precise mix ratio of liquid monomer and powdered polymer.

Airbrushing: The art of applying nail decorations with an airbrush gun.

Allergen: A material that will create an adverse reaction in sensitive individuals, such as coughing, sneezing, rashes or other kinds of irritation.

Allergic Reaction: A hostile reaction in the body usually recognized by blisters, redness, itching, and/or swelling. Misuse of nail products can lead to allergic reactions.

American Manicure: Usually describes a variation on the French Manicure, where a more natural white is used on the tip compared to a brighter white in French Manicure and the polish used on the nail bed is more sheer (vs. more opaque in FM).

Antiseptic: A chemical used to destroy bacteria, fungus, and viruses on human skin. The process of disinfection is used for surfaces or implements.

Back-Fill: aka: Fill, fill-in, touch-up, maintenance, etc. Some salons use the term back-fill to differentiate a fill on pink and whites (back-filling the white free-edge), and the term ‘fill’ to mean a regular fill on non-P&W’s.

Bacteria: Are single-celled microorganisms, some of which are capable of causing disease.

Benzoyl Peroxide: An organic compound used as an initiator in monomer and polymer systems.

Breathing Zone: The area in front of the face where breathing takes place. Nail techs should protect their breathing zone when working with nail products.

Brittleness: The property of rigidity and hardness of a material with a low tensile strength which makes it easily breakable under force.

Callus: Superficial, thickened patches of the skin, caused by friction on the skin from an external force.

Chemical: Any material and its interaction with other materials.

Chevron: In nails, refers to a style of French Manicure. Instead of following the natural smile line on the tip area with white polish (or colored polish, or airbrush), an inverted “V” shape is used.

Contamination: Contact with or addition of one substance that makes another substance impure.

Colored Acrylics and Gels: Colored product that allows for the building of nails with color built-in to the structure of the nail.

Cuticle: The crescent of toughened skin, around the base of the fingernails and toenails that partially overlaps the Lunula.

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Decontamination: The highest level of decontamination is sterilization, next is disinfection, and least effective is sanitation.

Dehydrate: To dehydrate the nail, means to eliminate moisture from the nail surface, which improves adhesion when nail products are applied. Dehydrators are substances capable of absorbing water from the natural nail.

Disinfection: This is a chemical process that is very effective in destroying harmful pathogenic organisms and microorganisms or makes them inert. Disinfection is necessary for all reusable implements and containers used in a manicure pedicure service.

Electric File: Professional machines made specifically for the nail industry, with educational support from the manufactures that make them.

Enamel: Nail polishes with a higher level of film-formers are generally distinguished as enamels.

Epidermis: This is the upper most layer of skin. It is attached to the bottom of the nail plate and is ridged with tiny ‘rails’ that run in the same direction as the dermis grooves. The effect is much like a train riding on its tracks as it moves forward.

Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA): This product is widely used in monomers as part of the structure used to create artificial nail enhancements. For removal from the nail plate EMA can be soaked off safely using pure acetone.

Etching: This is an obsolete process where the surface shine of the natural nails are removed using a coarse grit file during preparation for a nail enhancement service. Advancement in nail care technology has made it unnecessary to continue the use of this destructive and often hurtful method to ensure adhesion.

Fills: The addition of acrylic to the new growth area of the nails, this procedure should take place every two to three weeks.

Forms: Paper with adhesive-backs that are placed under the free-edge or at the fingers’ ends to extend acrylic past the finger tip.

French Manicure: A type of nail polishing procedure, whereby the natural free-edge of the nail is painted white, and the nail bed is painted pink, beige, or clear, to mimic a healthy looking natural nail.

Free Edge: The part of your nail that extends over your finger tip.

Fungi: These are parasitic microscopic plant organisms such as yeasts, molds, mildews.

Fungal Nail Infection: This occurs when the keratin (the rigid nail material) becomes infected with fungi. This type of infection, onychomycosis, is quite common and results in thickened, discolored and unsightly nails. The dermatophyte fungi which causes athlete's foot is the same fungi that cause most nail infections. Medication will usually get rid of the infection but will require several weeks of treatment.

Gel Light: This is an ultra violet light (UV), used to dry and harden gel nails.

Gel Nails: Gel polish is a product that uses clear and colored gels for nail enhancements instead of regular polish. It is part of the acrylate and methacrylate family and is a milder form of acrylic. It is applied similarly to traditional nail polish but each layer is cured under a UV light. It dries within 2 minutes under the UV light, a glossier and tougher finish, and last longer compared to regular polish (between two to three weeks). It is removed by soaking 10-15 minutes in pure acetone.

Hypo-Allergenic: Having a decreased tendency to provoke an allergic reaction. Gels do not have the monomers in it like the Monomer Liquid that acrylics have.

Keratin: This chemical substance makes up the nail plate. Keratin is a protein. Proteins are the building blocks of life.

Local Exhaust: Ventilation system that collects vapors and dust right at their source. Most nail products’ MSDS specifically specify the need for local exhaust.

Lateral Nail Fold: This is the soft tissue that surrounds the sides of the natural nail.

Lunula: The small crescent-shaped pale area at the base of the nail.

Manicure: Standard service performed by nail technicians, which includes care & massage of Hands & trimming, shaping & polishing fingernails.

Masks (Hand & Foot): Composed of mineral clays, sea extracts, Hydrating Alpha Hydroxy Acids, aromatherapy oils & other therapeutic skin softeners, give your hand or feet a special “Mud Facial” experience.

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Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS): Contains information on the chemical content, potential hazards and safety precautions required when working with a chemical product. It also contains information on the use, handling, storage and emergency measures related to the hazards of the material. All salons should have MSDS available for all products containing potentially hazardous chemicals.

Matrix: The thick connective tissue that extends under the base of a nail from which the nail grows.The matrix will continue to produce new nail growth while it receives nutrition, suffers no injury and remain in a healthy condition.

Mold & Mildew: Caused by various fungi in a damp or moist environment and is distinguished by a soft whitish coating on the affected areas.

MMA (Methyl Methacrylate): This is a bonding agent (a type of monomer), used in nail enhancement products. It causes allergic reactions, is exceptionally hard and cements so tightly to the nail plate that it can tear the nail from the nail bed if a nail is caught accidentally. It cannot be safely removed from the nail without damage to the nail plate and as such it has been banned for use in the nail industry.

Monomer: Separate, reactive chemical elements which are linked to form a polymer.

Nail Bed: The nail bed is that section of the finger or toe where the nail plate rests.

Nail Fungus: See Fungal Nail Infection

Nail Plate: The hard shell-like keratin coating that covers the fingertip and protects the underlying tissue.

Nail Root: See Nail Matrix.

Nail Tip (Tips): An artificial nail made of plastic, nylon or acetate that is adhered to the natural nail to add length.

Nippers: A tool used in a nail salon for a variety of purposes, including cuticle care, toenail clipping, and the nipping of acrylics. Non-acid primer: A misnomer, as all primers are acidic to some degree or another. However, the term is commonly used to refer to any primer that does not use methacrylic acid (MAP).

Odorless Acrylics: Acrylic liquids that are not as easily detected by the human sense of smell (as compared to regular acrylics).

Organic: Any substance that contains the element carbon. Nearly half the substances in the world contain carbon, and almost all nail products contain carbon. Organic does not mean safe. Petro-chemicals are carbon based, thus organic. Organic is simply a name used by scientists to distinguish one half of the stuff in this world (carbon-containing) from the other half (non-carbon based, thus inorganic).

Overexposure: Chemical dangers resulting from extended or repeated exposure above levels specified to be safe by regulatory organizations.

Paraffin Wax: Stimulates circulation and the deep heat helps to reduce inflammation & promote circulation to the affected joints.

Pathogen: A micro-organism which is capable of causing disease.

Pedicure: Standard service performed by nail technicians, which includes care & massage of Feet & trimming, shaping & polishing toenails.

Pink & Whites (P&W’s): The application of a white free-edge, and a pink (or clear or beige) nail bed, using polish, colored acrylic or gel products.

Polymer: Substances formed by combining many small molecules (monomers), usually in long, chain-like structures (This is Acrylic Powder).

Re-balancing: What used to be called “Fills.” The arch of the nail must also be repositioned in order to restore strength at the stress point where most cracks appear, and the free edge is reshaped and excess length adjusted in order to retain the proper balance to the overall structural integrity of the extension.

Sanitation: The methods and application of practical measures in the interest of cleanliness, and the preservation of health.

Sensitivity: An increasingly sensitive reaction to an external stimulus caused by repeated or prolonged contact.

Stencils: A thin sheet of plastic used in nail art  to replicate a design on the nail plate;especially used in airbrushing.

Sterilization: This process used to destroy all viruses, fungi, pathogenic and non-pathogenic spores.

UV Cured Gels (Light-Cured Gel): A type of gel used with artificial nails that hardens when exposed to an ultraviolet or halogen light source.

Tip Overlay: Any enhancement procedure that is done over plastic tips applied to the natural nails, rather than sculpted onto forms.

Ventilate: To replace stale or contaminated air with fresh air.

Yellowing: Discoloration of nail products is caused by excessive exposure to light (such as tanning), excessive heat, or product contamination.

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