Glossy vs. Matte: The Best Situations for Each
There’s a time and place for everything, and your nail polish selections are no exception! A smorgasbord of styles are available to you: a rainbow of colors, an array of nail accessories, and a variety of nail polish finishes, with glossy and matte being among the most popular. It’s a creative challenge just to decide on a design!
And once you’ve made your choice you only unearth more questions: Will it last me through the week? Will it look good with my embellishments and nail art? Will it be appropriate for work?
This guide was written to answer your questions about when to experiment with the edgy matte finish and when to go all out with glossy polish. Let’s explore the best situations for each!
Use matte when: You have to keep your nails short
Here’s one of the biggest truths about matte polish: Matte polish chips faster, because the look generally requires leaving off your top coat. That’s why experts advice that it’s best to keep your nails short when you’re using matte polish. Which means that if you naturally keep your nails short, because of your job or your interests, matte polish is a great option for you!
Try it: Short nails don’t have to mean short on style. Do all your nails in matte then add a pop of glitter to your ring finger nails. That will accentuate your whole look and distract from the length! Just don’t use glitter on all your fingers, as they will make your nails look shorter.
Use glossy when: You’re ready to rock long, ballerina nails
Growing your nails out requires a long-term commitment. Nails grow at a rate of 3 millimeters a month, which means that if you’re aiming for talons twice the length of your regular nail, you’ll be waiting around four to six months! In that time, you’ll need long-lasting polish to protect your nails as they grow, and resilient glossy polish will be your best bet.
Try it: More nails equals more room for creativity! If you’ve grown your nails to double its usual length, consider the underestimated real estate that’s the undersides of your nails. Do your nails up like you would usually do them, then add subtle spots of complementary metallic polish to the undersides.
Use matte when: You need a chic look for a short time
Matte polish is more high-maintenance than glossy polish. Aside from the fact that it tends to chip faster, it also loses its matte-ness faster and reverts to being shiny, like Cinderella after the clock strikes midnight. Use as a quick spruce for a big one-time-only event like a ball or a special dinner.
Try it: Pull a Cinderella yourself and rock stylish matte nails in princess pastel shades for a night, then break the spell yourself the next morning when it’s time to remove the polish and return to real life.
Use glossy when: You want a fabulous look that will last for weeks
If you’re a gorgeous go-getter who can’t live without nail polish but are also too busy to worry about retouching your manicure every week, stick to glossy polish! Glossy polish is long-wearing, and can go without chipping for several weeks at a time. Apply, let dry, and never waste another minute thinking about it again–at least until it’s time to change things up again!
Try it: Get a gel manicure. Available for a slightly higher price, gel polish is harder and tougher than regular manicures, and thus more resilient. Part of the process requires the gel being exposed to a UV lamp to harden it like a shell over your nail. Gel manicures last for about three weeks—zero chipping practically guaranteed!
Use matte when: You’re aiming for a high-contrast look
One trick to making remarkable nail art designs is playing mix-and-match with the wide variety of different finishes out there. Unlike the other finishes, matte polish is unique in that it doesn’t reflect light. As such, when paired with very shiny finishes such as shimmery, opalescent, and chrome, its flat and muted texture provides a sharp contrast—and maximum drama.
Try it: Do up your half-moons or your French tips in silver or gold chrome polish. Then do the rest of the nail in a matte coat and watch the chrome polish POP.
Use glossy when: You want to go full-on SPARKLY!
If extravagant is more your style, go crazy mixing and matching with different glossy finishes.
Pull out all the stops with with shimmery polish accentuated with glitter polish or sequined polish that will all catch the light like tiny prisms. Magpies will be perching on your fingertips all week!
Try it: Glossy polish makes for an eye-catching background for glitter. There are hundreds of ways you
can sprinkle glitter onto a long nail, or ten. If you’re feeling extra daring, you can even try sequined polish outlined with black to make mosaic or stained glass patterns!*
Use matte when: You’re going to show off some major bling
Similar to the high-contrast style earlier, really highlight your nail bling by displaying it on top of the subdued, muted tones of matte polish. Like before, the matte polish won’t reflect light, and all the shine will be on the studs as though your nails were velvet lining and the studs—Swarovski or not!—were diamonds nestled luxuriously on them.
Try it: For balanced results, keep the heavy bling only on two or three fingers. Go light or without on the rest to allow the viewer’s eye to appreciate the stickers and the matte finish of the polish equally.
Use glossy when: You’re diving into the wonderland that is Konad
A Korean nail art system that lets you DIY nail art with no muss, no fuss! It’s an amazing investment for anyone who loves nail art but can neither wield a nail polish brush like Da Vinci nor afford to shell out for a pricey nail salon appointment. Glossy polish can really set off the endlessly colorful combinations you can make with Konad designs.
Try it: There are lots of Youtube tutorials on how to apply Konad nail art, but in a nutshell: You apply the special Konad polish to the metal design plate, scrape off excess polish, press the stamper on the plate to transfer the design, then press the stamper onto your nail! Voila, professional-level nail art you can do all by yourself at home!
Use matte when: You want to be creative in a conservative situation
In a professional setting where everybody wears crisp business suits and neutral colors, extravagant embellishments and long, neon pink nails might not be welcome. You want to make a statement, not a scandal. Enter matte nail polish! Even in its plainest form and in somber shades, the unusual finish will still make your mani a standout.
Try it: Matching your nail polish with your lipstick is a popular trend, and here an appropriate one. In a conservative office, your lipstick is likely to be the only other significant pop of color to your outfit. Reds and pinks are universally acceptable colors for lipstick and nail polish, and having them in the same shade amid an outfit in neutral colors ties your look neatly together.
Use glossy when: You want elegance, everywhere, every day!
It makes a lot of sense that most nail polish is, by default, glossy. Glossy polish is sturdy, versatile, and effortlessly glam, every day! It’s a true classic that can take you all the way from your 8AM presentation to an afternoon out with friends, to a hot dinner date, to late-night parties—and survive to do it all again tomorrow.
Try it: Find your signature shade! Your signature shade fits your coloring, goes with the majority of things in your closet, and is one that you can expect to get at any drugstore or salon. Like your LBD of nail polish shades, your signature shade is a staple that you can pull out at a moment’s notice so you’re ready to get your glam on anytime, anywhere.
Sandy Getzky is the executive coordinating editor at The Global Nail Fungus Organization, a group committed to helping the 100+ million people suffering from finger and toenail fungus. Sandy is also a registered Herbalist and member of the American Herbalist’s Guild.
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