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A Glossary of terms for Nail Technicians

A Glossary of terms for Nail Technicians

Welcome to, where we provide all the resources you need to become an expert in the world of nail art and design. As a professional nail technician, it's essential to understand the terminology that goes with the territory. That's why we've compiled a comprehensive glossary of terms for you to use as a reference guide. From basic terms to useful contacts, our glossary covers the terminology and organisations you should be familiar with. So whether you're just starting out or looking to expand your knowledge (and business) has got you covered.

Let's start with products, equipment and terminology you will use on a daily basis:

  • Acrylic Nails: An artificial nail product famed for its strength and longevity. Acrylic Nails (or simply Acrylics) are made by combining a liquid (monomer) and powder polymer that forms a flexible and durable material.


  • Basecoat:. A basecoat is a covalent bond that acts like double sided sticky tape and adheres to the keratin in the nail plate and the product adhered to the inhibition layer that is left after the 60 second cure.

  • Builder Gel: A thicker viscosity gel used to provide strength to the natural nails and can also be used on short nail enhancements.Available in various shades.

  • Callus Remover: A product used to soften and eliminate thickened skin around the nails and on the feet. Available in both liquid and cream forms.

  • Cleanse Our cleanse is to remove the inhibition layer left behind from our rubber and no wipe topcoat..

  • Clippers: A tool used to cut nails. Available in a variety of sizes and styles for different parts of the nail and cuticle area.

  • Cuticle Oil: A nourishing oil designed to hydrate the cuticle and skin surrounding the nail.


  • Cuticle Pusher: A tool used to gently remove the non living tissue from the nail plate.

  • Disinfectant: Substances used to clean tools and surfaces, eliminating or inactivating microorganisms to maintain a safe, hygienic workspace.

  • E-File (Electric Nail File): An electronic device used for filing, shaping, and buffing enhancement nails. Do not use these on natural nails

  • Extension Tips: Artificial nail tips glued to the edge of the natural nail to increase length. These are then used as the base structure for creating nail enhancements.

  • Gel Polish: A thinner viscosity gel that comes in an array of colours that contains oligomers and photo initiators which require a UV or LED lamp to cure. Knows for its longevity and high gloss finish.

  • Hema Free: Refers to nail products formulated without Hydroxyethyl Methacrylate (HEMA). Some people may be allergic to HEMA, thus these products are ideal for those with sensitivities. Glitterbels have an extensive range of Hema-Free nail products and were one of the early movers in the Hema-Free space. 

  • LED Lamp: A type of lamp used to cure gel polish and hard gels. These lamps utilise LED light, which cures gel products quicker than traditional UV lamps.

  • Manicure: A treatment for the hands and nails that typically involves shaping the nails, cuticle work, massage, and often the application of nail varnish.

  • Nail Art Brushes: Special brushes are used to create intricate nail art designs.
  • Nail Buffers: Tools used to smooth and shine the nails. They have a less abrasive surface than nail files.

  • Nail Drill Bits: Attachments used with the electric nail file. They come in various shapes and grits for different tasks such as shaping nails, removing gel or acrylic, or cleaning up cuticles.

  • Nail Files: Tools used to shape natural and enchanted nails, they come in various grip levels thus the higher the grit level the smoother the file.

  • Nail Forms: Stickers used to create a nail extension without using a tip. They provide a guide for sculpting extended nails with acrylic or gel.

  • Overlay: A layer of gel or acrylic is applied on top of the natural nails to add strength without adding length.

  • Primer: A product applied to the natural nail before the application of acrylics or gels. It helps to increase adhesion and prolong the life of the manicure.

  • Sanitisers: Products used to clean tools, surfaces, and hands by reducing the number of germs to a safe level. It’s important to note that sanitisers do not eliminate all types of germs.

  • Sculptured Nails: Nail enhancements that are created by building and shaping the nail extension directly onto the nail form using a brush and either acrylic or gel.

  • Soak Off: The process of removing hard nail products like gel or acrylic by soaking them in acetone, 

  • Soft Gel: Another term for gel polish, which is softer than hard gel and can be soaked off with acetone.

  • Top Coat: The final layer of nail product in a gel or acrylic service. That needs curing for 60 seconds in a UV or LED lamp, it adds shine and protects the colour coat from chipping and fading.

  • UV Lamp: A lamp that emits ultraviolet light, is used to cure gel nail products.

  • UV Gel: A type of gel product that is cured under a UV lamp. These include base coats, gel colours and topcoats.

  • Ventilation System: A system used to remove and filter the air in a nail salon to reduce dust and chemical fumes. This can include tabletop ventilation, ceiling or wall-mounted systems, or even personal respirators.

  • Vinyl’s: Stickers with cutout designs used as a stencil in nail art. They can be used with regular nail varnish, gel polish, or even airbrushing.

  • Water Decals: Thin designs that are transferred onto the nail using water. They come in a wide variety of designs and are an easy way to add detailed art to nails.

Here is a list of organisations that provide either insurance for salon owners or courses on health and safety that would pertain to the nail and beauty industry: 

  • Abbey Insurance
  • ABT Insurance (who accredit all of our courses) 
  • Aviva
  • British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA)
  • British Safety Council
  • Coversure Insurance Services
  • Direct Line for Business
  • Hair and Beauty Insurance (part of Salon Gold)
  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
  • Hiscox
  • Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)
  • Lloyd's of London
  • National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF)
  • Premierline Business Insurance Broker
  • Public Health England
  • Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)
  • Salon Gold
  • Simply Business
  • The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)
  • Zurich Insurance

Here is a list of nail conditions that some of your clients may experience: 

  • Beau's Lines: Horizontal lines or indentations that run across the nails. These lines can occur after an illness, injury, or severe stress that disrupts nail growth.

  • Brittle Nails: Nails that are often hard, dry, and prone to breakage or peeling. They may be caused by environmental factors like frequent hand washing, or internal factors like poor nutrition.

  • Clubbing: A condition where the nails become curved and the fingertips become enlarged. This can be a sign of various types of lung disease, as well as heart disease, liver disease, or AIDS.

  • Hangnails: Small pieces of skin that tear away from the cuticle area. They are usually caused by dry skin or physical trauma like nail biting or clipping.

  • Koilonychia (Spoon Nails): Nails that are thin and concave with raised ridges, and scoop outward like a spoon. It can be an indicator of iron deficiency or anaemia.

  • Leukonychia: The appearance of white spots on the nails. These are usually due to minor injuries to the nail and are generally harmless.

  • Melanonychia: Dark streaks that run from the base of the nail to its tip. While they can simply be due to hyperpigmentation, they can also signify a more serious condition, such as melanoma.

  • Nail Fungus (Onychomycosis): A fungal infection that can cause the nails to become discoloured, thickened, and brittle.

  • Nail-Patella Syndrome: A genetic disorder that results in small, poorly developed nails and kneecaps.

  • Onycholysis: A condition in which the nail separates from the nail bed. This can be caused by injury, infection, or certain drugs.

  • Paronychia: An infection of the skin around the nails. It is typically caused by bacteria or fungi and can result in redness, swelling, and pain.

  • Psoriatic Nails: Changes in the nails associated with psoriasis, a skin condition. Changes can include discolouration, pitting, lines across the nails, and thickening.

  • Terry's Nails: Most of the nail appears white except for a narrow pink band at the tip. It is often seen in the elderly and can also be associated with certain medical conditions, such as liver disease or heart failure.

  • Yellow Nail Syndrome: Nails that grow slowly and turn yellow or green. This can sometimes be associated with respiratory diseases or lymphedema.

These are just some of the many nail conditions that exist. It's important that your client should consult a healthcare professional or a qualified dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment if someone is experiencing any unusual changes in their nails