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Nail Polish vs. Nail Enamel — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on November 7, 2023
Nail Polish is a general term for colored lacquers applied on nails; Nail Enamel is a specific type of Nail Polish with a glossy, durable finish.
Nail Polish vs. Nail Enamel — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Nail Polish and Nail Enamel


Key Differences

Nail Polish is a broad term referring to the variety of colored or clear lacquers that are applied to fingernails and toenails. This category encompasses a wide range of formulas, finishes, and purposes, including base coats, topcoats, and more.
On the other hand, Nail Enamel specifically denotes a type of Nail Polish designed to give a glossy and often more durable finish. This type of polish is known for its luster and long-lasting wear.
While all Nail Enamels are Nail Polishes, not all Nail Polishes are Nail Enamels. Some might argue that the term "enamel" hints at a product's quality, suggesting a polish that provides superior shine and longevity.
In the world of beauty, however, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably in marketing, even though they have distinct differences.

Comparison Chart


Broad term for colored lacquers on nails
Specific type with glossy, durable finish


Varies (matte, glossy, glitter, etc.)
Typically glossy


Varies based on formula
Often more durable


General term for all nail lacquers
Used to denote higher quality or glossy finishes


Sometimes used broadly
Specific within the Nail Polish category

Compare with Definitions

Nail Polish

A cosmetic applied to nails for aesthetic purposes.
Her collection of Nail Polish is truly impressive.

Nail Enamel

A cosmetic for a high-gloss nail finish.
The beauty store had a sale on their premium Nail Enamel range.

Nail Polish

A beauty product with various finishes.
She loves matte and glitter Nail Polishes.

Nail Enamel

Indicates a higher quality nail lacquer.
She splurged on a luxury Nail Enamel brand.

Nail Polish

Colored lacquer for decorating nails.
She chose a bright red Nail Polish for the occasion.

Nail Enamel

A glossy type of nail polish.
Her nails shone brightly with the pink Nail Enamel.

Nail Polish

A solution that dries to form a protective layer.
Always allow the Nail Polish to dry completely.

Nail Enamel

A durable and long-lasting nail lacquer.
For the vacation, she chose a hard-wearing Nail Enamel.

Nail Polish

A formula for enhancing, strengthening, or protecting nails.
This Nail Polish claims to help nails grow faster.

Nail Enamel

A polish that provides superior shine.
She loves the shine her new Nail Enamel gives.

Common Curiosities

Can I use a topcoat with Nail Enamel?

Yes, a topcoat can enhance the shine and durability of Nail Enamel.

Which lasts longer, Nail Polish or Nail Enamel?

Nail Enamel often lasts longer due to its durable formula.

Why choose Nail Enamel over regular Nail Polish?

For a glossier finish and often longer wear.

Is Nail Enamel more expensive?

Not necessarily, but some brands price Nail Enamel higher due to its quality.

Are there clear Nail Enamels?

Yes, some Nail Enamels are clear and provide a glossy finish without added color.

Does Nail Polish help protect nails?

Some Nail Polishes have protective or strengthening formulas.

Is Nail Enamel hard to remove?

It may require a good nail polish remover, especially for more durable formulas.

Why do some people prefer Nail Polish over Nail Enamel?

Personal preference, desired finish, and specific use case.

Are Nail Polish and Nail Enamel the same?

Not exactly; while all Nail Enamels are Nail Polishes, not all Nail Polishes are Nail Enamels.

Do Nail Polishes come in different finishes?

Yes, Nail Polishes can be matte, glossy, glittered, etc.

Which dries faster, Nail Polish or Nail Enamel?

It varies by brand and formula, but generally, they have similar drying times.

Can I use Nail Enamel on toenails?

Absolutely, Nail Enamel can be used on both fingernails and toenails.

Do I need a base coat for Nail Enamel?

A base coat can help protect nails and enhance the appearance of the Nail Enamel.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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