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17 Best Reflective Nail Polish & Gel Polish

Are you competitive about having the brightest, sparkliest nails around? You will get left behind if you’re not wearing reflective nail polish. Glitter nail polish and even holographic nail polish are shiny, but nothing is as striking and dramatic as reflective glitter polish.

Is it really that different? Yes. Unequivocally, yes. I have tried both standard reflecting polish and reflective gel polish and it’s like no glitter you’ve ever worn. The flash is blinding. You have to see it for yourself.

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What Is Reflective Nail Polish?

Reflective polish takes the sparkle of normal glitter and turns it up to 11. When you get reflective glitter into the right lighting conditions, you almost can't tell what color the polish is because there is so much light reflecting off your nails that they look almost white.

You know those survival signal mirrors they sell for hikers that are used to reflect bright light and flash to signal rescuers? That's what it reminds me of.

But it's your nails. 

Aren't All Glitter Polish Reflective?

Yes and no. Different types of glitter interact with light in loads of different ways.

Multichrome polish flakies bend light a certain way and iridescent glitter will bend light a different way. 

Holographic glitter refracts light, splitting it into different colored light which is what gives it its rainbow sparkle. 

Standard glitter reflects light but with not nearly as efficiently as glitter designed to reflect at a higher level. A polished gold ring is reflective, but not as much as the safety reflectors night joggers wear. That's a pretty good comparison. 

What Makes Reflective Glitter Shinier Than Regular Glitter?

Even after wearing these types of polish for months I still didn't have a good answer to that so I asked Christy Rose, founder of KBShimmer, what exactly sets reflective polish apart from regular glitter. 

She explained that lighting coming off of traditional glitter is more diffuse so much of the light hitting them is lost. The light scatters to a point so you get a twinkle instead of a flashlight beam. I think of it like regular glitter's job is to sparkle, not radiate light.

Glitter that is designed to be reflective, however, is made to bounce light back without it scattering the way normal glitter does.

Christy Rose says, "They don’t just catch light, but they take light and bounce it back like tiny micro prisms or mirrors. So, more light reaches your eye, for enhanced brightness."

She compared it to the finish they put on stop signs--when the light of your headlight hits it, the "stop sign bounces your headlight beams back to illuminate the sign," in a different way than it reflects from the chrome post holding the sign which is also technically reflecting light. Reflective polish acts the same way. 

What Is Reflective Glitter Made Of?

According to Christy Rose, reflective glitter can be made from resin mixtures or micro glass beads made to specifically bounce light back like a mirror.

But if that's what reflecting glitter is made of, what is regular glitter made of?

The answer is a wide, wide range of things. The majority of glitter you'll come across is either plastic or plastic metalized with aluminum. A New York Times article interviewed someone from a glitter factory for the ins and outs, including the process for making holographic and iridescent glitters. Holo is made by embossing a specific pattern onto the glitter and iridescence is achieved by layering many clear films that each interact with light differently. (The article specifies they use 233 layers for their iridescent glitter. That's wild.)

You can also find glitter made with mica, glass, biodegradable cellulose, or even fish scales for shimmer which you'll find labeled as guanine, according to the Cosmetics Info site. 

Why Isn't My Reflective Polish Bright?

Gloss it up. Lots of polishes with a high density of glitter pigments tend to dry matte. This dull finish will deaden their glow but once you layer on a glossy top coat, you'll be shining in no time.

It's also possible you needed another coat of polish before adding that top coat.

If you've already got a top coat and the polish is opaque, you might be in poor lighting. Try shining your smartphone flashlight at your nails. If that doesn't do the trick, sorry friend, you need to get better polish.

Is It Hard to Remove Reflective Glitter?

No harder than removing regular glitter. 

Is It the Same as Mirror Polish?

Nope. Mirror nails are generally made by buffing nail powder onto a no wipe gel top coat. This gives it a shiny, chrome appearance, but not a reflective one. 

Diamond or disco polish are other names for reflecting polish.

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