Last Updated on July 15, 2022
One of the greatest beauty tragedies is having your favorite shade of nail polish run out or become too thick or clumpy to use any longer. This is particularly unwelcome if it happened with a limited edition shade that is no longer sold in stores.
Thankfully, there are several ways to revive old nail polish to make it less thick, less sticky and beautiful once again.
Does Nail Polish Go Bad?
First, you should know that nail polish does not actually go bad as many other beauty products do.
For example, your foundation, mascara or eye shadow probably has to be replaced every 6 to 12 months. Otherwise, you risk the growth of unwelcome microbes in your beauty products that could make you sick, give you an eye infection or do something much worse.
However, this is not as much of a problem with nail polish because these products are not placed on your face or near your eyes. Plus, the ingredients in many polishes are actually antimicrobial in nature.
With that being said, many nail polish brands do recommend replacing the product after a certain length of time.
If you look on the bottom of your favorite bottle of polish, you may see a PAO number such as 12m, 18m or 24m. This Period After Opening (PAO) number tells you how many months you can expect your polish to last if you care for it meticulously.
However, in many cases, your nail polish can be made to last far longer than this PAO number would suggest. This is particularly true if you do not use your polish frequently.
Read on to learn more about why your nail polish may have become too thick, goopy or clumpy and what you can do to address this problem and get your favorite color back on your nails again.
Why Does Nail Polish Get Thick, Goopy or Clumpy?
The main reason why nail polish becomes thicker over time is that the ingredients are slowly evaporating. While a bottle of nail polish that has never been opened can last for years with very little change, bottles that are routinely opened while you are painting your nails will gradually become thicker.
The solvents in nail polish are liquid and evaporate over time. As they do so, the resins and other chemicals in the polish gradually harden.
You may notice that small drips of polish around the edges of the bottle become sticky and harden, making it difficult for you to remove the lid. You may also notice that the polish begins to separate, creating clumps in the bottle and gradually thickening the polish.
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Tips for Thinning Old Nail Polish at Home
1. Blend It
In some cases, you may be able to use a quick fix to get a bit of extra life out of your bottle of polish. Simply blending the ingredients back together by hand may be enough to get you by for your next polish application.
However, do not shake your bottle of polish as this can introduce air bubbles. Instead, flip the bottle slowly back and forth for a few minutes to blend the color back together.
2. Warm It Up
If these options for blending your polish do not do the trick, try placing the bottle in a bowl of very hot water for two minutes. Be careful that you do not burn your fingers on the bottle when you take it out of the water, and make sure that the polish cap is tightly closed before beginning.
You can also roll the bottle gently between your hands for a few minutes. This will warm up the polish, which can create a temporarily thinner consistency.
3. Nail Polish Thinner or Acetone
While these short-term options may solve your problem temporarily, they are not long-term solutions that will give you many more uses out of your polish. The best solution is to add a thinning agent to your polish to eliminate clumps altogether.
Many stores sell nail polish thinner. If you are attempting to revive gel polish, look for a thinner specifically made for this type of product. If you absolutely cannot find nail polish thinner, you can try pure acetone, such as what you would use to remove your nail polish. Apply one drop at a time using an eyedropper. Acetone alternatives exist but typically don’t work as quickly.
Once the thinner is in the polish, roll the bottle between your hands for a few minutes to mix it thoroughly. If the polish is particularly thick, you may want to let the thinner sit in the polish for a few minutes before mixing it.
After mixing, check the consistency of your polish. Consider adding another drop of thinner if it is still too thick to use.
4. Clean the Brush
The nail polish brush could also be part of the problem. If it is clumped up with nail polish residue, dip it in a small glass cup of acetone to dissolve the residue. Rinse out the brush when finished, dry it with a paper towel thoroughly and put it back on the bottle as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary evaporation of the nail polish.
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How to Keep Your Nail Polish Fresh for Years
In the future, you can take steps to prevent nail polish thickening from happening in the first place. Protecting your polish is simple if you know what to do.
- Keep the bottles out of direct sunlight, and try to store then in a cool, dark spot.
- Keep them out of the bathroom so that they are not ruined by excessive humidity or heat from showers and hair dryers. An infrequently used cupboard or closet is often an ideal location.
- Be sure to store the bottles in upright positions rather than on their sides, and tighten the lids completely to ensure that no air gets into them between uses.
Read Also: Gel vs SNS vs Acrylic Nails (Which is Best?)
How to Know When Your Nail Polish Cannot Be Saved
While caring for your nail polish properly and occasionally thinning it out when it becomes too thick can help you save your polishes longer than you may have thought possible, every bottle of used polish will eventually need to be tossed.
If your polish simply cannot be restored with thinner or acetone, it is unusable. Also, considering throwing out polishes that have developed strange odors or that have changed colors.
Nail polish can add a pop of color to your life, and applying it may just be that self-care technique that you need to help you relax after a stressful day. If thick or clumpy polish is adding more stress to your life, use these tips to thin old nail polish and save your favorite colors.