sticky nail polish

Sticky Nail Polish Is Not A Big Problem With This Perfect Guide

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    If you're like me at home applying nail polish yourself, when you pull out your favorite color, you'll find it turned into a sticky, slimy mess. This is especially frustrating when it's a favorite color and there's more than half of the bottle left, and when it's a discontinued color, I'm not even going into the fact. It can be frustrating, to say the least if you run out of backups and can't go out and buy a new one.

    I noticed that while this problem occurs more often with pharmacies or cheap brands, even high-end premium polishes can't avoid becoming sticky nail polishes.

    Although sticky nail polish is applied unevenly, the main key here is to find a workable repair without completely wasting the product. Luckily, there are tried and tested methods to help you rejuvenate your sticky nail polish. They may not be perfect or as good as new, but you can definitely use your favorite colors.

    Today in this article, I will focus on sticky nail polish. How does nail polish become sticky and how to avoid it? You can find ways through this post. Keep these tips in mind and next time you will never be caught off guard by sticky nail polish. However, the best way to care for your polish is to take steps to prevent this problem from occurring in the first place.

    sticky nail polish

    The Reasons For Sticky Nail Polish

    Nail polish is formulated using ingredients that react with air and light to make it dry quickly and evenly after being applied to the surface of the nail. Often, these ingredients are so sensitive that being exposed to air or light for too long can cause the nail polish to become sticky before it even leaves the bottle and long after it is applied to your nails. 

    Sometimes it’s tough to know exactly why your nail polish won’t cooperate, so we’ve explored some of the top reasons why you could be struggling with sticky nail polish:

    Inappropriate Storage

    First and foremost, you may not be storing your nail polish bottles properly. Nail polish contains isopropyl alcohol, which is known for being sensitive to heat, air, and light. The alcohol in nail polish is also what causes it to dry very quickly when applied to your nails. If left open for too long, the nail polish itself can dry out while still in the bottle.

    Prolonged contact with air and direct sunlight should be avoided if you want to prevent your nail polish from becoming thick and sticky nail polish.

    Applied Too Many Polish

    Think you’re saving time by applying extra-thick coats of nail polish?

    Applying coats of nail polish that are too thick will slow down the drying process and can sometimes cause a sticky mess rather than a smooth finish. While the topmost layer of nail polish will start to dry as soon as it comes into contact with air, the polish sitting beneath it has less contact with air and remains wet for much longer.

    This will cause the nail polish you applied to become sticky nail polish and smudge very easily.

    Hasty Application

    Another possibility – you’ve applied the next coat of nail polish without letting the previous one dry.

    Similar to applying coats of nail polish that are too thick, applying the next coat of nail polish too soon doesn’t allow the layers hiding underneath to dry thoroughly. This creates a squishy, sticky texture that basically signals not enough drying time.

    The more time each coat spends exposed to air, the better it will dry and the better it will accommodate the next coat of nail polish.

    Air Is Getting In

    It could be that nail polish residue is overwhelming the neck of your nail polish bottle. When too much nail polish dries around the neck of your nail polish bottle, it can cause the cap not to tighten properly and let air in.

    Sometimes the residue can even get mixed up in the nail polish, compromising the original consistency of the lacquer and causing it to become clumpy.

    Low-Quality Nail Polish

    Not all nail polishes are made equal. Nail polish brands use different formulations, including different pigments and different thickening agents, to create your favorite shades. Just like any other cosmetic, some ingredients, such as pigments, are more vibrant and last longer than others.

    If the ingredients aren’t the most appropriate for quick-drying nail polish, you could end up with sticky nail polish.

    Not Using A Topcoat

    Another possibility – you forgot to finish your gel manicure without a topcoat. Some gel polishes will feel sticky if they are not finished with a top coat after curing. Air-dry gel polishes are more likely to feel sticky even after drying, as their formulation is more like traditional nail lacquer than it is salon-quality gel polish.

    Either way, a topcoat is meant to be a final, protective layer that prevents stickiness.

    How To Stop Your Nail Polish Becoming Sticky Nail Polish?

    Depending on the cause, there are a few ways to stop your nail polish from getting sticky:

    Thin With Nail Polish Thinner

    Adding a drop of nail polish thinner will thin out your nail polish and help reduce stickiness.

    Be careful when using this method, as too much thinner can actually dilute your nail polish and make it runny.

    Gel polish requires a thinner specially formulated for gel nail polishes.

    Specially formulated gel polish thinner keeps the original formula of gel polish intact, whereas solvents like acetone or nail polish remover will eventually break it down.

    Most nail polish brands also carry thinners that are compatible with their nail lacquers.

    Store Nail Polish Bottles Properly

    Prevent nail polish to becoming sticky nail polish by going straight to the source and ensuring that your nail polish bottles are closed tightly and stored properly.

    Store your nail polish in a dark, cool, dry place and away from direct sunlight.

    Wipe Excess Nail Polish From The Neck Of The Bottle

    Remember to wipe excess nail polish from the neck of the nail polish bottle to prevent future sticky messes.

    Storing nail polish properly is the key to preventing it to becoming sticky nail polish and will save you both time and money.

    Apply Thinner Coats Of Nail Polish

    When applying nail polish, start with nails that are clean and dry. Apply a thin coat of nail polish and let it dry for at least a few minutes.

    Not sure how much polish is too much? As you remove the cap, try letting excess nail polish drip off of the applicator brush and back into the bottle. This will give you greater control over how much nail polish is applied.

    Let Each Coat Dry Thoroughly Before Applying Another

    We’ve all been eager to get that third coat of nail polish on before the previous one has had enough time to dry, but drying time is crucial to a successful manicure or pedicure. After the previous coat of nail polish dries, apply another and allow that coat ample drying time as well.

    Not drying fast enough? Gently blowing air on your nails or running them under cold water for a few seconds will help speed up drying time.

    Try Out A Different Brand Of Nail Polish

    If your nail polish becomes sticky nail polish well before its expiration date, it could be that it is not formulated with long-lasting, high-quality ingredients. It’s widely known that nail polish doesn’t have to be expensive to be of good quality. A good quality nail polish provides even coverage, dries fairly quickly, and makes for a stunning manicure.

    Most drugstore polishes will do the trick. If you’re looking for luxury, beauty supply stores carry the same brands used by your favorite nail technician. When choosing gel nail polish, keep in mind that gel works a little bit differently than traditional nail lacquer. Sometimes, sticky seeming gel polish doesn’t actually signal a problem with your nail polish – it’s just part of the process.

    Use A Topcoat For Gel Nails

    Gel nail polish and traditional nail polish use different processes and similar ingredients to achieve the same goal. While gel polish is now widely available, saving us all countless trips to the salon, a successful home manicure involves a series of steps that are all equally important. The base coat of your gel polish can remain sticky when not sealed with a topcoat, which is why it is so important to remember this final step in the process.

    Applying a top coat will protect the base coats and ensure that your nails are finished properly.

    Use An Alchohol Wipe

    Using an alcohol wipe to quickly wipe the nail after the gel top coat has cured helps eliminate any residual stickiness left by the gel nail polish. If you don’t have pre-moistened alcohol wipes handy, you can also add a drop of alcohol to a small square of paper towel.

    Make sure to be quick and careful when wiping your gel nails with alcohol, as lingering too long could start to degrade the glossy finish of your freshly painted nails.

    4 Ways To Fix Your Sticky Nail Polish

    1. Use A Nail Polish Thinner

    This is actually the best method to solve your nail polish woes and restore its consistency without destroying the product. Usually, many nail polish brands have thinners of their own you can choose from.

    Use an eyedropper if possible to add a drop or two at a time into the bottle. Screw the nail polish bottle cap back on and rub the bottle between your hands to mix the formula. Avoid shaking the bottle as it creates air bubbles that can affect the consistency. Test the consistency of the polish on your nail.

    If it’s not quite right add a drop and try again. However, be careful not to add too much. The polish might get too runny and you won’t be able to re-thicken it again.

    2. Mix The Polish

    Gently mixing your nail polish works if the product has thickened just a little bit. Make sure the bottle is sealed and turn it upside down. Then roll it between your hands for a few minutes. This helps to gently warm up the polish and help thin it out. Remember, as we mentioned above, shaking isn’t the way to go as it creates air bubbles that can cause nail polish to chip quickly. It can also cause the product to become thicker, so shake at your own risk.

    3. Hot Water

    If rubbing the polish between your hands doesn’t quite do the job and you are out of lacquer thinner, hot water is a great trick. All you have to do is run the bottle under hot water to heat the sticky nail polish. This will temporarily thin out the formula. The best way to implement this method would be to pour hot water into a bowl and leave the bottle in for about 2 minutes. Next, remove the bottle carefully as it can be very hot, so please handle it with caution. You need to then roll the bottle back in forth in your hands to mix the polish inside.

    4. Add Pure Acetone Or Nail Polish Remover

    I would only suggest this as your last resort when you’re trying to use up the last bits before tossing the bottle. Adding a few drops and mixing the bottle will thin your sticky nail polish but it’s only good for short-term results. While it does work as a quick fix, the acetone will break down the formula and ruin your nail polish. If you’ve got to this stage it’s probably time to wave goodbye to your old nail polish.


    Keep in mind that most gel nail polishes are formulated to be a bit thicker than traditional nail lacquer, which makes them seem a bit sticky from the start. If you suspect that your nail polish is becoming sticky nail polish, try painting one of your nails to determine the cause.

    And you also need to know when to say goodbye. Nail polish just like makeup has its own shelf life too. If it’s become too sludge-like just toss the bottles and make peace with it.

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