DIY: How to fix and restore dry or thick nail polish

Restore Nail PolishBest I can figure I haven’t used OPI Black Shatter since February of 2011. I used it over Orly Ancient Jade. Why? I have no idea. Looking at it now I can’t even imagine why I thought that was a good look…

Anyway, I pulled it out of my Melmer earlier today to use it only to discover it was a dried out, thick disaster. It was in a completely unusable state.

Believe it or not, until now I’ve never had this problem. I’m pretty good about keeping my nail polish in good condition. I store it properly and have never really had a problem with polish drying out. I wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed.

After doing a little research, some patience and a lot of shaking I’ve managed to get my OPI Black Shatter back in working condition.

Below the jump is exactly how I restored my dried out nail polish and some tips on avoiding having polish dry out in the first place! (And a couple of things not to do…)

Alli

Just a note regarding old nail polish: It doesn’t expire. Really. Many companies put expiration dates on nail polish because they are required to. I’ve heard all kinds of time lengths nail polish is “good” for. None of this is true. So don’t throw away nail polish you like. If it has separated or dried out it can be fixed!

Orly Nail Lacquer ThinnerWhat you need:

  1. The nail polish that needs to be restored
  2. Nail polish thinner. My favorite is Orly Nail Lacquer Thinner. But any and all nail thinners will work! Sally Beauty has a generic Beauty Secrets thinner that’s very affordable.

How to:

  1. Add about 2 drops of thinner at a time and shake the polish. If it’s still too thick repeat the process. Most polishes will be restored by just doing this.
  2. If you’ve added 2 or 3 drops several times and you’re not getting anywhere add another few drops of thinner and let the polish sit. I let mine sit for about an hour.
  3. Shake the polish again. Repeat step 1 and 2 as necessary. The bottle of Black Shatter I was working with is an extreme example. I had to add a few more drops of thinner and really shake it even after letting it sit.
  4. That’s it! Pretty simple.
Before

Before

After

After

After 2

Warnings & additional tips:

  1. Whatever you do….DO NOT PUT NAIL POLISH REMOVER IN YOUR NAIL POLISH. Sorry I yelled. But seriously, I’ve read even in magazines that putting a little bit of polish remover in nail polish will restore it. It’ll restore it and slowly destroy it.
  2. Don’t get overly aggressive with the nail polish thinner. Only add a couple drops at a time. If the polish gets too thin, it’s very difficult to make it thicker. If this does happen to you, leave the cap off and periodically check the nail polish consistency. Eventually this should re-thicken the nail polish.
  3. If you’re dealing with nail polish that’s basically entirely dry add the thinner then take a toothpick and use that to begin mixing the polish and thinner.
  4. Before going through all of this make sure to shake your polish really well. It may not even need thinner. It may just be the pigments settled and the polish needs a good shake.
  5. If you are absolutely dead set on not getting any nail polish thinner and your polish isn’t too thick you can try adding a small amount of clear polish to the dried out polish. I do not recommend this method but it can work. It can also be a disaster. Proceed at your own risk!

It’d be nice not to even have to deal with dried nail polish at all, right? There are a couple of things that can be done to prevent this:

  1. Make sure you are storing your nail polish properly. I did a post on the best ways to store nail polish. You can check it out here.
  2. Keep the threads on the neck of the polish clean. If polish builds up on the neck of the bottle it not only will eventually make the polish very difficult to open, but it will let air into the polish, causing it to dry out.
  3. Don’t leave polish sitting open. I know I get distracted while doing my nails and can sometimes leave the bottle open. This allows for extra evaporation.

If you have any additional tips or tricks make sure to leave a comment!

Tagged with 

26 thoughts on “DIY: How to fix and restore dry or thick nail polish

  1. Hrafnhildur Haldorsen says:

    Thanks for this post :) I didn’t know the part about the expiration date…..intriguing! And here I thought I had lost “Overexposed in South beach” for good ;)

  2. Very interesting post. So then, acetone and thinner are not the same thing? I always thought pure acetone (not remover) would work. What’s in the thinner?

    • Hey Nat! I use the Beauty Secrets thinner and the ingredients are: Butyl acetate, Ethyl Acetate, and Heptane. Seche Restore: Butyl Acetate, Toluene, Isopropyl Alcohol – I’m sure Alli can check her thinner to see what the ingredients are :)

    • Thinner does not contain acetone. Acetone is a much harsher thinner that’s meant to break down pigment so nail polish can be removed.

      Acetate is a much less aggressive solvent which is what makes nail polish thinners work.

      Hope that helps!

      • I have always used a few drops of acetone in my polishes, it has never harmed any of them. I even have a small dropper that I use only for it – not often, I must say.

    • I usually uses acetone and it works just fine for me, but if you do so, then remember not to shake the polish after, but role it between your hands, because else there will come bubbles (don’t ever shake it) :)

  3. This is an education! Thank you kindly for giving me back my old OPI Summer Flutters that I never had the heart to turf!

  4. Quick tip on keeping the threads of your np bottles clean: You don’t need to use acetone or remover to clean them up. Isopropyl Alcohol on a paper towel will do it nicely–with out the risk of remover messing up your new polish! I use the alcohol swabs in the little packets meant to prep injection sites. These can be found by the diabetic supplies in the pharmacy. They are cheap and disposable.

  5. Great tips! I have to get myself some of that thinner, I thought you could only keep polishes for a few years.

    Would love to read more polish care tips – I have an OPI that seems to be stuck shut forever!

    http://beckyalyssasbeautybox.wordpress.com

    • I did a post on how to open a bottle of nail polish that won’t open. You can check out that post here. Have you tried that technique?

      Sometimes nail polish can be so frustrating! haha

  6. […] DIY: How to fix and restore dry or thick nail polish (thedailyvarnish.com) […]

  7. My fave thinner is Zoya. I think I need the high end thinner for the 3, 4 and 5 free polishes. Because my Sally Beauty supply cheap thinner did not help my Chanel polish. It made it worse. Still hoping to save it, but I have mixed thinner brands, and I hope that is OK.

    • The Zoya and Sally Beauty Secrets thinners have the EXACT same ingredients list.

      The only really different thinner out there is the Seche Restore. I wouldn’t recommend that one at all simply because it has Toluene.

      Most polishes, even at the drugstore, are 3 (or more) free nowadays. I have no idea why a particular thinner wouldn’t work with a particular polish. There’s nothing special about the way Chanel formulates nail polish.

  8. heat water in microwave 3 minutes – place bottle in water for a few minutes. this is an old trick that sometimes works.

  9. I had already put nail polish remover in my polish..I guess it gone forever….:-(

What do you think?