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How To Thin Out A Goopy, Sticky Nail Polish: 5 Expert Tips To Keep It Spreadable

Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor By Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
How To Thin Out A Goopy, Sticky Nail Polish: 5 Expert Tips To Keep It Spreadable
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Nail polish is just as sensorial as any other beauty product—a good bottle of lacquer should feel thin and spreadable, with a candy-shell gleam. So when you sweep on a varnish that's decidedly the opposite (read: thick and goopy), well, it doesn't exactly lend a pleasant polish experience. Plus, an icky nail polish is pretty difficult to sweep on—the viscosity only makes it easier for the product to bleed into your cuticles and create an overall sticky mess. 

That's not to say you must part ways with the old number, especially if it's an all-time favorite buy. Here, find expert tips to thin the formula and give it new life:

1. Use nail polish thinner. 

Polish gone sticky is a pretty common issue—so much so that you can find plenty of polish thinners on the market to help liquefy the consistency. Snag your thinner of choice (like this one from ella + mila) and add a few drops into your bottle of lacquer. "Once you've added the thinner, you can rub the polish bottle between your hands to ensure an even consistency of your new polish mixture," says Amy Lin, the founder of sundays—a nail care brand focused on wellness. 

Just don't shake to combine—this can lead to air bubbles in your polish, Lin notes, which can make your polish chip faster.

Simply roll the polish between your palms to swirl the mixture. Another caveat? Polish thinners typically contain the same base ingredients as nail polish, so it might affect the pigment depending on how many drops you use. (Generally, the more drops you use, the more washed out your color may appear.) One or two drops likely won't make a noticeable difference, but if you're concerned about the color payoff, you might want to follow some of the other methods below. 


2. Immerse in hot water. 

Here's a fun hack: When your polish turns thick and goopy, Lin recommends filling up a bowl of hot water and submerging the polish bottle for a couple of minutes. The acute heat "allows the polish mixture to thin out and return back to a more normal consistency," she says. 

3. Keep your bottles sealed. 

To prevent goopy varnish in the first place, you'll want to tightly seal your bottles after each use. When oxygen seeps into the formula, it can separate and change texture over time. Not to mention, leaving your polishes uncapped can dry out the lacquer, which—you guessed it!—can lead to a stickier consistency that's quite difficult to sweep on. 

You may even want to close the bottle after waiting for your first coat to dry—it may not seem like much, but that air exposure builds up with every mani. 

4. Store and clean them correctly. 

On a similar note, keep your bottles in a cool, dark place to avoid shortening the shelf life. Like oxygen, light and heat can degrade the formula and lead to those textural changes. That's why experts recommend you store polishes in your bedroom, not your bathroom; the humidity in your bathroom fluctuates pretty quickly (thanks to the shower steam), which can transform your polish into a thick, melted consistency. 

Also, make sure you store them standing upright—when a bottle is slumped on its side, the polish can spill out the neck of the bottle and dry out (especially if those caps aren't screwed on tight!). If you do notice some spillage, take a remover-soaked cotton swab and clean up the neck of the bottle to prevent the formula from caking up top. 


5. Check the expiration date. 

Of course, if a sticky texture gives you pause, it's worth peeking at the expiration date before trying to revive the formula. Polish, like makeup and skin care, has a shelf life. According to Lin, most polishes expire 24 months after opening, although you can oftentimes find the exact timestamp on the label. 

"After two years of opening the polish, the consistency of the polish formula changes, and it's not as easy to apply the polish," notes Lin. That said: If your lacquer is old and goopy well past its expiration date, these hacks might not get you very far—it's probably a good idea to just toss it. 

The takeaway. 

If your polish has gone goopy, there are a few expert hacks you can try to thin the consistency. Although, if it's been years, you may just want to part ways and snag a new shade—all the hacks in the beauty stratosphere may not revive a polish past its prime.

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