A Guide To Color Changing Nail Polish




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If you’re anything like me, you easily tire of having the same nail polish color on for too long. But for one reason or another, you can’t keep changing your nail polish every time you get bored with its color, because it gets pretty expensive. So today I will give you a guide to color-changing nail polish that can add some excitement to your pedicure. 

Color-changing nail polish comes in various forms such as solar reactive, thermal, and holographic. The properties inside these polishes react to an external element, such as light, heat, and refraction to produce color changes in various ways. There are even ways that you can make your own color-changing nail polish.

I will first describe the different types of color-changing nail polishes and explain how each works. Next, I will give you useful tips to remember when purchasing these nail polishes as well as an easy guide to make them yourself if you don’t want to buy them. Lastly, I will show you how to use these nail polishes. 

Types Of Color-Changing Nail Polish

1. Solar (“Sun”) Reactive  

A similar type of color-changing nail polish that is quite like thermal is solar reactive polish. “Solar” refers to the sun. Therefore, solar reactive polish changes from one color to another when exposed to sunlight or any other kind of ultraviolet (UV) light. 

When inside your home, under your normal light, your nails could be green and when you go outside for some vitamin D, your nails could change into red.  Color-Changing Nail Polish works by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The UV Radiation creates a chemical reaction with the pigments in the polish which results in a different look to the human eye. 

UV radiation comes in multiple forms that cause various reactions depending on the pigments in each polish.

2. Glow In The Dark  

Opposite to solar reactive polish, glow in the dark polish is used in the dark. Glow in the dark polish has uncolored pigments in it so nails look normal to slightly white under regular light. When you turn off the light your nails will start to glow with this polish on. 

Is that ectoplasm on your nails or glow-in-the-dark polish?

Glow in the Dark nail polish is based on the chemicals more, which hold in the light like a solar panel and react/change color when in the dark. In your glow-in-the-dark nail polish, there is a phosphorene substance that will cause the nail polish to glow. Phosphorescent materials absorb light and increase the energy levels of the electrons in the material causing them to release light as the energy levels start to decrease.

If you have ever tried glow-in-the-dark nail polish before you will know that it will eventually return to its normal state. This is because once the energy levels return to a normal state light is no longer emitted. You will find to keep your nails glowing you will have to

  1. “Charge” them up by placing your hands back in the sun so that they can absorb the light or;
  2. Use black light which will allow them to glow without dimming. 

You can make your own glow-in-the-dark nail polish. Here are the items you’ll need.

  • Glow in the dark pigment powder
  • Clear nail polish
  • Paper or Funnel
  • Two or three ball bearings

Gelike Glow in the Dark Gel Nail Polish Neon Luminous Gel Polish Set Fluorescent Bright Colors Glow Effect Soak Off UV Nail Polish Kit for Halloween - 6 PCS 10ML

Glow In The Dark Pigment Powder

You can purchase these online. However, ensure to get a powder that doesn’t have any toxins and that is safe for you to use on your skin.

If you have a full bottle of clear nail polish you will need to throw a small amount out to make room for the other ingredient. Next, you will place your ball bearings inside the clear nail polish. If you have a paper you can form it into a funnel or just use a regular funnel to transfer about one teaspoon of the powder into the nail polish. 

Use more powder the more opaque you would like your nails to become. 

Next, tightly close the bottle and give your polish some gentle shakes, ensuring not to shake vigorously as this will cause air bubbles. 

Your paint is ready to go. You can either use this mixture as your regular nail polish or you can apply nail polish first and use this polish as a topcoat. 

3. Holographic  

Another fun type of nail polish is Holographic polish. Holographic polish is similar to regular nail polish but has a pigment that refracts the light very well making it look like a rainbow. Holographic nail polish does not reflect light as the other polishes do, it refracts it like a prism. 

This polish takes the normal white light and breaks it down into little crystal-like forms that look like rainbows.

To take you back into a little science lesson, white light actually consists of many colors. The nail polish has a pigment like Spectraflair. This pigment is considered a holographic particle. 

This holographic particle in your nail polish will split the white and cause the different colors to become visible. 

You can use pre-made holographic nail polishes which are applied in the same manner in which you would apply regular nail polish. 

However, if you want to use holographic powders instead, it is best to have a nail tech apply it for you as it needs a very precise application to get the sharp bright refraction that you’re looking for. If you’re still interested in giving it a try for yourself I will guide you on how to do it. 

After prepping your nails (a detail which I’ve described below when explaining how to apply thermal nail polishes), apply a base coat then add a layer of regular nail polish. Your nail polish needs to be white or plain for it to work. If you’re a beginner, try sticking to white at first. 

Next, you will need to apply a gel topcoat. This will provide a proper surface for the powder to adhere to. 

Here is where you need to be very careful. You will have to dab a small paintbrush or makeup brush in your holographic powder and then dab (not pull) the powder onto your nail from base to tip. Wait for it to dry then use a clean dry brush to brush away the extra powder. 

You will then apply another layer of the gel topcoat over your powdered nails. Afterward, cure in  UV light for up to two minutes. And there you will have your holographic nail polish. 

ILNP MEGA - 100% PURE Ultra Holographic Nail Polish

4. Multi-Chrome (Duo-Chrome or Chameleon)  

Rather than seeing all colors of the rainbow-like with Holographic polish, Multi-chrome polish is only a couple of colors. This nail lacquer changes based on the angle you view it from. Let’s say my polish looks pink from one angle but I move my hand and it looks red from a different angle. 

Want to look different from every angle? Then this nail polish is right for you 

Multi-Chrome nail polish relies on the pigments’ layers. These pigments are reflective and settle into separate layers on each nail. These layers consist of lower layers that make the nail look one color from an angle and higher layers that reflect a completely different color from another angle.  

5. Thermal/Thermochromic Nail Polish

There are various fun color-changing nail polishes. One of the most popular polish types is Thermal or Thermochromic nail polish. “Thermo” means temperature and “chromic” means color. This type of nail polish changes color in response to the change in temperature. 

On a warm, sunny summer day, your nails could look pink. On a cold, snowy winter day, your nails could look teal.  

Thermal nail polish works by using ultraviolet radiation from fluctuating temperatures. It changes color because of an ingredient called leuco dye. Leuco dye has two forms, colorless and colored. 

Leuco dye can transition between these two states in response to heat. The solvent in the nail polish is what causes the leuco dye to change color. When the solvent in the nail polish is cold it will solidify which stops it from reacting with the dye. 

This means the dye will remain the color that it was placed in, However, when the solvent gets warm from surrounding temperatures, the solvent liquifies and binds with the dye causing it to change color. 

Gel Nail Polish Color Changing Gel Nail Polish Thermochromic Liquid Gel Polish Nail Art UV Temperature Changing Nail Polish

DIY Thermal Nail Polish

You can create your very own Thermal Nail Polish at home, saving you the trouble to purchase some. And it works just as fine! 

You will need the following items:

  • Funnel 
  • Empty Nail Polish Bottle 
  • Glass ball bearings – so you can mix the polish
  • Leuco dye
  • Topcoat is a white, pale, or clear color

First, place one or two ball bearings inside the empty nail polish bottle. Next, take your funnel and place it inside the bottle. Pour the top coat of your choice into the funnel until it reaches halfway. 

Next, add leuco dye until you have achieved your color change. This normally takes a little under a teaspoon of dye to get done. If you don’t see the color change you might be working in too warm an area. 

You can place your bottle in the fridge to see the color it will change to. 

Seal the bottle with the polish cover and gently shake, allowing the ball bearings to mix the formula on the inside. Ensure to not shake vigorously as you may get air bubbles into the mixture and ruin the nail polish. 

If the mixture ends up becoming too thick you can always put two or three drops of nail polish thinner (preferably using an eyedropper) into the mixture and gently roll it between the palms of your hands. Depending on the color you used to make your DIY thermal nail polish, the color you will see when the temperature is warm is white, clear or whichever pale color you used as the base. 

The color that your polish turns into once it’s cold will depend on the color leuco dye that you use. There are at least fifteen colors to choose from. It will take a basic understanding of color mixtures to understand what color you can expect from your leuco dye once it is mixed with the nail polish. 

I’ll give you three examples below:

If I would like my nail polish to change from baby blue to green then my formula will be:

Baby blue nail polish +  Yellow tinted leuco dye = green nail polish.

Likewise, two more of your options could be:

Pink nail polish + blue leuco dye = purple nail polish

Pink nail polish + yellow leuco dye = a light orange nail polish.

When purchasing your dye, choose the powder form to have a better quality mixture. 

Mood Changing Nail Polish  

The most common type of Thermal nail polish is mood-changing polish. This means your nail polish is supposed to change colors based on your mood. In relation to how thermal nail polishes change color due to the temperature fluctuating; your body temperature changes when your mood does as well. 

This one is my personal favorite considering my mood and preferences are quite sensitive to what is happening around me. Whether it’s my outfit, what I want to eat, or the color of my nail polish, my mind is always changing concerning what I want. 

Sometimes this can be frustrating when deciding what color polish want to use next. But with mood-changing nail polish, it changes as I change my mind (Perfect!) No more making that challenging commitment of not being able to change your nail color for a week or more! 

Even though the science behind this polish shows it is purely just from changes in temperature, it still gives me that nostalgic feeling and fulfillment that mood rings gave me as a child.  

UR SUGAR Color Changing Gel Nail Polish Set, Valentine’s Day 6 Colors Mood Temperature Change Gel Polish Kit Rainbow Color Thermal Gel Polish Red Blue Soak Off Gel Polish Home DIY Gift Box

Tips For Applying Color-Changing Nail Polish  

Remember to always apply a base coat and a top coat to your nails. The base coat is the sticky adhesive coat that prepares you for other layers. The top coat acts as a barrier to prevent unsightly chipping and gives your polish a finished shine. Both coats help polish stay on longer, dry faster, and make removal easier!  

OPI Top Coat, Protective High Gloss Shine Nail Polish Top Coat, 0.5 fl oz

We should protect our beautiful nails by avoiding pure acetone polish remover. Pure acetone will dry out your nail and cause damage to the surface.  

To prevent chipping my nails, I always file and buffer my nails in one direction. 

Pro-Tip: Avoid metal filers! These can cause worse damage to the nails.

I always make sure that I like all the potential ways a polish may look before purchasing. For example, if a polish label says that it is navy blue when cold and magenta when hot, but actually appears to be royal blue and hot pink, I would not be too happy. Always double-check the potential outcomes!  

Remember to always be patient when applying the polish. This one is a big one for me since I have zero patience. My first time using thermal polish, I stuck my hands under cold

water immediately after applying the polish. 

That was a big mistake! Always give color-changing polish about an hour to dry after application so that all layers can dry.  

Eight Best Color-Changing Nail Polishes 

1. Born Pretty Color-Changing Thermal Nail Polish Set – This polish is the perfect combination of thermal polish and solar reactive polish to create magical manicures that last up to 14 days. 

2.  Aimeili Color-Changing Chameleon Gel Nail Polish – This Multi-Chrome begins as a neon pink and transforms to a glittery white when hot. A UV lamp is required for this specific product. 

3. Del Sol’s Color-Changing Nail Polish  – This Solar Reactive polish applies as a pure white and when exposed to ultraviolet light, turns into lovely french pink.

4. Cirque Colors Thermal Temperature Color-Changing Mood Nail Polish – Thermal/Mood and Holographic team up to make this wonderful polish with a glossy shine and mesmerizing holographic finish. 

5. FairyGlo Night Glow Gel Nail Polish – This natural Glow in the Dark polish is the most affordable with the most vibrant colors.

6. ILNP’s Color-Shifting Ultra Chrome Nail Polish in Reminisce – This Multi-Chrome polish starts out as electric green then morphs into royal blue with its vibrant, sparkly finish.

7. KBShimmer Best Buds Tri-Thermal Nail Polish – This amazing 3 colors thermal polish begins as a slate blue. Then it warms into a deep orchid followed by a minty green, all without losing the brand’s signature aurora shimmer. 

8. Color Club Halo – This Holographic polish has the most vivid holographic effect  

Eight Things To Know About Thermal Nail Polish  

Purchase A Trusted Brand

Some of the cheaper brands are NOT good for your nails. Not only are trusted brands healthier for your nails, but they are also better quality. If you want your nails to be healthy and looking good, you might have to spend a little more money to buy a better brand but girl, it is worth it!  

It Might Not Be What It Seems

The color it is while you’re applying it to the nail is not the color it will be when it dries.

When applying Thermal nail polish, the color will look different from the color advertised, but that’s okay. When it dries, it will look like the color you want.  

Expect Your Polish To Lose Potency 

Unfortunately, the longer you store this type of polish, the weaker the thermal effect has on your nails. Maximize your thermal polish life by keeping it in a cool, dark area. It also shouldn’t sit in sunlight for long periods as this will cause it to dry. 

However, if your nail polish becomes too thick you can use the following methods to help:

Use Warm Water 

Submerge your nail polish in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes, rocking it intermittently until you have a consistent mixture. Take care not to vigorously shake the bottle as this can further clump the polish. To avoid burning yourself, use a towel to hold your nail polish bottle so you can give it some gentle shakes between warming periods. 

At no point should you open the bottle as you run the risk of getting water or warm air inside. If that happens your nail polish will be ruined. That being said, ensure your nail polish is tightly sealed before starting this process. 

Adding Nail Thinner

As I explained before, use an eyedropper to add two or three drops of nail thinner in your polish and gently mix and shake to prevent air bubbles. If you don’t have any thinner then use a considerably less amount of acetone or alcohol as a substitute. Using too much will ruin your nail polish. 

Apply A Force Of Friction

Enclose the nail polish bottle between your palm and gently rub your palms, the heat generated from the friction will warm up the bottle allowing its contents to loosen up. This is similar to the option of using warm water, but if you don’t want to get the stove or fire overall involved, then this is the better option for you. Just note that this will take a while to work as the heat is being generated from the friction but eventually, your nail polish will be fully functional.

The More The Merrier

You can use as many layers of polish as you want to get that opaque look. Multiple layers of thermal nail polish do not affect its color change performance  

Can Help You Present Your Best Self  

Not only will the color-changing detail keep you from boredom, but the fact that these polishes come in the most vibrant colors will help with your moods. It is scientifically proven that colors have an effect on how we feel emotionally and psychologically. So I more than welcome an opportunity to have my nail polish give me a boost here and there throughout the day. 

UV Protective Layers Will Not Affect Your  Polish  

Considering thermal polish works its magic with Ultraviolet radiation, it may be a surprise that a UV protection topcoat does not harm its effect. 

UV light or special equipment is not needed for this polish. It is believed by many that you need a UV lamp to use thermal nail polishes. This is false.  

Thermal nail polishes dry like normal ones. Just remember to put your topcoat on. 

However, if your color-changing nail polish is made with gel, you will need to use UV rays to dry it. The gel doesn’t dry but hardens in response to UV light. 

Is Color-Changing Nail Polish Safe?  

With all this science talk of Ultraviolet radiation, is the use of these color-changing nail polishes even safe??  

As mentioned earlier, you do need to invest a little bit more of your money to get a trusted brand but yes, it is safe. The cheaper brands may be made with cheaper chemicals so I would not trust them. There was a study testing Del Sol’s brand’s claim that their Non-Toxic Color-Changing nail polish. It turns out that these claims were justified.

They concluded the experiment with findings that their products were indeed Non-Toxic.  While this may not be the same for all types of these nail polishes, you can easily look up the ingredients to see whether toxic substances are included. 

How To Use Color Changing Nail Polish

First, clean away any previous polish with nail polish remover. Residual nail polish will cause your polish to lift which reduces its durability. 

Next, file and buffer nails, ensuring they are clean and free of debris before putting on the base coat. Grab your Color-Changing Nail Polish and Apply base coat evenly and cure it under UV light. Apply 3 to 4 even, thin layers of color (Cure nails with UV light in between each layer)  

Apply top coat evenly and cure it under UV light  

Use a cotton pad with rubbing alcohol and lightly dab each nail to remove any stickiness left over from the polish. Clean off the edges, making sure to get any excess polish that may have gotten on your skin. Apply nourishing cuticle oil to protect your nails and cuticles.  

Clean your hands then hydrate them with your favorite hand lotion. Then, test them out! Grab a bowl of water to see how they change or go outside and see how beautiful they are.


Now you know the ins and outs of color changing nail polish. You have a wide range to choose from. From Holographic Nails to Thermal Nails, there are lots of ways to change around your nail polish without having to remove it. I have shown you some of the best companies that make these polishes. And if you don’t want to purchase, no problem! Many of these paints you can make yourself as a great DIY project. So don’t be afraid to join the multichromatic lifestyle.


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