Three Things You Can Do If Your Nail Polish Is Too Thick




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While I can’t factually say that nail polish that is too thick and gets clumped isn’t the most annoying thing to happen to a person, I am pretty sure it’s up there somewhere. Luckily there are methods you can use to reduce your nail polish’s thickness. Here are three things you can do if your nail polish is too thick. 

You can alternate between placing your nail polish in warm water and gently rolling the bottle between the palms of your hand to refresh the formula.  You can apply a minimal amount of acetone and you can use nail polish thinners that are specified for the type of nail polish used. 

I will detail ways on how to thin your nail polish as well as describe ways to avoid having to thin them if they become too thick. I have given recommendations for the types of nail polish thinners that can be used as well as outlined safer formulas of nail polish to avoid toxins from polishes and acetones. Lastly, I recommended nail polishes with thinner formulas. 

Things You Can Do If Your Nail Polish Is Too Thick

Imagine you had an occasion, your dress already chosen and well ironed, your hair perfectly done and your shoes nicely stacked waiting for the final hour to storm the party. However, your long beautiful and healthy nails need to be manicured. Alas, the nail polish you have always loved and cherished looks clumpy, sloppy, and has smudgy particles resulting in a texture that won’t smoothen on your nails.

Your next line of action and thought is to head straight to the trash bin. But wait! Before you do so, let’s take a peek as to why your nail polish is always clumpy and not free-flowing

Does Your Nail Polish Always Clump?

Almost all nail polish contains a polymer, the most common being nitrocellulose which is dissolved in a volatile solvent (can evaporate). This solvent could be ethyl acetate or butyl acetate. Each time you apply your nail polish to your nails the solvent evaporates.

In other words, anytime you open your nail polish bottle a significant portion of the solvent is lost leaving behind the polymer hence the thick and sloppy content you have in your bottle.

Gel-type nail polish is quite thicker than the regular nail polish allowing solvent like benzoyl peroxide to escape leaving behind in your bottle a clumpy residue.

Now, take a moment to read trusted ways in bringing your all-time favorite nail polishes back on board.

How To Make Nail Polish Soft Again

Nicole Miller Mini Nail Polish Set - 15 Glossy and Trendy Colors

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. 

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 content to become free-flowing. Note this might take a while (a few minutes) but eventually, your nail polish will be fully functional.

Simply Use Nail Polish Thinner

A few drops of a good brand of nail polish will revitalize your nail polish without hassles.

What Are Nail Polish Thinners

Nail polish thinners are chemical substances that you can add to your nail polish, making them more fluid, less clumpy, and free-flowing. 

How To Make Your Nail Polish Free Flowing

Most nail polish thinners have the same composition as nail polish, hence when you use them, they basically replace constituents lost from your nail polish during usage. It would be best to use the nail polish thinner with an eyedropper as it will give you greater control over how much thinner gets into the nail polish. Squeeze two to three more drops in the nail polish and close tightly. 

Next, you will take the bottle and place them between the palm of your hands where you will gently roll it. You will then have to test the consistency to ensure that it is applying a proper coat to your nail bed without clumping. 

If you find that the nail polish is still thicker than your desired consistency, you can add another single drop. Repeat this process until the nail polish is at your desired consistency. 

What You Must Consider Before Buying A Nail Polish Thinner

Know the constituent of your nail polish and compare it with the ingredient of your intended thinner, if the ingredients are similar then you did have a great mixture after use.

Difference Between Nail Polish Thinner And Nail Polish Dissolver Or Remover

A nail polish thinner like we established earlier will put your nail polish back to its original consistency whereas a nail polish dissolver or remover is meant to degrade the polish hence making it easy to come off surfaces like your nail bed. I made the horrid mistake of adding a nail polish dissolver to my nail polish. Adding it to the nail polish wasn’t the problem but I had added a little more than I intended.

My nail polish was never the same. I found I had to be applying more layers of the nail polish for it to set on my nails. But as you may know, adding too many layers of nail polish will cause the polish to start to clump on the nail plate.

Difference Between Regular And Gel Nail Polish Thinners

Between the two, nail polishes are more likely to thicken than gel nail polishes. This is because there is solvent present in nail polish that is at risk of being dried out which results in thickened nail polish. Gel however does not dry in this way. 

In fact, gel nail polish doesn’t dry at all. Below I’ve explained how gel nail polish thinners work which is exactly how gel works. It hardens in response to UV rays, so there aren’t any solvents for it to dry. 

You can in fact have gel nails on for hours. If you have not used UV light on them, they will not dry. 

There are two types of polish thinners one for the regular polish and the other for gel type nail polish. Regular nail polish is made from nitrocellulose, a polymer, ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, sometimes acetone, and inorganic or organic pigment. This nail polish dries upon exposure to air.

Unlike regular nail polish, the gel nail polish thinners are made from methyl acrylate, a reactive moiety, and photoinitiators like benzoyl peroxide. The gel nail polish is thus photosensitive and requires UV light to harden up. I say all this to say, yes, your nail polish will get ruined if you try to use gel nail polish thinners in regular nail polish thinners and vice versa. As you can see their formulas are entirely different. 

Best Nail Polish Thinners 

Five of the best nail polish thinners that you will find are those that  I have written below. I will give a bit of detail of each for you. 

Le chat Gel Polish Thinner 

Le chat Gel Polish Thinner is suitable for thinning out gel-type nail polish. It is specifically suitable for gel polishes that cure with light. I have used it on Shellac polish, and it works perfectly fine. 

It is sold in an amber bottle to prevent interference of UV light from the sun and has a dropper. So, you want to keep it out of the sun upon purchase. It is quite expensive, so you want to be economical with it.

OPI Nail Lacquer Thinner

OPI Nail Lacquer Thinner (Ideal for vegan polishes) this thinner contains butyl acetate and ethyl acetate. It is your nail your perfect thinner for your vegan polish

Beauty Secrets Nail Thinner

Beauty secret nail thinner contains ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, and heptane. It is suitable for thinning a lot of regular nail polish ranging from Essie, Revlon, Deborah Lippmann, and Sally Hansen brands. It has a sprout that makes it easy to add the exact quantity you require.

Seche Restore

Seche Restore, 2 Ounce

Seche Restore contains Toluene. It works best for thinning out regular nail polishes, it will also thin out gel polish however your gel polish might not be as glossy as it used to be, and the consistency won’t be perfect.

Super Nail Polish Thinner

Super Nail Polish Thinner contains acetone, which I mentioned earlier as a component of regular nail polish. It dissolves clumpy nail polishes; however, adding too much into your clogged bottle might leave your polish runny and watery. Of course, it is ineffective in thinning out Gel polishes.

Eight Simple Ways To Prevent Your Nail Polish From Becoming Thick

As the saying goes “prevention is better than cure”, below are eight ways to prevent your nail polish from becoming clumpy in the first place.

1. Don’t be tempted to store your nail polish in your bathroom or on your dresser table. Your dresser and bathroom actually experience a lot of temperature changes right throughout the day which is no good for the formula. 

You might have thought it was a good idea when you placed it there and the air was a cool temperature but if left there it will experience temperature changes that will allow the formula to thicken. Rather keep them in a cool warm dark cupboard

2. Avoid shaking the nail polish vigorously, as this might introduce air bubbles which will lead to rapid decomposition of the various chemicals in the polish. Later in this list, I will describe how you can give your bottle a good shape without getting bubbles into it. 

You also don’t want to have bubbles in your nail polish as it will make for a very uneven application on your nails. Its appearance will bring you back to the first time you ever tried polishing your nails yourself only to not finish with the smooth even layers you expected but clumped up paint that will not straighten no matter how many more layers you apply. Take it from me, it doesn’t work. 

3. Always close the bottle between applications on each nail bed to prevent air from getting into the content. Also, ensure that the bottle is tightly closed as air can travel through the loosened grooves of the polish cover and enter into the nail polish. Nail polishes that are not closed tightly will experience the thread in the cover will loosen making it impossible for your nail polish to tighten again. 

4. Envisage using up your nail polish between 28-24 months, as every product has a shelf life and by extension expiration date. This is why I tend to visit nail salons more than attempting to do my nails myself. Because seriously, how often are you going to paint your nails with that particular color that you’ll be able to finish it all in 28 months?

I personally don’t remember ever experiencing an empty nail polish bottle in my home. But maybe that’s just me. I know there are people out there who actually apply daily. Especially if, like me, you are prone to frequently chipping, smudging, and wiping the paint off your nails by inadvertent means. 

I tend to prefer the occasional glare from my nail tech when I sit at the station and manage to smudge my nails as soon as she’s applied a fresh coat to my nails. But maybe people do exist that are smudge-resistant, daily-painting, nail polish-finishing machines that can handle the heavy responsibility that comes with a bottle of nail polish. But I digress. 

5. After each use ensure you clean the tip of the bottle until it is void of polish. This will prevent dry polish from adhering to the bottle hence, preventing the bottle from closing properly and allowing air to get into the content. You can clean the bottle with a piece of cloth or cotton wool ball moistened with nail polish thinner or acetone.

6. Keep your nail polish away from direct sunlight contact. Yes, your nail polish has a vampiric quality of not going well with the sun. Ultra-violet radiations are emitted by the sun, when these come in contact with chemicals in your polish; the chemicals undergo degradation making the polish lose shine and become sloppy and sticky. 

Ironically, although I accused the nail polish of having vampiric qualities it is the one that is at risk of having its solvent sucked clean out of the bottle. Ensure that wherever you decide to place your nail polish is free from areas like these. 

7. Avoid refrigerating your nail polish. Nail polishes are sensitive to extreme weather conditions. They don’t like being kept in areas too cold or too hot. 

While many recommend refrigerating your nail polishes it gives no regard to the fact that fridge temperatures and conditions vary. One individual may like their fridge contents to be a nice cool temperature while other individuals try to get their refrigerators as close to freezing as they possibly can without turning their fridge into a freezer. 

However, if fridges are in fact kept at a reasonable temperature your nail polish can thrive there. This way it can avoid discoloration and thickening. Your aim is to keep the solvent aspect of your formula cool enough to not evaporate out of the bottle. 

If your nail polish is one that you use frequently, however, then your fridge will not be of much help. Because once your nail polish is being consistently exposed to air the solvent will start evaporating. 

8. Once your nail polish bottle is open, you need to consistently use the nail polish, or it is at great risk of clumping. However, it’s not feasible to think that you will be using a particular nail color or nail polish type all the time just because you want to preserve its consistency. So, I would recommend that once you’ve opened and used you can tuck away the nail polish, only allowing it to resurface every few days to be shaken up and mixed. 

Be careful not to shake it too hard or it will encourage thickening. A few mild taps to the palm of your hand should start the refreshing process. Then just give it a few jiggles here and there before returning it to its cool shady place to rest for a few more days. 

Best Nail Polish Brands

Here are five brands that sell some of the best nail polishes with formulas that last a bit longer before naturally thickening. 

essie Nail Polish, Glossy Shine Finish, Mademoiselle, 0.46 Ounces (Packaging May Vary) Sheer Pink

OPI Nail Lacquer, Isn't it Grand Avenue, Blue Nail Polish, Downtown LA Collection, 0.5 fl oz, 0.5 fl. oz.

Essie Gel Couture Full Collection (Pick Your Color) (Once Upon a Time #1157)

LECHAT Dare To Wear Nail Lacquer, Cherry Bomb, 0.5 Ounce

What You Shouldn’t Do With A Clumpy Nail Polish

Adding Alcohol

People recommend adding two to three drops of rubbing alcohol to thin out your nail polish.  However, ensure you add just the right amount of alcohol to thin out whatever quantity of nail polish is clogged so you don’t have a running mess. This method is not so ideal because alcohol will break down ingredients in your nail polish further making your product unreliable.

Add Acetone

Other individuals advocate drops of pure acetone in taking out the sludge from your bottle. Ensure what you have is pure, unadulterated acetone. It is always best to do this when your polish is almost exhausted because acetone breaks down constituents and reduces the lifespan of your nail polish.

When using acetone, ensure that you are handling it in a well-ventilated room. You should not be inhaling a lot of acetone. Actually, you should not even be inhaling a lot of nail polish. 

There are toxic chemicals in both acetone and nail polishes of which you should inhale as little as possible. We will talk more about those chemicals below. 

Add Nail Polish Remover

I recommend this when your nail polish is almost finished, as nail polish removers are meant to break down the constituent of your nail polish hence easy cleaning from your nail bed. The addition of nail polish removers would break down the nail polish also reducing the lifespan of your nail polish.

You may even experience your nail paint stripping from your nail plates. Nail polish removers are not designed to thin nail polish. It is also a bit counterproductive because, as we discussed, it is the solvent in the nail polish that you are trying to retain in order to have your polish maintain its consistency. 

However, nail polish removers contain acetone which is very drying as it pulls moisture from substances. So, if you inadvertently add too much you have ruined your bottle of nail polish. 

This is also the case with rubbing alcohols. 

I have written more about nail polish remover here.

Don’t Ever Place The Nail Polish Bottle Over Naked Flame

The constituents of nail polish are highly flammable; doing this can lead to a fire outbreak or worse still an explosion.

Avoid Direct Inhalation Of Your Nail Polish

Nail polishes have substances that are carcinogenic and hazardous to health hence you don’t want to have direct and close inhalation of nail polishes. I’ll tell you of a few of the chemicals present in nail polish that pose a danger to you if too much is inhaled. 


Formaldehyde is used in nail polish in order to allow the mixture to harden. It also prevents bacterial growth. While this chemical is naturally produced by our own bodies, the amount inside isn’t enough to harm us. 

Exposure to the chemicals from outside the body, on the other hand, poses a danger. High doses of formaldehyde put you at risk of cancers that can affect your blood. If you inhale nail polish too often the chemical can also trigger asthma symptoms and increases the risk of your nose and throat being attacked by cancer.


Camphor chemicals in nail polish are responsible for your nail polish’s gloss and sheen. Inhalation of this chemical in large quantities can irritate your olfactory nerves, causing frequent headaches. 

It is less harmful than some of the other chemicals on this list. However, if you are a frequent nail polish user then you are coming into contact with the chemicals enough times for there to be a possible reaction.


While parabens are being banned in many beauty products, they are still largely used in nail polish. It is what prevents the growth of bacteria in the nail product. 

However, there have been convincing connections between paraben use and breast cancer. So it is extremely important to find nail polishes that don’t use this ingredient.


The Toluene chemical is what gives nail polish that silky smooth finish. It lends itself to the strong fumes you smell when you walk into a nail salon. Consistent exposure to this chemical can put you at risk of leukemia, brain damage, and severe respiratory problems. 

There are however nail polishes that don’t have these toxic chemicals that you can use as an alternative. I have also highlighted a few of those brands below. 

The terms five free, seven free and eight free nail polish refer to polish that doesn’t include harmful chemicals. They are free from the ones we have discussed and more. They have been substituted with organic and sometimes vegan alternatives that make it safe for your baby to inhale.

Brands that promote chemical-less nail polish include Trust Fund Beauty, Scotch Naturals, and Treat Collection.

I think it is always best to err on the side of caution. I only paint my nails once or twice a week, however knowledge of the potential risks is enough for me to try and do something different. Especially if the alternative doesn’t include changing my lifestyle overall, but just using healthier things for me and my loved ones.


You have now been equipped with easy fixes for your thickened nail polish as we have explored types of nail thinners, how they affect your nail polish, and other substances you can use as a substitute for nail thinners as well as methods you can perform to rejuvenate the polish formula. We have also discussed ways to avoid getting into the problem of thickened nail polish in the first place. So get out there and rescue all your nail polishes!


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