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How To Fix Nail Polish Bubbles

by Gabbi

We can all probably agree that the worst thing about doing your nails at home is the bubbles. Salon manicures often come out looking perfectly smooth and glossy, while our home manicures have a bit of a “texture.”

Smudges and bubbles are more likely to happen at home, and it’s not your fault. Although having professional training would probably make your manicures even better, the real reason you’re getting bubbles in your nail polish as it dries is the environment.

Nail polish dries best under cool and dry conditions, which nail salons maintain via climate control, but your home might not meet. 

So, how do you fix the bubbles in nail polish? If your nail polish looks rough and bubbly as it dries, don’t panic. Before you run for the acetone and cancel your plans for the next two hours, try a few of our tips. There are ways you can smooth out the bubbles without having to redo your entire manicure. 

In this post, we’re outlining three ways you can remove those bubbles and make your nails look perfect quickly and easily.

Fixing Nail Polish Bubbles After They Happen

If you’ve already spent time meticulously painting your nails and now you look at them in horror because they’re covered in bumps and bubbles, these hacks are for you:

Press-Down Method

This method only works if your nail polish is still soft and malleable on your fingernails. If your nail polish is already hard, this may not work.

All you need is your finger, a tiny bit of water, and a clear topcoat. Follow the steps below to get rid of your nail bubbles:

  1. Dip the pointer finger of your opposite hand into the water so that it’s slightly wet. Make sure it’s not dripping water; it just needs to be a little bit moist.
  2. Gently press your finger onto the surface of the nail with bubbles.
  3. If the nail polish is still soft enough, some of these bubbles will begin to pop.
  4. You can continue to pat your finger over the nail polish until all bubbles are popped and more or less smoothed out. Remember to be gentle here to avoid creating more smudges or fingerprints.
  5. Once the nail polish is as smooth as it can be, allow it to dry fully. Then cover with a coat of clear topcoat to smooth it out even further and to make it shiny.

The reason this works is that while your nail polish still hasn’t finished drying, you can remove the air trapped in those bubbles by pressing on them with your finger. Because your finger has been dipped in water, it has a smooth surface and is less likely to leave fingerprints on your nails.

With enough patience, you can tap out most of the trapped air and smooth out the surface enough that it won’t be noticeable to the naked eye. Adding a topcoat makes it look even smoother. No one will even know!

Acetone Finger Method

If your nail polish has fully dried by the time you discovered that it’s full of bubbles, try this method.

You will need your finger, a little bit of acetone, and a clear topcoat. The steps are similar to the press-down method (above), but the difference is the acetone. It will help soften your dried nail polish and make it malleable.

  1. Dip the pointer finger of your opposite hand into the acetone and tap off any excess. You should have a small amount of acetone on your finger.
  2. Gently buff the surface of your bubbly nail with your finger pad. Be patient. After 10-20 seconds, your nail polish will begin to soften.
  3. Continue buffing and patting your finger over the bubbles until they begin to smooth out. You might remove a little bit of nail polish in the process, but don’t worry. As long as the surface becomes smooth, you can salvage this!
  4. Once your nail feels smooth, allow it to dry and for all of the acetone to evaporate.
  5. Assess the nail. If you’ve buffed away a lot of the nail polish, add a thin coat of the same color over your nail and allow it to dry.
  6. If you don’t need to add any more nail polish, put a thin coat of clear topcoat and allow the nail to dry.

Thanks to the acetone and the gentle movements of your finger, you should be able to smooth out the surface of your nail polish to the point that it doesn’t look rough anymore. Topping it off with a topcoat will make it look even more perfect.

Buffing Method

This is another good method to remove air bubbles from your nail polish once it has already dried. This method requires a few more tools. You’ll need a nail buffer block, a rubbing alcohol wipe, nail polish, and a topcoat.

  1. Buff the surface of your bubbly nail. Use a side-to-side or circular buffing method.
  2. After some time, your bubbles and any other imperfections will be stripped away, and the surface of your nail will be smooth.
  3. Wipe off the surface of the nail with an alcohol wipe – this will ensure that no debris gets left behind.
  4. Allow the nail to fully dry and for the alcohol to evaporate.
  5. Add a layer of the same nail polish (if you feel that it’s needed) and allow it to fully dry.
  6. Apply your topcoat and allow it to fully dry.

The buffing method is the best method for ensuring that the surface of your nail becomes perfectly smooth after you remove the bubbles. Using alcohol to clean the surface with the buffer allows for the most foolproof nail polish application.

Bonus: Glitter Hack

Okay, this hack doesn’t actually fix nail polish bubbles, but it’s a quick and easy way to disguise them! We like to do this when we have no time (or patience) to do any of the methods above.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Simply pick a glitter polish that would look good on top of your nail polish.
  2. Cover the nails that have bubbles in them with 1-2 thick coats of glitter polish. Make sure to allow it to dry between coats if you’re doing more than one.
  3. Finish with a clear topcoat if you want.

This method works especially well with large glitter polishes. The glitter makes any bubbles or imperfections in your nail polish disappear while making it look like you intentionally wanted to add glitter to some of your nails. People will probably think it looks cool!

Final Thoughts

Nail polish bubbles are a pain in the neck, but you can definitely get rid of them without having to re-do your entire manicure from scratch.

Preventing them from happening in the first place is also important, so try not to do your nails in a hot and humid environment and avoid shaking the bottle of nail polish before using it. 

If it happens anyway, don’t worry! Try out one of our methods above and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to fix nail polish bubbles.

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