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Nail Polish Is Sticky (What To Do)

by Gabbi

Nail polish bottles seem to last a lifetime, and you’ll want to preserve your favorite shades, especially if they are pricey or from a limited edition collection. However, your nail polish may break down and develop a sticky, thick texture.

Sticky polish can be challenging to apply because it won’t feel as smooth or runny as a brand-new nail polish bottle. Also, a sticky formulation won’t apply evenly to your nail plates and can leave you with a streaky or clumpy finish.

So, what can you do if nail polish is sticky? Multiple factors, such as improper storage or bottle expiration, can create tacky nail polish. You can restore your nail polish bottle, but it’s crucial to take care of them correctly from the start.

Preserving your nail polishes from the first time you open them is a great way to prevent them from becoming sticky. However, if your nail polishes become sticky, you can revamp them with formula-friendly products and keep them air-tight. 

Nail polish can be tricky to apply when it’s sticky, and you may notice it’s thicker in texture. This may lead you to use too much product, creating a tacky finish. So, how can you restore sticky nail polishes?

Why Does Nail Polish Become Sticky?

Do you find it challenging to apply nail polish after it’s been open for some time, or do you notice your nail polish changing in texture? While nail polishes typically have a long shelf life, they are bound to break down and lose their potency. 

Nail polishes must be cleaned and kept in the right environment to create a seamless application. However, you may see that nail polish can get sticky or tacky. What causes nail polish to become sticky?

Air Gets In The Bottle

An easy way to deplete the lifespan of your nail lacquer is by not closing your bottle. The air that gets into your nail polish can cause the formula to break down over time and lead to a thicker or tackier texture. 

The air can easily create a clumpy nail polish texture that is difficult to work with and can disrupt the initial consistency of the lacquer’s formula. You’ll want to prevent air from getting into your polish. 

Nail Polish Build Up

Remaining excess polish from your brush around the polish bottle is typical to avoid applying too much product. However, this can lead to product build-up around the neck of the bottle and affect your nail polish’s consistency down the road. 

The excess polish can quickly dry up around the neck of the bottle and make it challenging to close tightly. So, if the bottle can’t close correctly, it can let more air into your nail lacquer and make it tacky.

Improper Storage 

Where is the most convenient place to store nail polish bottles? Most individuals will store nail polish in the bathroom and other cosmetic or beauty items. However, this can be pretty damaging to your nail lacquers over time. 

Nail polishes should be kept in cool and dry locations, unlike the bathroom. The temperature can frequently change in a bathroom, which can alter the texture of nail polish and easily create sticky nail lacquer.

Expiration Dates 

Sometimes, nail polishes are past their prime. While these beauty items have longer shelf life than most cosmetic products, using expired polish is still not recommended. Applying expired polish can indicate a safety risk for your nails. 

You may tell if a nail polish has expired if its texture changes. For example, if the nail lacquer takes on a new color, texture, or consistency, it may be time to replace it with a new bottle.

Applying Too Much Polish 

Doing your nails can be viewed as an art form. It can take so much skill, time, and patience to perfectly layer and apply lacquer for a seamless finish. Sometimes it can be too tempting to use one thick layer of polish to speed up the process.

However, applying one thick layer of polish can do more harm than using multiple thin layers. A thick coat of lacquer takes more time to dry and won’t offer a hardened finish that can feel tacky.

Incorrect Application 

Finally, you’ll want to avoid applying polish with any DIY techniques because it can create an undesired effect. Using your nail paint according to your brand’s directions is always recommended to prevent sticky outcomes or messy finishes. 

The wrong application can also take a toll on your nail’s integrity, so you’ll want to ensure each step of your nail routine is carried out correctly.

Can You Fix Sticky Nail Polish?

Is there a way to restore your sticky nail polish? Thankfully, you can bring life back into tacky nail lacquer bottles so they can look as good as new. These techniques can temporarily fix sticky polish, but it may be smart to purchase a new bottle. 

Also, the easiest way to fix sticky nail polish is to prevent it from occurring by taking proper care of your nail polish bottles. So, how can you revamp tacky nail polishes?

How To Restore Sticky Nail Polish 

Taking care of nail polish isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. Cleaning your bottles after each use is one of the best ways to prevent nail lacquer from becoming thick or tacky. You can also purchase nail products that can adjust your polish’s consistency. 

HannahRoxNails, in the Youtube video below, effortlessly displays how you can restore and stop sticky nail polish in its tracks.

How else can you fix sticky nail polish? You may need a nail polish thinner and create a proper storage space for your nail products. 

Use A Nail Polish Thinner

A nail polish thinner can quickly revamp gooey nail polish formulas. This product will add more liquid to your nail polish bottles, so it can create a runnier consistency. This restoration hack will ensure your nail polish is fluid and easy to apply. 

The nail polish thinner can quickly rejuvenate your old thick polishes, but it’s essential to use them sparingly. Applying too many drops can dilute your nail lacquer. 

Avoid Mixing Nail Polish With Acetone

Nail polish thinner may not be a standard household product so some individuals may use acetone instead. Adding a few drops of acetone might provide a similar outcome to nail polish thinner, but it can be more harmful to your polishes. 

Acetone is meant to eliminate nail polish, gels, and acrylic from your plates. So, adding to sticky nail polishes will ruin their formulation even if they become thinner and easier to apply. It’s best to avoid mixing in acetone.  

Close Your Bottles Tightly 

Next, you’ll want to close your nail polish bottles tightly. Keeping each nail polish bottle sealed will ensure that no air will harm the formulation. We mentioned earlier that air can disrupt the texture of your nail polish and can cause it to become clumpy. 

Opening your bottles during nail art can shorten your nail polish’s lifespan. So, it is wise to dispense the amount of polish you need to a piece of tin foil and close up your bottles. 

Keep Nail Polish Clean

Another way to prevent air from getting into your nail polish bottles can make them sticky is by keeping them clean. Nail polish can quickly coat the bottle’s neck and cap, and it’s essential to wipe them down clean after every use. 

Leaving this polish to dry will cause build-up and won’t allow the bottle to seal completely. This is how air can easily get trapped in your polishes and can create a tacky consistency.

Proper Storage 

Please avoid storing nail polishes in the bathroom or other spaces prone to temperature changes. You can preserve the life of your nail polish by keeping it in a cool and dry space. Also, it’s essential to keep them in an upright position. 

This will ensure no outside factors will alter the texture or consistency of your nail polish. Instead, try storing your polishes in a vanity drawer or closet where they have an undisrupted climate.

Correct Application 

Finally, you’ll want to ensure you’re applying nail polish correctly. It’s ideal to apply nail lacquer in thin and even layers, so they dry down completely. Using thick layers can lead to a sticky and undesired finish. 

Also, you’ll want to seal your hard work with a top coat. A top coat will minimize the appearance of polish imperfections and prolong its wear time. It will also add a shiny and hardened layer to prevent tacky polish.

Here’s a great tutorial from YoungNailsInc on YouTube.


Nail polish can quickly become sticky or tacky for numerous reasons. Expired formulas, air getting into the polish, not cleaning the bottles, and applying too much product can all lead to a thick and sticky finish. 

A few ways you can fix sticky polish is by investing in a nail polish thinner, storing them properly, keeping nail polish bottles clean, and applying them with care. It’s easy to prevent your polishes from becoming sticky when they are new! 

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