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How to Fix Thick and Clumpy Nail Polish

how to fix nail polish that is too thick

We’ve all been there. You head to your polish stash, only to find that bright pink you wanted to use for your pedicure is thick and clumpy. Or that the new polish you just bought is a bit to thick to apply easily.

A quick Google search reveals a TON of posts about what to do. What do they all say to do? Add a few drops of nail polish remover or acetone. Nail polish remover is exactly the wrong thing to thin out thick or clumped up nail polish. What you need is nail polish thinner.

Nail polish thinner contains chemicals typically used as solvents in nail polish. These chemical hold everything, the pigments and the resins that hold the polish together. The solvents must also be carefully chosen to control drying time and prevent bubbling and peeling of the polish.

A quick glance at the ingredients in Beauty Secrets Thinner (the house brand at Sally Beauty Supply, I’ve purchased this thinner a few times), shows typical solvents such as Butyl Acetate.

Nail polish removers such as acetone do a great job of re-suspending the nail polish ingredients during removal. If they didn’t do this you would never be able to get the polish off.

So, they will thin out the polish, but what is the overall effect? The polish’s drying time is off and even if you can get it to apply properly the look and wear time of the polish will be off. However, because nail polish removers dry so quickly, the polish is not able to properly set up on the nail.

So, if you need to thin your polish, go for a thinner, as that is closer to the original solvents used in your polish. An actual thinner only costs a few bucks and will actually save that bottle of polish.

To use nail polish thinner, add the thinner a few drops at a time to the old polish, shake and add some more until you reach your desired effect. I’ve saved bottles that appeared completely (and I mean completely) dried out by adding thinner, shaking, and sometime letting the bottle sit for a week or so before moving on to the next step.

You can find nail polish thinner at Amazon.

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About Me

I’m a doctor, a mommy and a bit of a beauty addict. If you let me, I can take 2 hours to get ready in the morning. Really. I'm on a quest for faster beauty that works!

Leave a Comment


  1. 6.1.11
    JC! :) said:

    This is great advice! I was just looking for a problem for this–and I was recommend adding a few drops of acetone as well, but now I'm glad that I didn't. Thank you so much!

  2. 6.1.11

    I can't tell you how many polishes I ruined before I learned about thinners.

  3. 6.4.11

    Wow. Thanks so much. I always use nail polish remover. Oops. Great advice.

  4. 12.5.12

    Great advice! I have a couple of bottles that need rescuing!

    Sharleena xx