Nail Polish - How long can you keep it (I use thinner) and how do you know when it's time to toss it

Question: Even though I use OPI Nail Lacquer thinner to thin out nail polish - is there a 'use-by' date for nail polish.  Also what are the signs that it is time to throw out the nail polish ?


  • The good news isn't that nail polish almost never grows bacteria so as long as it looks good and the texture is good enough to use you can continue to use it  (forever?). When it gets to clumpy to use or when you've added thinner too many timesthe quality starts to suffer, then it's time to pitch it. 
  • Hi Randy, Thanks for this info.

    Please answer these questions about nail polish separation and quality:

    1. Is a layer of oil/clear substance on top of the pigment (The pigment is still well mixed) a sign that the nail polish is old ? I ask this as I've seen new polishes in the shops with this issue. 

    2. Also, if you have the above mentioned layer but the pigments have separated, and you have shaken the bottle but this issue reoccurs, is that also a sign of old nail polish ?

    3. Quality - when you add thinner too many times, what signs of poor quality should I look out for (I did have a nail polish which even though it had been thinned too many times did not dry properly on my nails - I disposed of that one).

    4. Is nail polish chipping after 1 or 2 days also a sign of deteriorating quality ? 

    Thank you so much for answering these questions - it is very much appreciated.

  • 1. and 2. This is not necessarily sign of age it could just be the quality of the formulation. If you shake the product and it stays together then it's probably fine. If it separates quickly that's not a good thing.  
    3. Separation (as noted above) is a sign of poor quality. Even if the product looks good in the bottle but it doesn't give you nails a good finish, that's a sign of poor quality.  
    4. Maybe. It could also be a sign of poor application. 
  • These are not my pictures but they show similar conditions of some of my nail polish - some of mine still have a good runny texture but darker colour (not clear liquid) at the meniscus. Are those still OK to use or is it best to dispose of them.  What would happen if I used them e.g. performance.

    Example 1 (especially the 3 on the left):


    Example 2 (all apart from the white one):


    Example 3 (the Revlon pink one - except that the colour underneath the darker meniscus is all even and the texture is still runny much like new):


  • Source for Example 3:

    Example 4:

    Picture from here is also an accurate representation of some of my collection - even colour throughout but the meniscus is a bit darker.


  • Nice photography! (and nice use of the term meniscus.)
  • Have you tried hardening your paint with the heat of an indirect blow drier? It should reduce chipping.
  • Thanks for that advice, I usually only have this issue with very old nail polish so that is another way of knowing when to dispose of them
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