Why Does Gel Polish Change Color?

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So you decided to get a white gel nail polish. It looks awesome. But after a day or two, your beautifully white nails have turned yellow!

What’s the deal with gel polish discoloration? 

Why does gel polish change color? The color change can be due to a variety of factors such as the formula of the gel polish, the topcoat used, over curing, and exposure to other chemicals.

We will discuss each of those causes below so that you can finally figure out what is causing the change in color of your gel polishes. That will help you avoid changes, and retain the color that you want.


Gel Polish Discoloration

Gel Nails

Choosing a color for your gel nail polish is a personal one. It can reflect your personality and preferences. But you want the color you choose to be the one you are aiming for!

When that color suddenly changes, it can be disheartening. 

That’s especially true if there is no clear explanation of what might have caused it. Was there something you could have done to prevent it? 

Well, gel polish doesn’t usually change color unexpectedly. However, there are some gel polishes that are specifically formulated to change color depending on the condition they are in. 

Thermal gel polishes  will change color if they are exposed to cold or to hot temperatures. Then there are also some gel polishes  that will change color when exposed to UV light.

These are pretty cool gel polishes to try out. But gel polish can unintentionally change color due to various factors as well.

Why Does Gel Polish Change Color? The Possible Causes:

Although we love specifically formulated color-changing gel polishes, we’d hate to see our regular gel polish change color. That’s because most of the time it changes into a color that we don’t really like. 

Sometimes it will just look stained, dull, or dirty. For those color changes, here are the possible reasons for that happening. 

  • Poor quality of gel polish
  • Contaminated top coat
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to harsh chemicals
  • Over curing

Poor Quality Gel Polish

The quality of the gel polish can affect its ability to retain its color. If the gel polish is of poor quality, the ingredients could easily degrade. They may not be as stable as the higher quality ones. 

You should definitely check the expiration or take note of when you opened it. Expired products are likely to be more unstable. That could also be the cause of the possible discoloration. 

Contaminated Top Coat

Sometimes, some of the color coats will contaminate the topcoat. That will mix with the bottle of topcoat and could change the color of your gel polish the next time you use it. 

Salons will usually have a refill bottle. That prevents the entire batch from being contaminated.

It is important to clean the refill bottle too so that no contaminants will be left in it.  


Smoking is known to create stains on the teeth. However, the teeth aren’t the only body parts that it could stain. Smoking could also stain your nails. 

Typically the stain is more visible in light colors. That’s why your white nails could suddenly turn yellow. The stain may not be obvious in darker colors. 

If you do smoke, darker colors would be better if you don’t want them to discolor.

Also, it would be best to stop smoking. Apart from staining your nails, there are other health risks due to smoking. 

Exposure to harsh chemicals

Gel nails are meant to be durable. However, they could be damaged by harsh chemicals when exposed to them. 

Cleaning products may seem harmless but they can have a bad effect on gel nails. Aside from discoloration, chemical exposure to gel nails could make them more prone to chipping, splitting, and breaking


Another cause for the discoloration would be over-curing the gel nail polish. Even if the colors will look similar, it will look better when it is properly cured. 

Over cured gel polishes usually look duller and less vibrant than those that are properly cured. Apart from changing in color, over-cured nails will be more difficult to remove, as they stick more forcefully to the nails.

How To Bring Back The Previous Gel Polish Color

When your gel polish has changed colors, you might wonder whether you could revert it back to its normal color. The answer will depend on the cause of the change in color.

If the change in color is only present on the topmost layer, you could try cleaning it off. Sometimes a nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol can remove it. 

However, if the discoloration has impacted the deeper layers, then the only thing you can do is to have your nails redone. 

If you can’t bring back the previous good color of your gel nail polish, you could at least prevent it from happening again. 

The best way to do that is to purchase high-quality gel polishes. They have a more stable formula and they contain less harmful ingredients. 

Another thing you should do is to make sure that the curing time for your nail polish is just right. Over-curing changes the color and makes it more prone to chip too. 

Finally, you should also be careful about what things you handle. They may contain chemicals that could ruin your beautiful manicure.

Wear gloves if you’re doing dishes or working with nasty chemicals! 

Final Thoughts

It can be frustrating to see your gel polish get discolored, especially if not all of your nails change color. However, you must remember that there are gel polishes that can change colors. They are formulated to do so and will react depending on the temperature or the presence of UV light. 

Aside from that, gel polishes could change color due to poor quality gel polish, a contaminated topcoat, smoking, exposure to harsh chemicals, and over-curing.

In some cases, the change in color can still be recovered. This is true for those whose top layers are only affected. However, if the lower layers are affected, then there is nothing else to do but have the gel polish redone. 

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Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).