Why Does Nail Polish Stay Soft and Tacky?

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Sometimes you apply a coat of polish and it dries in a 30 seconds. And other times, it feels like it takes forever and your polish stays tacky.

Why does that happen?

So, why does nail polish stay soft and tacky? You might have a nail polish that has reached the end of its shelf life and has dried up, or maybe you’ve picked a poor-quality polish.

Perhaps too many coats are being applied in a short period without allowing the previous coats to dry fully. Or maybe there was a lot of air in the bottle.

In this post, we will discuss what causes your nail polish to stay tacky and soft, and what you can do to fix it.


Why Is My Nail Polish Soft and Tacky?

Butter London

1. Air Is Getting In The Bottle

Your nail polish bottle’s neck may be clogged with nail polish residue and dried gunk. If nail polish dries too much around the neck, air can enter the bottle because the cap is not tightened properly.

In addition, nail polish can be contaminated with residue, compromising its original consistency and making it too thick to dry properly. 

If nail polish dries too much around the neck, air can enter the bottle because the cap is not tightened properly.

2. You Are Trying to Skip a Topcoat

If you’re using gel polish, sometimes the top layer stays sticky. Some gel polishes need to be wiped down, others need a top coat.

Follow the instructions of your polish, as there are different formulations.

Also, keep in mind that there are different kinds of gel polishes. There’s air-dry gel polish  that requires a top coat. There’s also gel polish and builder gel/gel overlay.

These can stay sticky after drying unless they are wiped down or a topcoat is applied (depending on the system)

3. Poor Storage

Do you keep your nail polish in the bathroom cabinet?

People tend to not think about this and just throw their polish anywhere. There is a good possibility that your nail polishes are not being stored properly.

Light, heat, moisture, are not good for polishes..

Nail polish is loaded with alcohol which helps nail polish to dry when you use it.

When you store the bottle incorrectly, (such as in direct sunlight) it can dry out the alcohol. The polish does not dry properly and remains tacky.

This also occurs if the polish is out of date. Always check the date before using, as polish can expire.


When Gel Polish Is Over-Cured, It Can Still Be Sticky 

A gel polish’s mirror-like finish is revealed by removing the top inhibition layer with an alcohol-based cleanser. It has a sticky, dull appearance.

Gel polish manufacturers provide instructions for removing this gel layer, but most people fail to read them.

Check your bottle to see if you have this type and should be wiping the coat off.

A gel polish’s mirror-like finish is revealed by removing the top inhibition layer with an alcohol-based cleanser.

See also: What Happens If You Over-Cure Gel Nails?


How Help Your Nail Polish Dry Quicker

1. Use Thin Light Layers

Apply 2 or 3 light layers of polish after wiping off the polish from your applicator container.

Before applying the next coat of polish, ensure the previous one is completely dry. Applying nail polish in multiple layers will not completely dry the polish.

Before applying the next coat of polish, ensure the previous one is completely dry. Applying nail polish in multiple layers will not completely dry the polish.

We know that applying the whole polish will take longer, but the drying time will be shorter. This is because each nail should be painted one after the other.

If you paint each nail patiently, the first can be painted again by the time you’ve finished painting the last nail, provided you use thin layers.

2. For 2-3 Minutes, Blow Cool Air With a Blow Dryer 

Use a hairdryer with cold air settings. Run the dryer for 2-3 minutes across your fingers.

Your nails will dry quickly using just cold air. Each nail should be dried quickly by repeating the process. Keep everything on low power.

You should hold your hair dryer 12 inches above the nails while drying them.

You may start to see ripples in your polish if you use a warm heat setting or hold the dryer too close. This means you are melting the polish.

You may start to see ripples in your polish if you use a warm heat setting or hold the dryer too close. This means you are melting the polish.

3. Spend 2-3 Minutes in an Ice-Cold Bowl of Water 

Make sure your nails are dry for at least 60 seconds. Pour very cold water halfway into a small bowl, or throw a few ice cubes in it.

Place your painted fingertips in and let them sit for 1-2 minutes. Nail polish hardens in the cold. 

4. Use a Nail Polish That Dries Quickly

Numerous nail polish brands claim to be fast drying. How well they work is variable. It’s often best to be patient. Also note that sometimes 5-fre nail polishes and above can take a bit longer to dry.

5. Use Nail Polish Thinner to Thin Your Nail Polish 

Thin out your nail polish with acetone. Just one or two drops is enough.

This method should be used with caution. Adding too much acetone can dilute the polish and create runny polish. For gel nail polishes, a thinner formulated specifically for them is required. 

The original formula is preserved when using a gel polish thinner, while other solvents such as nail polish remover will simply break it down.

6. Change Up Your Nail Polish Brand 

Suppose your nail polish becomes sticky before its expiration date. That may be a signal they’re not using high-quality, long-lasting ingredients. Is it a big name brand, or did you just fall in love with the color?

You don’t need to spend much money on nail polish to gain good quality.

7. Avoid Painting Your Nails in Humid Weather 

If the sun is out and the summer heat is kicking in, paint your nails indoors with the AC on. The heat and humidity will stop your nails from drying properly.

Try to paint your nails before the weather gets too hot or when the humidity is low. 

Humidity can also create more oil and residue on our natural nails. Make sure you clean the nails properly before applying polish so it has a clean surface to adhere to.


Conclusion

There are many reasons why your polish stays tacky and soft. Most likely your bottle wasn’t fully closed, or it is old, stored improperly, or is poor quality.

Fortunately, new nail polish is generally pretty inexpensive. But if you can’t go buy a new bottle immediately, follow our guide and hopefully you’ll be able to get your polish to work one last time.

Written by Kayla Young

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