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How To Make Nail Polish Thinner [This Is All You Need To Do]

Reaching for your favorite shade of nail polish only to find that it is thick, separated, sticky, or dry? Well, that will only ruin your plans for the perfect manicure. Throwing a bottle of nail polish out every time it dries up can become a wasteful and costly habit. Besides, who really has the heart to toss their favorite shade? Luckily, there are a few tried and true ways to reverse the inevitable thickening of your nail polish while preventing it from expiring sooner than it should. 

So, how do you make nail polish thinner? The easiest way to make nail polish thinner is with gentle warming. Rolling the bottle in between your hands or placing the bottle in a warm bowl for a few minutes work well. Otherwise, adding 2-3 drops of nail polish thinner, or acetone, directly into the bottle and giving a gentle shake is another option to try. 

A gentle shake might help, but avoid shaking the bottle vigorously as it could force air into the nail polish and dry it out even more. 

And for more stubborn polishes, you can simply repeat as needed.

But as you can imagine, there is a little more to it than this. And you’re probably after a more detailed overview of each process.

So keep reading for some simple and cost-effective tips that will help bring any nail polish back to life.

But before then…

Why Is My Nail Polish So Thick?

Nail polish that has been exposed to air repeatedly or over a long period of time will become thick and more challenging to apply to the surface of the nail. 

Nail polish contains solvents, such as alcohol that evaporate quickly when exposed to air. 

Sun exposure, too much humidity, and forgetting to tighten the cap on your nail polish bottle are some of the top reasons that your favorite shades can start to thicken sooner than you’d hoped.

Can You Thin Out Nail Polish With Nail Polish Remover?

You can use nail polish remover to thin out nail polish, but nail polish thinner is a better choice. 

Nail polish remover may have other additives that can cause your nail polish to blend poorly and break down quickly, so use only a drop or two if nail polish thinner or acetone isn’t readily available to you. 

Acetone also works well, as it is the purest form of the active ingredient used in nail polish remover. 

Be extra careful when adding acetone. 

Try starting with one drop at a time and adjusting as needed. 

Nail polish thinner is the best choice for thinning your nail polish, as it is specially made for this purpose. 

Whichever product you choose, make sure to use only a few drops in total. If you use too much, you could end up making your nail polish too thin. 

What Is A Good Nail Polish Thinner?

Using a professional nail polish thinner is the best way to restore thick nail polish. 

Nail lacquer thinners, or nail polish thinners, are usually available at your local drugstore and rarely break the bank. 

Here is the one to buy from Amazon. It simply has the best reviews and I’ve compared a lot👇

BEAUTY SECRETS Nail Polish Thinner
  • Thins nail polish for even flow
  • Smooth and easy application

Do consider that gel nail polish is formulated a bit differently than regular nail polish. 

So if you’re trying to save your gel nail polish, look for a nail polish thinner specifically made for the task. 

Pure acetone is another effective way to restore the original consistency of your nail polish and is also widely available. 

Acetone is extremely effective at breaking down nail polish, and adding too much can actually make your polish runny.

When it comes to buying Acetone; this is one of Amazon’s best sellers.

Making Nail Polish Thinner – Step By Step

Below, I detail exactly what you need to do to make your nail polish thinner in no time at all!

Put Down Protection

Be prepared for messes! Protect your surfaces. 

Lay down an old cloth or napkin directly onto the surface you plan to work on.

This will protect your beloved table or countertop from unwanted nail polish and acetone spills, which will damage the finish on most household surfaces.

Roll The Polish

Gently roll the nail polish bottle between your hands for about 20 seconds or until it seems to be well mixed. 

Has it been a while since you last reached for your nail polish?

Sometimes a nail polish that seems dry and clumpy is really just separated.

When left in storage for some time, the pigment in nail polish starts to separate from the alcohol and other ingredients.

A quick and gentle roll of the bottle will usually do the trick.

If your nail polish bottle was open for too long or is beyond its expiration date, you may need to get creative.

Warm Water Soak

Hold the bottle of nail polish under warm water for a few minutes. 

If rolling the nail polish bottle doesn’t yield the desired result, fill a small bowl with hot water.

Make sure there is enough water to cover most of the nail polish bottle.

Be sure to close the cap of the nail polish bottle tightly.

Do not add water directly to your nail polish, as nail polish is alcohol-based, and the two will not blend properly, leaving you with a ruined nail polish.

Holding the cap of the closed nail polish bottle with your fingers, submerge at least half of the bottle in the water and let it sit for a few minutes.

Be extra careful to only handle the bottle when it has cooled down a bit.

If this still doesn’t help make your nail polish easier to spread, follow the next few steps. 

Consider Adding Thinner/Acetone

Add 1-2 drops of pure acetone or nail polish thinner to the bottle. 

Open the nail polish bottle and add one to two drops of your chosen nail polish thinner.

How many drops you end up adding to the bottle will depend on how much your nail polish has dried out, but less is truly more here, so start slowly.

Avoid pouring acetone, nail polish thinner, or nail polish remover directly from the bottle.

Consider transferring a small amount of your chosen nail polish thinner into a small squeeze bottle, eyedropper, or coffee spoon to better control the amount that you are adding to the nail polish bottle. 

Roll Again

Close the nail polish bottle tightly and roll it between your hands again. 

Rolling the bottle of nail polish between your hands will mix the acetone into the nail polish.

This technique will also warm the nail polish at the same time, which encourages the two liquids to mix more effectively.

While keeping the bottle closed, turn it upside down a few times to make extra sure that the nail polish and acetone have mixed evenly.

Avoid shaking the bottle, as it could introduce air bubbles into your nail polish.

Repeat Process As Required

Repeat the process as needed. 

Thicker nail polishes may need a bit more encouragement when it comes to thinning out.

If your nail polish is still too thick, open the bottle and add another one to two drops of your chosen nail polish thinner.

Roll the bottle of nail polish between your hands for 30 seconds.

Then, turn the bottle upside down a few times to make sure that the thinner and nail polish are well mixed.

Be sure to do a test application between steps to make sure that you haven’t diluted your nail polish too much.

How Thin Should Nail Polish Be?

Nail polish should flow smoothly from the brush onto the surface of your nail and have an almost opaque consistency. 

Determining how thin your nail polish should be is a personal preference and will depend on the type of nail polish you are using. 

Solid colors tend to look best when they are opaque and leave little to no streakiness after the first and second coats. 

Nail polishes with sparkles are usually meant to be more transparent.

These are more flexible and can even be restored if you accidentally use too much thinner.

How To Stop Your Nail Polish From Thickening

Close the nail polish bottle between coats and as soon as you are finished using it. 

Exposure to air causes nail polish to dry rather quickly.

Limiting its contact with air by tightening the cap shortly after use and between coats will extend the lifetime of your nail polish.

Store Your Nail Polish Properly

Storing your nail polish in a cool, dry, and dark place will help prevent it from becoming dry and clumpy.

Somewhere with a consistently cool temperature works best, so avoid bathrooms as hot showers can introduce too much heat and humidity too often.

Keep the nail polish bottles upright instead of on their sides or upside down.

This will prevent a struggle when trying to open your nail polish bottle.

Avoid places that are poorly ventilated, have consistent sun exposure, or are near artificial light sources, as proximity to any light or heat source could present a fire hazard.

Wipe Excess Nail Polish Away With Acetone

Apply a small amount of acetone to a cotton pad, cotton ball, or cotton swab and carefully wipe away excess nail polish from the neck of the nail polish bottle.

This will prevent excess nail polish from drying out and creating thick residue around the neck of the bottle, which could make it very difficult to open the next time you reach for it.

Know When To Let Go

Like any cosmetic, nail polish has an expiration date and will eventually dry up after repeated use.

Knowing how to care for your nail polish will extend its lifespan, avoid any unnecessary waste and keep your nails looking fresher longer.


So that’s how to thin a bottle of nail polish.

You’ll soon see for yourself how effective it really is.

Just be careful when adding any thinner/acetone and when it comes to shaking the bottle.

We want to gently restore the polish – less is more here.

And if you are looking for other tips and techniques to restore nail polish, then check out my following guides: