A row of different colorful nail polish bottles that spilled onto the bright surface.

How Long Does Nail Polish Last?

A row of different colorful nail polish bottles that spilled onto the bright surface.

Since 3000 BC, nail polish has been away for women to add a touch of beauty, flare, and femininity to their appearance. While nail polish today is made using many different ingredients and offers a wide variety of different looks, it still helps women stand out like it did thousands of years ago.

While the nail polish is still an incredible addition to any look, if it doesn’t last longer than a few days, then it doesn’t provide much value. This is why I always opt for polishes that provide the most longevity. However, the polish itself isn’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to longevity; the application process is also important.

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Exploring Different Nail Polish Types

Although we have many types of nail polishes, we will only look at the ten major ones and their primary features.

OPI Nail Polish, Nail Lacquer, Tickle My France-y, Nude Nail Polish, 0.5 Fl Oz
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Creme: This is a common nail polish type. It’s cheap and relatively easy to maintain.

Metallic: The metallic nail polish fades easily.

OPI Nail Polish and Nail Lacquer Top Coat, Matte Finish Nail Polish Top Coat, 0.5 Fl Oz
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Matte: This gives a beautiful mineral shine.

OPI Hello Kitty Nail Polish Collection, Nail Lacquer, Glitter All The Way
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Glitter: They are difficult to remove from nails. You may need a top coat to remove.

Cirque Colors Holographic Nail Polish - Subculture - Rainbow Metallic - 0.37 fl. oz. (11 ml)
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Holographic: As its name suggests, it’s light reflective.

Eternal 5 Collection: Rainbow Days - 5 Pieces Set: Long Lasting, Quick Dry Nail Polish
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Neon: Finishing looks are just like matte’s finishing looks.

Making Your Nail Polish Last as Long as Possible

If you’re giving yourself a manicure, then you should avoid using old nail polish. Why? Old polish tends to not adhere as well to your nails as new polish.

You should also avoid filing your nails back and forth and trimming your cuticles after applying your polish, as both of these activities can cause damage and make the polish crack quicker. Additionally, you should avoid using your nails as a tool (that means don’t be scratching off stickers or picking things up with them!)

Vgo 10-Pairs Reusable Household Gloves, Rubber Dishwashing gloves, Extra Thickness, Long Sleeves, Kitchen Cleaning, Working, Painting, Gardening, Pet Care (Size M, Yellow, HH4601)
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It’s important to note that anything involving your nails and an excess amount of liquid can cause your nails to weaken. With this in mind, you should avoid things like washing dishes or swimming (at least without wearing a pair of protective gloves!).

How Long Does Nail Polish Last?

This might come as a surprise, but nail polish actually does have an expiration date. I once believed I could keep my polishes for as long as I wanted, but I was mistaken. As I mentioned above, old polish will not adhere well to your nails and should be avoided.

On average, nail polishes should last between 18-24 months, as long as you store them in a dark and cool place (drawer, medicine cabinet, closet, etc.). Now, it’s important to mention that nail polish may be able to be used after 24 months, as long as it has not gone bad. But, how do you know if it has gone bad? It’s simple really.

The texture of your nail polish should never be gloopy, thick, and difficult to manage/apply. If this happens, then it’s a good idea to toss it in the trash. This is because nail polish that has gone bad is likely to produce clumpy results, even if it does end up adhering to your nails.

Pronto 100% Pure Acetone - Quick, Professional Nail Polish Remover - For Natural, Gel, Acrylic, Sculptured Nails (8 Ounces)
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I know I said nail polish doesn’t last forever, but there are a few ways you can make this possible. As mentioned, storing them in a dark and cool place is step 1. Step 2 would be to clean the necks of your nail polish bottles using acetone (AKA nail polish remover).

If you do this, your nail polish could potentially last forever, but it surely can last longer than 24 months!

How to Know When It’s Time to Toss Your Nail Polish in The Trash?

A handful of different colorful nail polish bottles held by both hands.

I touched on a couple of them, but there are a number of key signs that its time to throw your nail polish in the garbage, especially if it has been sitting on your shelf or in your room for quite some time.

1. Your Polish Isn’t Blending Easily

Like I mentioned before, nail polish should last between 18-24 months once it has been opened. However, if the polish has become separated and won’t blend when trying to apply it (especially after you’ve shaken the bottle) then it’s time to throw it away.

2. Your Polish is Starting to Crumble

I’ve done this before, but if you fail to screw the nail polish bottle’s cap on tight enough after giving yourself a manicure, this can cause the polish to become “crumbly” or dried out. In this case, the solvents have probably evaporated and no amount of nail polish thinner will be able to salvage it.

3. Your Polish is Thin When Applying Polish Remover

Be wary of beauty blogs and vlogs that tell you it’s possible to thin out old nail polish using nail polish remover. According to many experts, a lot of commercial removers contain acetone, which can break down the formula of your polish’s lacquer and ruin it. Instead, you should only use legitimate nail polish thinner.

4. Your Nail Polish Bottle Won’t Open

Sometimes nail polish bottles simply won’t open. If this is the case, and you’ve tried to place it on its side under hot water, then it’s best to just toss it.

5. Your Polish Hasn’t Been Used in Years

I might be biased here, but clutter is never a good thing. The same applies to nail polish. If you have a bunch of shades in your drawers and medicine cabinets that you haven’t touched in years (or decades) then the likelihood you’ll ever use them again is low. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to replace them with new shades.

6. Your Glitter Nail Polish is “Goopy”

If you own glitter nail polish, it’s actually normal for it to be a bit gloopy, especially in comparison to traditional polishes. However, if the consistency of your glitter polish is excessively thick or difficult to apply, then it’s best to just throw it away.

7. You Have Multiple Polishes of The Same Shade

This is similar to the clutter issue, but if you have a myriad of shades that are exactly the same, what’s the point of keeping them all? Doing so just increases the likelihood that one or more of them will go bad before you ever get to use them.

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