Do you have sludgy bottles of polish you want to rescue? Then you need the best nail polish thinner.
A few drops will revive your favorite shades.
No, nail polish remover isn’t the same thing as thinner. The acetone will wreck the polish, and it won’t cure correctly.
You can get thinner for both traditional nail polish and gel polish. Check the reviews below for the one that meets your needs.
Is it worth it to buy nail polish thinner?
Does nail polish thinner really work? Yes, it does, and nail salons buy it by the gallon.
If your nail polish has thickened to glop, you can save it with a few drops of thinner. It extends the lifetime of your favorite polishes for much less than the cost of replacing them.
If you don’t have nail polish thinner on hand, you can try a couple of tricks.
What do you do if your nail polish is too thick?
Nail polish dries out when the solvents in the formula evaporate. Thinner replaces the solvents to make the polish liquid again. But if you don’t have any available, here are two methods to fix polish that has thickened (1).
- Hold the bottle between the palms of your hands and roll it back and forth for 3 minutes. This mixes the polish without adding bubbles like shaking it would do.
- Warm the bottle by submerging it in hot water for 3 minutes. Then, turn it slowly upside down and right side up a few times before opening it to test it.
Once you’ve tried mixing the polish and warming it, paint a nail to check the consistency. If it’s still lumpy, you’ll need nail polish thinner.
How to use nail polish thinner
The first step to using nail polish thinner is reading the instructions. You’ll likely see that it recommends putting 2 or 3 drops into the bottle and stirring (without shaking).
Most users will tell you that it frequently takes double that amount to smooth out the nail polish.
We recommend that you take it slow so that you don’t thin out the polish too much. It’s better to waste a few minutes gradually adding more and testing the polish to see how it’s coming along.
If you add too much thinner, leave the lid off the bottle for a while to let the solvent evaporate.
Please don’t try to thin nail polish with acetone, water, or alcohol. You will wreck the polish as it will crack when it dries.
It’s helpful if you know the ingredients of your nail polish so that you can match the proper thinner to it. But most thinner brands contain butyl acetate or ethyl acetate, and those are appropriate for most polishes (2).
How to store polish so that you don’t need to thin it (hopefully)
From here on out, make sure you have your nail polish in a cool, dry, dark place –not the bathroom.
Wipe the neck of the bottle with acetone before closing it.
And close the polish as soon as you are done using it and not after your manicure dries.
How to choose the best nail polish thinner
If you’ve been careful to choose nail polishes without harmful ingredients, thinning them might add the chemicals you have been trying to avoid.
For example, 5-free polishes usually don’t contain toluene. But unfortunately, some nail polish thinners do.
Instead, look for thinners with butyl or ethyl acetate. They will have a strong fruity odor but won’t be as toxic (3).
As we rounded up thinners for the reviews below, we double-checked the ingredients wherever possible.
As you shop, it’s also good to check whether or not the thinner comes with a dropper. It’s much more convenient if it does because you’ll need to measure a tiny amount and squeeze it into the neck of the nail polish bottle.
Lastly, check to see if the thinner is compatible with the type of polish you’re using. Some are suitable for traditional air-drying nail polish and others for gel polish that cures under UV light. Happily, a few are multi-purpose nail polish thinners, too.
Best Nail Polish Thinner in 2020
OPI Nail Lacquer Thinner
It may be from OPI, but this thinner is good for other brands of nail lacquer. It’s based on 2 common solvents used in nail polish: butyl acetate and ethyl acetate.
Start with 2 drops to begin restoring the nail lacquer to usability. After adding the drops, stir the polish or roll the bottle between your hands. Don’t shake it because it will create bubbles.
Test the polish by painting it on a nail. If it’s back to its original consistency, you’re done. If not, keep adding a drop or 2 at a time and mixing it until you’re satisfied.
There’s another use for this nail lacquer thinner besides reviving dried-up polish. You can use it to fix smears on your manicure.
If you haven’t waited long enough for the polish to dry and it smudges, put a drop of thinner on a brush or your fingertip. Smooth it over the surface of the nail to gently remove the smear.
Morgan Taylor Reanimate Lacquer Thinner
Although this nail polish thinner was formulated for this particular brand, it may work with other nail lacquer brands. It should take a maximum of 3 drops to return the polish to the original consistency.
The primary ingredients are ethyl acetate and butyl acetate. But the formula also contains nitrocellulose, isopropyl alcohol, and camphor.
Nitrocellulose is a polymer that works in conjunction with the plasticizer camphor to make the protective finish on the nail. By adding those ingredients back into the bottle, the thinner prevents the polish from weakening too much.
Although camphor is one of the ingredients left out of 5-free polishes, it’s not necessarily a problem for the average person as long as they aren’t allergic. The intense, long-term exposure you get as a nail technician could be problematic, however.
Even though the directions say to shake the bottle after adding the drops, please don’t do that. Turn it upside down and right side up slowly, or roll it between your hands.
Beauty Secrets Nail Polish Thinner
Here’s one of the safest nail polish thinners available. It’s also vegan.
It consists of butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, and heptane. Yes, it’s flammable, but it’s not nearly as toxic as other options.
It’s ideal for reviving nail lacquers that air-dry. But since it doesn’t have a photo-initiator, it doesn’t work as well for gel polishes that need UV light to cure. It may slow down the curing time.
Also, there’s no dropper. But the spout on the lid will allow you to dish out a little bit at a time.
If you use Seche polishes, you need a bottle of this stuff. It comes with a removable dropper.
Reviewers say that it has saved polishes they’ve had for years, even top coats and ones with those with glitter.
There’s just one small problem, however. It contains toluene. Therefore, if you drop it in a 5-free polish, you’ve just added a toxic ingredient that wasn’t there in the first place. On the other hand, a couple of drops hopefully won’t raise the cancer risk much.
The other primary ingredients are butyl acetate and isopropyl alcohol. It’s flammable, it stinks, but it works very well and won’t alter the polish color.
Nail Tek Extend Professional Polish Thinner
This professional nail polish thinner is said to work with any lacquer, including acrylics and gels. The ingredients include ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, and heptane. As there are no photo-initiators, be careful not to over-thin gel polishes.
It restores the normal thickness of the polish, plus it can clean brushes in a pinch. The product is cruelty-free and used by salon professionals around the country. Moreover, for convenience, it comes with a dropper.
Glam Glits Gel Polish Thinner
If you use gel polish, this is the thinner you need. It’s butyl acetate, safe for thinning gels that cure under UV light. But please keep in mind there is a limit on how many drops you can add and still have the polish cure.
The bottle comes with a pipette dropper.
Orly Polish Thinner
It’s a multi-purpose polish thinner based on pedal acetate and ethyl acetate. It takes about 20 seconds of mixing after adding a few drops to fix the dried out polish.
For even better results, clean the polish brush with it, too. Then the application should be silky smooth like it was when the polish was new.
It comes with a dropper built into the bottle.
Mavala Thinner for Nail Polish
Like many other types of lacquer thinner, this one uses ethyl acetate and butyl acetate to make clumping polish more fluid. It returns it to normal consistency by restoring solvent levels.
The Switzerland-based brand recommends wiping the neck of the lacquer bottle with the thinner to make it easy to open the next time you use it.
TSC Gel Thinner for All Gel Brands
Let’s cross over into new territory. This thinner contains butyl acetate and ethyl acetate, like so many others. But it also has isopropyl alcohol and acetone.
Yes, we know we told you not to use acetone to thin your nail polish. But the finely balanced formula here should revive aging gel polish. Just don’t add too many drops of it to the bottle.
Besides gels, it also works with nail lacquers that air dry.
The bottle has a built-in dropper for precise measurements.
Super Nail Polish Thinner
We’ve heard good things about the Super Nail thinner, but we were a little concerned about the ingredients. It has mineral spirits, isopropyl alcohol, MEK, and acetone.
This is potent stuff that should only be dispensed cautiously in small amounts. Otherwise, it may thin out the polish to where it won’t dry.
But measuring it will be a problem unless you have a dropper available as it doesn’t come with one.
Why not go straight to the source? Use a few drops of pure ethyl acetate to thin out your nail polish.
It’s not hard to find as it’s sold for a variety of purposes. One less appealing example is that it’s used to kill insects collected for entomology.
If you order it online, it may take a little while to reach you. It can only travel on highways and railways, not in airplanes.
Adecco LLC Nail Polish Bottles
Sometimes nail polish bottles are so gunked-up that they aren’t worth cleaning and saving. Or maybe the brush has just seen better days.
In that case, this set of empty glass polish bottles with brushes may come in handy. They are available in various sizes, including 5, 7, 10, and 15 mL.
OPI Nail Polish Remover Pen
If you do frequent manicures, you’ll find a corrector pen is very useful. It cleans up the excess around the edges of the nail. We find it especially helpful when doing pedicures.
Sure, you could use a Q-tip with acetone, but you run the risk of smudging your polish. This pen is a precision applicator. Furthermore, it won’t dry out your cuticles as acetone will.
Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Remover
It can’t thin your polish, but it will clean up mistakes. This non-acetone nail polish remover will erase even dark-colored polishes.
What’s more, it’s excellent for prepping nails before a manicure. It’s gentle, so it won’t dry out nails and cuticles.
The only thing it can’t do is remove salon gel polish. That’s because it’s based on methyl acetate, isopropyl myristate, and a fragrance to make it smell pleasant.
All is not lost. You can save your favorite nail polish with thinner.
A few drops will bring back the original consistency without altering the color or the finish.
Think of the money you can save by not throwing away all those bottles.
We’d love to hear how your experience with nail polish thinner is going. Visit us again, and feel free to leave a comment below.
1. https://www.wikihow.com/Thin-Nail-Polish by Kristin Pulaski, published September 2, 2020, accessed November 20, 2020
2. https://www.compoundchem.com/2017/04/06/nail-polish/ by Compound Interest, published April 6, 2017, accessed November 20, 2020
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethyl_acetate accessed November 20, 2020