Colin Solves Your Problems 20: How Long Does Nail Polish Last?

how long does nail polish last
Is there any such number as too many nail polishes?

Will Nail Polish Last if you keep it?

It is nice to get a problem from a male for a change.  Thanks for sending this in, and thanks for the kind words.

My girlfriend is obsessed by nail polish and has amassed a considerable collection of over 400 bottles and growing.

I was concerned that she has more polish than she could ever use now, but my question is does nail polish ‘go off’ and become unusable after a period of time. It would be a shame for her collection to perish.

Love your blog. My gf passed it on as she knows I enjoy the chemistry of things. Thanks in advance.

I haven’t actually worked on nail polishes so I can’t claim to be an expert on how long a nail polish will last.  But I imagine most formulations will last for ages if unopened. I have worked on wart products which aren’t very different, and I remember trying out 20 year old samples that were still as good as the day they were made.

The trouble with them is that they are solvent based and so when you open them you are going to start losing solvent.  So they can and will dry out and solidify and become useless.  The optimum strategy would be to use one at a time.  I would think that given your girlfriend’s purchasing pattern she is probably not going to do that.

As to whether 400 bottles is too many, I am going to leave that question.  I still haven’t worked out why anybody needs more than 2 or at most 3 pairs of shoes.  That is how out of touch I am.  I think we have to accept that women have a different way of looking at this kind of thing, and if she thinks she needs that many nail polishes, well that is just the way it is.

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8 thoughts on “Colin Solves Your Problems 20: How Long Does Nail Polish Last?”

  1. A women can never have enough nail polish or shoes!
    You never know when you will need a particular colour and you can buy products which will thin down solidified polish and make it usable again.

  2. Come on Colin, what a silly thing to say… Women don’t have a different way of looking at this kind of thing. If we’re dwelving into stereotypes, don’t men hoard videogames and gadgets? How about those who collect stamps and coins (I’ve never met a woman that does this). It’s a hoarding behaviour, maybe triggered by different things in different genders, but in essence a simple human behaviour…

  3. Hi Colin,

    As a nail polish fanatic, I loved this post! Agreed (from my limited anecdotal evidence) that nail polish doesn’t seem to go “bad” in the way other cosmetics (esp creams and liquids) do. My guess is that the chemicals present just don’t make for a very bacteria-friendly environment. But you are right in that the solvent does dry up and evaporate after awhile, thus the nail polish will become more solid and clumpy, and more difficult to apply. Fortunately you can buy nail polish solvent or nail polish thinner, and add it to an old dried up bottle, and it will be just like new. I guess it works by replacing the solvent that has evaporated.

    P.S. Also in my capacity as nail polish fanatic, I also agree that 400 bottles of nail polish is NOT too much!

  4. You can buy nail polish thinner, which is all the volatile solvent in nail polish! Adding it to thick, goopy nail polish (which is what happens when nail polish begins to age) will revert it to the original state.

  5. I have also heard from a friend of mine that if you are concerned about their longevity that you can refrigerate them. Her fridge had a particular rack setup that held them perfectly and easy to see. I think she had to remove them a little while before using to let them warm up to room temp. Figured it was worth sharing!

  6. Pingback: How long do cosmetics last? - Chemists Corner

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