How Do I Choose the Best Nail Polish Thinner?

S. Gonzales

Choosing a nail polish thinner might seem easy. Many of the nail polish thinners on the market have similar formulations, but the best thinners will be those that have as few toxic ingredients as necessary and will restore the original shine and color of your nail polish. If you find that you can't buy a nail polish thinner and need a quick way to thin your polish, a few home remedies can be used in lieu of one.

A woman with polished nails.
A woman with polished nails.

One way to verify that you need a nail polish thinner is to dip the nail polish brush into the polish and attempt to apply three consecutive coats. If you can't apply three coats without having to re-dip the brush, then a nail polish thinner needs to be added to the polish. This will return the polish to its original consistency.

A few drops of nail polish remover may help thin the polish, but too much can ruin the bottle.
A few drops of nail polish remover may help thin the polish, but too much can ruin the bottle.

When shopping for a nail polish thinner, choose a thinner with ingredients such as ethyl acetate, butyl acetate and toluene, which are known to help thin nail polish. Some of these chemicals, however, can be strong and potentially hazardous, and it's not uncommon to find thinners that are marketed as being made without them. If you find a suitable thinner made without one of these chemicals, such as toluene, it might be wise to choose it.

Clear nail polish.
Clear nail polish.

The best thinners will restore the original shine of nail polishes. One of the greatest downsides of using a nail thinner is that the chemicals can dull the color of nail polish. This can be especially true of nail polishes that are dark, because they are the most susceptible to clumping. When deciding on a particular thinner, look for products that advertise that they can restore the luster of your polish in addition to making it thinner.

If you can't purchase a nail polish thinner at the exact moment you need one, there are a few things you can try to thin your polish at little to no additional cost. You can begin by taking the bottle of nail polish and gently turning it upside down and back again. This action can loosen clumps and redistribute an even amount of color throughout the polish. Rolling the bottle of nail polish between your hands can help this process along, because the warmth of your hands could penetrate the bottle and melt the clumps.

Another quick fix is to add a few drops nail polish remover to the bottle. After you do this, you can shake the bottle as you would normally, and the nail polish remover can separate clumps and make your nail polish wearable again. This technique is considered a last resort by nail polish enthusiasts, because too much nail polish remover can ruin the polish and result in the need to buy another container of nail polish as a replacement.

Darker nail polish colors are more susceptible to clumping.
Darker nail polish colors are more susceptible to clumping.

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Discussion Comments

One time I added too much nail polish remover to a nail polish that was getting thick and clumpy. I found out the hard way that this made the polish stay wet for a long time when I accidentally rubbed it on my white shirt!

Whenever I find a nail polish color that I love, I buy two of them. Then, when one starts to get thick and gooey, I simply pour a little of the new bottle into the one I have been using to keep it fresh and easy to apply.


Another easy way to thin a bottle of old, clumpy nail polish is to add a little bit of clear nail polish to the bottle. It will help bring back the smooth consistency of your favorite nail polish color without turning it dull or too thin.

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