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I do not believe in nail polish expiration dates. Microbes typically cannot survive in polish, and the period after opening number on some nail polish bottles is merely a formality. They are there for governments or consumers who like them. Surely there are exceptions, but polishes that are well taken care of generally last a long time. Store them away from heat and light, and make sure you close them as tightly as possible after each use. Keeping air from penetrating the bottles is key. Bottles that are not tightly closed will go bad quickly, even if they’re brand new. Over time, some polishes break down faster than others. The brands I am mentioning in this article are guilty of this. Before tossing polish, it is always a good idea to attempt restoration. If your polish is so hard that you cannot pull the brush out, restoration gets a lot more difficult. Tossing those is probably best, although not necessary.
If your polish is still near its original thickness, but it separated, just shake it until it looks normal again. Unlike some beauty products, separated polish is not a sign it went bad. Materials can settle over time, so they just need to get shifted back into place. Restoration is for polishes that have thickened into a gloopy mess. There are two important things you need, nail polish remover (preferably one with a large lid) and nail polish restorer. For this project, I used Sephora Express Nail Polish remover, which is sadly no longer sold. Sephora does sell a similar one that I will try when I need another polish remover. I’d love to know what you think of that one if you’ve tried it. Until then, I am unsure if it is as good. I used two restorers Seche Vite Restore and Julep voilà! Nail Polish Thinner.
Add a few drops (3-5) of nail polish restorer directly inside the bottle. Shake it, if you can. Close the bottle and let it sit for at least 24 hours. When you return, check the polish. It may need more love. Adding too much restorer at once is a waste of money, because it may not take much to restore it. There is always a chance you can add too much and make the polish too thin, which is why I suggest adding restorer over time. If it is still thick after 24 hours, you could also try a different type of restorer. Some polishes work better with certain restorers. I use a different restorer on the second application. Should it need a third application, I switch back to the first one I tried. After three applications, I am ready to cut my losses if the polish has not restored. How many applications you select is a personal preference and really depends on the polish.
The brushes in these polishes are typically a mess, so clean them after restoring. You do not want to place this messy brush back in the bottle you’ve just restored. It can also trick you into thinking the polish did not restore as well as it did. Never pour nail polish remover directly into your polish. Nail polish remover and polish do not mix, which is why remover is so great at taking your polish off. I pour the polish directly into the lid of the nail polish remover, but you can use something else. Push the bristles against the side of the container to wipe the gunk off the brush. Clean from clearest polish to darkest polish, so you can use the same lid for all polishes. Once the brush is clean, try to squeeze as much of the excess nail polish remover from the bristles as possible (to limit how much goes inside the polish).
This Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat was a thick mess. I tried to fix it using Seche Vite Restore. It did not bring the polish back to life, so I used the Julep voilà over a month later. That did not bring it back to life either. The formula did get a little more fluid after using Seche Vite again for the third treatment, so it is possible I could have brought this back with more treatments. Thankfully, I received another bottle of this, so I am not even going to try a fourth time. See what this polish looks like on the nail before it went bad.
You can see the new one on the left looks like a regular polish. The older one on the right is still gloopy, although much less gloopy than when I started restoring it.
The Nails Inc Alexa Lace is a limited edition polish, but it is still available at Nails Inc direct (in the new bottle). It is on sale for $5, so it would not have been bad to replace this one. I purchased this when it first released for full-price. Of course, I ordered it with a Sephora promo code (to get the deal I need). See what this polish looks like on the nail.
Of the 3 polishes, this one was in the best shape. I had a good feeling it would successfully restore.
The brush on this polish returned to its original state after cleaning it, and the polish returned to its original state as well. I cannot even tell there was ever anything wrong with this polish, because it looks as good as new.
Nails Inc Feathers Edinburgh is a limited edition polish, so I had a vested interest in restoring this one. I cannot replace it, and I love that it really looks like I’ve applied feathers to my nail. It is a neat effect. Almost all the fluid from this one was gone, so it needed more than restorer to bring it back to life. Using some of the Seche Vite top coat to return some polish to the feathers, and a cuticle stick, I mixed the restorer in. This kills wood cuticle sticks, so toss that when you’re finished. If you use a metal or plastic stick, you can attempt cleaning it. See what this polish looks like on the nail.
This brush was by far the worst. The bristles were so hard that it no longer felt like a brush. Even though it is not as dark as Alexa Lace, I decided to clean this one last. It needed the most work.
Using the same nail polish remover, I cleaned Edinburgh. It took a lot longer, and the brush never returned to its original shape. This brush is usable again, even though it is not in perfect shape. The polish is still a little thick, but I am keeping it. I cannot replace it, and I can keep adding restorer to it as time moves on. In case I do have to throw this away soon, I will incorporate this into my next manicure. Hopefully, I can keep it around a little longer.
I added the Seche Vite and Edinburgh to my thumb nail to see how they applied after the treatments. The Seche Vite is too thick. It cannot stick around, because it creates a little mound on my nail. That is not a pretty look. Edinburgh takes a lot of work to smooth it out, because the polish is still thick and the brush did not fully restore, but I can smooth it out a bit with a nice top coat (just not the damaged Seche Vite). This is a rough polish even when its new, so no top coat can fully smooth this out anyway. So, the results of this restoring session are 1 complete success (Alexa Lace), 1 willing to work with it in a compromised state (Edinburgh), and 1 failure (Seche Vite).
My collection has over 400 nail polishes, and I noticed Nails Inc polishes were in the worst shape. These two needed restoration and many of the others separated. The good news is Nails Inc polishes in the new rectangular bottles have fared better, so I think this problem is with the older circular bottles. There are circular bottles from other brands in my collection that are completely fine, so the Nails Inc bottles were not the best at preserving polish. Unless you get a great sale on the older bottle, try to purchase the newer bottle when selecting polishes from this brand. Seche Vite is notorious for getting gloopy before the polish gets old. I purchased the top coat around the same time I purchased the base coat, and that is still in great shape. It all seems like the luck of the draw. If the bottles close well, they will probably last. Even if you close them tightly, they have limitations based on how well the manufacturer made the bottle.
My Julep Liza polish arrived gloopy last year. I have well over 200 bottles of Julep polish and only one arrived like this. It was not sealed tightly at the factory, so air got in. Julep was out of that polish for a while after it arrived this way, so I tried to restore it. After 3 treatments, I was able to restore it. As I never tried it while it was fresh, I can only assumed it is as good as new. This brand has thicker polish than most others, but I wanted to note that it is possible to restore it. There were no Julep polishes in need of restoration for this article, but it is always hard to tell which of those polishes need restoration until I open their bottles. If any need restoration, I look forward to trying my new Julep polish restorer to the Julep polishes.
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