Does Nail Polish Expire? [Even If Left Unopened]

Trying to keep your manicure fresh can feel like a never-ending battle, especially with those bottles of nail polish that just won't seem to run out.

Dried nail Polish Burgundy color, dried nail Polish on the brush.

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But when you finally decide to use an old favorite, it might not look or apply as it once did. This might make you wonder about the shelf life of nail polish. Is it still good to use? How do you know when it's time to toss it? And if it's possible, how can you revive that half-empty bottle?

For all the details on how to manage your nail polish collection, including tips for when to keep and when to clear out, keep reading.

What Is The Shelf Life Of Nail Polish?

A product's shelf life is the amount of time that you can expect the product to look and behave as expected, in addition to remaining safe for use. With that being said, it's hard to determine a specific time frame for the shelf life of nail polish.

Different colors of nail polish stacked on shelves at the salon

One of the reasons why this is the case is that certain factors affect the shelf life of products. It depends on the ingredients that the product is made of, how it is used, and how the product is stored. 

Because of this, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which plays a prominent role in determining the shelf life of cosmetic products such as nail polish, doesn't require cosmetics to have a specific shelf life. They also don't require expiration dates to be printed on beauty products such as nail polish.

Just because a product doesn't have a defined shelf life or expiration date doesn't mean that it won't go bad. The main problem with nail polish is in how you store it. 

The maximum shelf life for opened nail polish will be about two years if you store it in a cool, dark spot. If stored in an area that is warm and bright, the shelf life will be shorter. But for sealed, unopened nail polish it can last for an indefinite amount of time before it goes bad.

Speaking of shelf life, you might also want to explore the longevity of nail polish remover. For insights, take a look at our article, "Does Nail Polish Remover Expire?"

How Can You Tell If Nail Polish Is Bad?

In some cases, you can tell that nail polish is bad just by looking at it. Sometimes nail polish will separate into different components, especially if it's glitter nail polish or nail polish in which two or more different dyes create the color.

But, you can always tell if nail polish is bad when you start to apply it. Bad nail polish will be thicker and may seem gloopy. You'll also find that it won't go on as smoothly as it used to. There are several things that can cause nail polish to go bad.

1. High Heat

If you store your nail polish out in the open air, especially near a heater or window, it can cause nail polish to go bad faster. It does this because it can evaporate some of the liquid chemicals that are in nail polish.

Thinner liquid chemicals in nail polish can evaporate faster, which is what causes the polish to thicken. Store your nail polish inside a closet or drawer away from any windows or heaters to keep this from happening.

2. Loose Lids

Not closing the lid of your nail polish can cause it to dry out quicker. The polish will become exposed to air which can cause the formula to evaporate and lose some of its moisture. You can prevent this from happening by making sure that you screw the lid on tightly. 

3. Light Exposure

Some types of nail polish, such as gel nail polish, can dry out faster when exposed to light. This is because UV light is needed for gel nail polish to cure, so it makes sense that it would dry out faster when exposed to UV light.

Avoid keeping your nail polish next to a UV lamp or even near a window since sunlight contains UV light as well.

Does Unopened Nail Polish Go Bad?

Unopened nail polish won't go bad as quickly as opened nail polish. This is because the nail polish is exposed to fewer elements as long as it remains sealed and closed. But, even unopened nail polish can go bad depending on how it is stored.

Bottles of nail polishes for choosing at the salon

If you keep unopened nail polish in a cool, dark place, it will last at least two years, if not longer. But if stored in a warm and sunny place, the nail polish can still dry out even if it is not open.

However, this will take a lot longer because it won't be exposed to air as well. It will only have exposure to sunlight. Even if you store nail polish in a cool, dark place, some of the ingredients used to make it can still separate over time.

Or in the case of glitter nail polish, the glitter can settle in one place. However, unopened nail polish shouldn't lose its consistency as quickly. You should just be able to shake it up to mix the ingredients together again.

What Happens If I Use Expired Nail Polish?

One of the main concerns people have when using products past their expiration date is how it will affect their health. This is especially due to some of the chemicals in cosmetic products, such as nail polish.

Fortunately, you don't have to worry about any negative effects on your health from using nail polish that has expired.

Although nail polish does contain chemicals such as formaldehyde and toluene, these won't cause any harm to your health as long as you use the nail polish for its intended purpose.

This remains true even if the nail polish is bad, which is one reason why it isn't necessary to put expiration dates on the bottle.

The biggest issue with using expired nail polish is how easy it will be to apply. You'll notice that the polish likely won't go as smoothly.

It may be a different color as well or may be gloopy and sticky when it comes out of the bottle. You're more likely to experience this if the nail polish is over two years old.

If the nail polish is just thick or less than two years old, you may be able to add some nail polish thinner. This will help bring the nail polish back to or close to its normal consistency.

But if this doesn't work or the nail polish is gloopy and discolored, you're better off throwing it away.

When Should You Throw Away Old Nail Polish?

Obviously, if there is very little nail polish left in the bottle and the nail polish is over two years old, it's better to just go ahead and throw it away.

Different colors of with shapes and tints of each color

However, if the bottle is still full but the texture or color seems off, here are some signs that it may be time to throw it away.

1. The Color Won't Blend/You Have Multiples

One of the first signs that you should throw nail polish away is if the color or colors have separated. You can try to shake the polish to blend the colors.

But if the color won't blend after shaking, you should go ahead and throw it away. Sometimes, the color can look faded as well, in which case you should also throw the nail polish away.

You should also throw nail polish away if you have multiples of the same color. If you have three or four shades of red, even if they are from different brands, you probably don't need them all. Throw away some of the older shades and keep the newest one.

2. The Texture Is Off

If the texture is thick, gloopy, or crumbly, throw it away. Should you have a texture that is too thin as a result of adding too much nail thinner, you should also throw it away.

If the texture and consistency is not what it should be, it can affect how well the polish goes on and how well it dries. If it does dry, it can peel or chip faster as well. 

Final Thoughts on Nail Polish Longevity

Nail polish may not come with an expiry date, but it doesn't last forever. Opened bottles are good for around two years, while unopened ones can last longer. If the texture or color seems wrong, it's safer to toss it, as it won't give you the quality or look you want.

Let others benefit too by pinning this informative post using the image below on your social media, spreading valuable insights.

Two women showing their gorgeous different colored nail polish, Does Nail Polish Expire? [Even If Left Unopened]

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