Does Nail Polish Expire? [Even If Left Unopened]

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Nail polish is one of those products that you always seem to have too much of. Because of this, you never seem to use all of it either. Let’s say you pull out a color after a few years, and it doesn’t have quite the same “look” to it. This may lead you to wonder if your nail polish could be bad. But does nail polish actually expire? We’ve done the research to explain.

Opened nail polish doesn’t necessarily expire. However, it can lose some of its quality over time. It will usually last for around two years before you need to throw it away. Unopened nail polish can last for an indefinite period of time as long as it remains unopened.

How can you tell if nail polish is bad? Is there a way to revive your nail polish, or should you just throw it away? What are some signs that it’s time to throw your nail polish away? For the answers to all of these questions, please continue reading.

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

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.

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, 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.

Different colors of nail polish stacked on shelves at the salon

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.

See More: Does Lipstick Expire If Unopened?

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.

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.

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. 

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?

Bottles of nail polishes for choosing at the salon

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.

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.

Click here to see this nail polish thinner on Amazon.

When Should You Throw Away Old Nail Polish?

Different colors of with shapes and tints of each color

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. 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.

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.

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. 

See More: Can You Use Regular Glitter On Nails?

In Closing

Nail polish usually doesn’t have an expiration date on it. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t go bad. Nail polish that has been opened can last about two years, unopened nail polish can last longer. If the texture or color of the nail polish is off, it’s best to just throw it away because it won’t look or perform as well as it should.

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