Does Nail Polish Expire?

Does Nail Polish Expire

Does nail polish expire? Ok, so we all are guilty of buying nail polish all of the time and filling our cabinets with an endless supply! We always think we are going to use it right away because we have the perfect outfit to match it or an event coming up and this shade or that shade will really set my appearance off. How many wonder if nail polish expires?

Nail polish has become a beauty item we love to buy and then bring home to its place on the shelf. The colors, the brands, the packaging, we love it all and it is easy to have a huge collection without even realizing it.

Truthfully, how often do we paint our nails? Once a week, twice a week, or maybe just monthly? No matter how frequently we paint our nails, we always have a go-to area of nail polish to choose from close by.

What is the Shelf Life of Nail Polish?

Determining when nail polish expires can be a bit of a guessing game. The FDA doesn’t mandate companies what the expiration date of nail polish should be. They leave it up to the companies themselves to determine.

Nail polish can last 18 to 24 months or even indefinitely if left unopened. It does need to be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place to last the longest.

If a bottle of nail polish is opened, it may last up to two years. Every time it is used, you should do a practice stroke to be sure it is not clumping and goes on smoothly.

When nail polish is opened, the active ingredients will evaporate. Once these ingredients are gone, the nail polish will begin to thicken and separate.

How Do I Dispose of Nail Polish?

Once you feel a bottle of nail polish has passed its time, you need to throw it out. Disposing of nail polish shouldn’t be as simple as tossing it in the trash. Nail polish contains ingredients that could be hazardous if it got into the wrong places. Some of the best ways to dispose of nail polish include:

  1. Pour the unused nail polish onto an old newspaper, crumble it up and toss it into the trash.
  2. Dry out the cap and brush and then secure the cap back on the bottle.
  3. Put the bottle of nail polish into the recycling bin.

Environmentally harmful chemicals are used to produce nail polish and you do not want those ingredients to be thrown into the trash. It is also never a good idea to pour unused nail polish down a drain, this could lead to other problems down the road.

Nail polish has been labeled as HHW (household hazardous waste). If you are unsure if you can dispose of the bottle safely, you can always call a local hazardous waste facility and they will be more than happy to take your old nail polish. Be sure to call ahead to be sure they will accept recyclables from your zip code.

Hazardous waste disposal locations are there to help keep the environment as clean as they can. They may ask for your address and only take items from residents of their specific area. If you are not located in their area, they will be able to direct you to the correct facility.

What Happens if You Use Expired Nail Polish?

Does Nail Polish Expire

If you have a favorite color and you think it may be old but still want to use it, there is no harm in trying. You will know as soon as you put on the first stroke whether or not it is still ok to use. Normally, you can tell if the polish is good or not as soon as you see the brush as it is pulled from the bottle.

As long as it isn’t dried out, you can put it on and make sure it isn’t clumping. If neither of those things has happened, feel free to use it. Nail polish can still look like it was just opened months after it was.

Any active ingredients may not work but the color itself should be fine and look the same as it always did so long as it is not clumping or dry. Remember, Nail Polish doesn’t expire. It may not go on as smoothly but it doesn’t have an exact expiration date.

Top Nail Polish Picks

You can’t walk through any nail aisle without seeing a ton of different brands! It’s hard to decide which one to pick. You want a good, affordable brand that will last longer than a day. It takes time and patience to get your nails to look their best and you want the beauty to last.

There are a few brands that will definitely be worth your time and money:

essie Grow Stronger Base Coat Nail Polish, 0.46 Ounce
  • Grow Stronger Base Coat: This clear nail polish base coat strengthens and protects nails and helps create the ideal foundation for nail color
  • Strengthening Formula: Features Ginkgo Biloba, vitamin E and minerals to leave nails feeling stronger and protected
  • The Art of the Manicure, Perfected: High performance essie top coats, base coats and treatments, for every detail of your manicure; the perfect compliment to any essie nail polish color
  • Iconic and Trendsetting: Over a thousand iconic and on trend colors in a vegan formula with no animal derived ingredients
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish, Shade Once Chiffon a Time 248 (Packaging May Vary) (Sheer)
  • Achieve the best salon look from the comfort of your own home with Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish that last up to 8 days
  • #1 no UV/LED light system
  • Up to 8 days of color and shine
  • A gorgeous manicure that lasts longer than a traditional nail polish
Maybelline New York Color Show Nail Lacquer, Orange Fix, 0.23 Fluid Ounce (Pack of 2)
  • Our chip resistant formula gives you bolder, crisper color that just won't quit
  • Runway ready colors. Show-stopping shine. High fashion finishes
  • Chip Free Nail Color with Easy Flow Brush
  • For Best Results First apply a clear base coat to prevent your nails from yellowing and to help your nail color last longer. With one sweep, paint the first line of nail polish up the center of your nail starting from the base to the tip. For the cleanest look, be sure to leave a small space at the base of the nail. Then apply nail color to the rest of the nail.
OPI Nail Polish Treatment, 3-in-1 Original Start to Finish Nail Treatment, 0.5 Fl Oz
  • NAIL POLISH Base Coat, Top Coat and Nail Strengthener 3 in 1 formula! Awards: Sunday Times Style Beauty Awards 2015, Best Beauty Awards 2015
  • START TO FINISH, your go to all in one NAIL POLISH prep, finish and nail treatment
  • PREVENT STAINING AND YELLOWING, Nail Polish Base Coat primes the nail surface, increasing lacquer adhesion and preventing staining and yellowing of natural nails
  • EXTEND MANICURE LIFE, Nail Polish Top Coat gives nails a beautiful shine while extending the life of manicures and pedicures
Cote Toxin Free Nail Polish (No. 37 Garnet Red)
  • cruelty-free, vegan and free of the major toxins associated with nail polish: formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, camphor, formaldehyde resin and triphenyl phosphate (TPHP)
  • 0.4 oz per bottle
  • Côte polishes are proudly made in the USA
  • vegan & cruelty free

All of these brands will go on smoothly and leave your nails looking great for longer than you would expect. They are all available at your local department stores and beauty shops. One tip to remember when wanting your polish to last for a longer amount of time is always apply a base and top coat! It works.


Nail polish is the added extra we need to complete any look or style. We can express ourselves in many different ways and show off our unique personalities just by painting our nails.

Does nail polish expire? This question doesn’t have an exact answer. Nail polish can last up to 2 years or longer if left unopened. Even if it has been opened, the shelf life can only be determined by trying out a brush stroke and seeing if it clumps.

Be sure to dispose of old, expired nail polish properly due to it being a household hazardous waste. You don’t want to spread any environmental harm by tossing it in the trash or down the drain.

Have fun with your nail polish and be creative. There are never-ending options available to add color to your look no matter what that look maybe.

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