What Causes Nail Polish Shrinkage And How To Avoid It?

Shrunk nail polish is a common manicure problem. A lot of people have suffered this, a day after the nail has been polished. Are we doing anything wrong? Or is it the nail polish? Finding out the reasons will help us avoid this problem.

So, what causes the nail polish shrinkage?

There are many reasons responsible for this problem. The reasons include- incorrect nail preparation, not removing the cuticles, and applying thick coats of polish. Not applying the topcoat to all the edges and tips also causes the nail polish shrinkage. Natural growth and poor quality products can also shrink nail polishes.

These are the reasons responsible for nail polish shrinkage problems. However, there’s more. If you want to know about the causes and preventions of shrinking nail polish, read along. We’ll make sure you don’t face this problem anymore.

Let’s start-

How Would You Know If Your Nail Polish Is Shrinking?

Well, if you see your polish fading away, it might not always be nail polish shrinkage. Maybe the polish you applied lasts for a week, that’s why it’s starting to chip. 

In that case, the nail polish is not shrinking at all.

Regular nail polish lasts for two days before it starts chipping or fading away. So if you find your nails fading at the cuticles or the tip after two days. Then you don’t have to worry about nail polish shrinkage. It’s just the polish fading naturally. And there’s nothing you can do except re-apply a fresh coat of nail polish.

Gel polish is known to last for up to 2 weeks. And after that, the polish starts chipping at the tips and edges. So, it’s natural if you find gel polish fading away after the first two weeks. Also since the nails grow in this period, the polish pulls away from cuticles. It’s natural and there’s not a lot we can do.

If the nails don’t look nice, you can remove the gel polish and apply another coat.

So, when should you worry about nail polish shrinking?

Let’s say you applied a fresh coat of gel nail polish. And the next day when you wake up, you find your nail polish already fading away. And the paint looks worn and old. Something entirely different from what you’ve seen a day back. 

The polish is pulling away from the tip and the cuticles. If this is the scenario, then your nail polish is shrinking. This is when you should analyze the situation and take action.

Nail polish shrinkage mostly happens with gel polish. And if you want to know why, let’s jump into the next segment-

Reasons Why Your Nail Polish Is Shrinking

There are many reasons why a nail polish might be shrinking. Some of them are due to the application process.  Others are due to the product that we’re using. However, all of the reasons could be avoided. 

Now if you want to find out why your nail polish is shrinking, go through the list of the following reasons. The reasons will help you to identify any of the steps you might’ve missed.

Here’s a quick description of the kinds of nail polish and their durability-

Kind Of Nail PolishHow Long They Last
Regular nail polishTwo Days
Gel PolishTwo Weeks
Acrylic nailEight Weeks

Just, in case, you’re thinking that your nail polish is shrinking. Keep in mind, that it could be your polish is fading away! 

Reasons Based on The Application Process

There are so many things that can go wrong during the application process. Because you have to keep in mind a lot of things at a time. 

So it’s only natural that you might forget or do an entire step wrong. These little mistakes cause our nail polish to shrink. There are three phases of the application and the mistakes are listed accordingly-

Before Applying

Many things can go wrong before applying the gel polish. Whether it’s directly on nails or over acrylic nails. The preparation time is important since that will help the rest of the stages of application. One of the major reasons for nail polish shrinking is not washing the nails. 

Our natural nails have some oily elements on the surface. These elements don’t allow the nail polish to set properly on the nails. As a result, the polish starts pulling off from the tips or edges.

If you don’t clean the nails before applying, the nail polish will shrink soon afterward. You should also exfoliate the cuticles before applying gel polish or base coat. If you don’t, the polish will pull away from the cuticles.

day 1 vs day 14
Source: buzzfeed.com

That’s why pushing the cuticle beforehand is important.

While Applying

We need to keep a lot of things on our minds while applying the gel polish. That’s why it’s easy to mess the steps up. There are some steps that’ll cause the nail polish to shrink if you mess it up. You need to put extra attention to every detail of the application process.

If you apply a thick layer of base coat, chances are your nail polish will shrink. Here’s why- the base coat layer needs to be dried completely before applying gel polish. 

A thicker coat takes a lot of time to dry. Even under the UV lamp. It also causes the acrylic nails to pop off. That’s why thick coats of any kind should be avoided.

We always finish off our nail polish with a glossy top coat. But we make this huge mistake while applying it over the nail polish. Top coats should be applied when the polish is still wet. If you apply the top coat over dry polish, it pulls away from the cuticle and nail edges.

Also, we need to make sure the top coat reaches every inch of the nail. Even the tips. Covering the tip of the nail is very important. Otherwise, the polish will start pulling off. 

A lot of people use quick-dry topcoats. It’s better to avoid these and just use regular ones.

We also need to make sure the gel polish is compatible with the topcoat. Sometimes using incompatible polishes causes this shrinkage.

After Applying

Although the application stage is over. There are still things you need to take care of after the nail polish is set. Sometimes the gel polish shrinks because of how we treat them. We depend a lot on our hands. And as a result, the nail polish starts to wear out due to our regular work.

If we don’t take care of our nails, avoid putting pressure or scratches on them, the gel polish will shrink. So we need to be extra careful with our polished nails. Or we might find our nail polish wear and tear again.

Reasons Based On The Shrinking Positions

If your nail polish is shrinking, you’ll see that they pull away from certain places. The most common areas are the tips and the cuticle. 

The reasons also differ based on the positions. Let’s take a look at why nail polish pulls away from these parts of the nail.

Nail Polish Pulling Away From The Cuticle

This is very common for a lot of nail enthusiasts. If your nail polish pulls away from the cuticle, there are some obvious reasons. 

First, you might’ve forgotten to exfoliate the cuticle before applying the polish. Or you didn’t apply a sufficient amount of top coat near the cuticle. These results in nail polish shrinkage soon after the polish.

Nail Polish Pulling Away From The Tip

Another problem is that the polish pulls away from the tip. This occurs, especially in long and extended nails. This problem happens for a number of reasons. 

The application stage is important for avoiding these kinds of problems. If you don’t cover the tips with gel polish, it might shrink. And that’s not enough. 

You also need to cover the tips with the topcoat. Otherwise, the nail polish will shrink from the edges.

Other Reasons Of Nail Polish Shrinking

If none of the above reasons comply with your situation, take a look at this. There are some other reasons that make the nail polish shrink. These reasons are not always avoidable. 

But still, we need to be as aware as possible.

Natural Growth

This is one of the most common reasons a nail polish might shrink. Of course, our nails will grow. They grow quicker in summer and slower in winter.

Also, it’s scientifically proven that the nails of your dominant hand grow faster. It could be that your nails have simply grown. That’s why the polish has shrunk.

Poor Quality

Another reason is the poor quality of the products. It might be that you’ve used expired nail polish. This can cause the nail shrinking problem. 

So it’s ideal to use quality products on our nails. Which also includes the base coat and the topcoat.

In case you’re wondering where to get these. Look, no further! We’re recommending a few of our favorite topcoats and basecoats for you:

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat

essie Gel Couture Platinum Grade Finish Top Coat

essie Gel Couture Platinum Grade Finish Top Coat

mineral fusion nail polish base coat

Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Base Coat

revlon quick dry base coat

Revlon Quick Dry Base Coat

Now, you can probably be free of this nail polish shrinking issue!

How Can I Solve The Nail Shrinking Problem?

Well, if you’re wondering if you can fix the nail polish on your nails then, no. Unfortunately, once you’ve discovered the shrunken nail polish, there’s not much you can do.

how can i solve the nail shrinking problem
Source: pinterest.com

But there are two options for you. You can either remove the previous polish. And apply a fresh coat of gel polish. Or you can use the nail strips to cover the shrunk areas. The latter might not be a very permanent solution. Since you’ll have to buy some nail strips that match your current nail color.

These are the reasons and solutions to nail polish shrinking problems.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What causes gel polish to shrink?

There are a number of reasons gel polish might shrink. Incorrect nail preparation, applying thick layers of gel polish or base coat, and not exfoliating the cuticles are some of the common reasons.

How do I stop nail polish from shrinking?

You can fix the nail polish shrinking problems in two ways. You can either remove the previous polish. Then apply a new coat of nail polish. Or you can try and apply nail strips over the current polish.

Why is my nail polish pulling away from the tips?

There are two possible reasons for nail polish pulling away from the tips. One is that you’ve probably missed applying nail polish to the tips of the nails. Another reason is that you haven’t applied the top coat over the tips.

Signing Off

Now that you’ve found out the reasons behind nail polish shrinkage. Hopefully, you’ll not make the same mistakes in the future. Do make sure the nail polish hasn’t expired before applying. The chemicals are not good for our health.

Let us know which of the reasons are responsible for shrinking your nail polish.

Until then, keep those nails shining.

Katharyn Riedel

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