How to Prevent Nail Polish Bubbles in Just 3 Steps

It’s Friday night and you’re a glass of wine in. You’ve got an episode of Succession queued up and you’re ready to paint your nails a new shade. Everything about this scenario is relaxing...until you finish applying the top coat and see that your mani is speckled with tiny air bubbles. Ugh, it's a buzz kill to say the least, but there's a fix.

What causes nail bubbles in the first place?

Bubbles typically surface during the drying process because of air getting trapped between layers of polish. It’s frustrating, we know, which is why we’ve put together some tried-and-true guidelines for getting the smoothest, bubble-free finish, every time.

How to prevent nail polish bubbles:

Step 1: Always start with a clean slate—even if your nails are bare. Using polish remover, wipe your nails completely free of any oil or residue that could prevent polish from adhering properly. After you've wiped them clean, try not to touch your hair or face (which could transfer oils back to your tips).

Step 2: Paint in thin layers. This is key, because thick coats of polish take longer to dry. Which brings us to our next point...

Step 3: Be patient! Make sure that the first coat of polish is completely dry before adding the second one. (We've found that three to five minutes between coats is the sweet spot.) If at all possible, avoid adding a third coat, because that’s when things tend to get gloopy and uneven. After you've waited sufficiently for the last coat to dry, finish with a top coat and admire your handiwork.

Another thing: You know how when you're at a nail salon the technician usually tells you to place your hands in front of the small fan that's attached to their station to speed up the drying between coats? Yeah, not the best idea. The air from the fan can actually cause more bubbling—not to mention, the added risk of having a piece of dust fly onto your still-wet polish. Ditto goes for fanning your hands or blowing on them. Just try to be still and let time do its thing.

By applying the polish in thinner coats and allowing them to fully dry in-between, we’ve finally eliminated the problem (and hopefully you do, too). Happy painting, y’all.

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Jenny Jin

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...
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