How to fix bumpy nail polish

There is no such thing as absolute concentration. 

Not until your face is inches away from your nails and you are inhaling all that nail polish solvent you are not supposed to take in. And for what? All for that perfectly painted nail.

Hoping for a salon-quality from a DIY manicure is like looking for an oasis. Sometimes you really do get to it, eventually. 

Most of the time, it’s a mirage. You think it looks alright until you leave it for a second, and then bam! It is now resembling the Chocolate Hills. 

So now you are just staring at it, unbelieving. Do you restart? For the nth time? How do you even fix a bumpy nail polish? Will the next attempt be your lucky streak? 

Might be.

Just wanna say, to the hands of a non-professional, a smooth manicure is part luck and a great deal of technique.

So instead of being paralyzed at the prospect of doing it all over again, why not learn the why’s and how’s to avoid another bumpy mishap?

Why does my nail polish have bumps when it dries?

Why does my nail polish have bumps when it dries

You probably thought more trials equals smoother nails. 

While that is a good assumption to make, it only works when you actually learn from your mistakes after each attempt. After all, you possibly can’t expect a different outcome with the same methods. 

Nope. Often, you just repeat your mistakes over and over. And as the frustration piles up, you find yourself blowing on the polish harder or even applying the next coat without any waiting time! 

Moral of the story: Terrible ideas spring from terrible situations. But don’t fret, you’re not the only one doing this!

The bumps you observe are often air trapped during application. It can also be caused by natural oils produced by your skin or lotion. Or that french fries you thought was a good companion. 

So how do you not damn your nails and waste your time?

Simple. The key is to know how they might exist in every step of the process. 


What do you know about prep time? That it is in every single beauty routine. And for a reason!

Have you ever put moisturizer on an unclean face? It feels yuck and absolutely useless. That’s also how it goes for nails. 

Before proceeding, you should remove the oils on your cuticles and even the dirt hiding under your nails. 

Nail polish 

Nail polish is not a one-time use item. Naturally, it is okay to reuse them again when the quality is still good. But there are telltales signs you have to watch out for if you want to avoid any more bumps. 

Too thick? This usually indicates that the solvents have evaporated due to air exposure.

When you swipe that bright color, you also invite air to swoop inside the bottle you left open. You don’t realize it until you have to literally drag your nail polish on the next DIY session you have. 

It’s old. It’s goopy. It’s dying. And pushing it any further will also kill the flawless dream you have for your nails.

This often happens to nail polish of poor quality. Premium ones last longer. So fix it or ditch it, but be wise enough to know when to stop using it.


“Patience is a virtue.” Ever heard of that old saying? Well, when you do not listen to the wise, you end up wondering why. 

There’s the nail polish, and sure, maybe you know that you must wait before applying each coat. But there’s also the base and topcoat. And those two are essential. 

No blowing either! You are not a windmill. Your breaths are not efficient enough to dry it! 

Cold water can aid you better on this. Besides, it is more likely that you would trap air and dirt and then get dizzy. 

You have to understand that there is a woozy and bump-free solution out there.

CHECK OUT: Why is my gel polish sticky

So what do you do when your nails are bumpy? 

Two things you must ask first: are they dry already or in the process of drying?

The root cause is the same for both, but there are cases where you can catch it mid-disaster. 

When the nail bubbles (it sounds cute for something so awful) have formed when the polish is still wet, don’t overthink it too much. It might just be a bad bottle. Or even a bad brand (they exist, sadly).

Changing one bottle for another might get rid of those pesky bubbles. If not, here are some tips to still slay that DIY. 

How to fix nail polish bubbles

How to fix nail polish bubbles

Okay, you are in a mid-disaster crisis. Your nail polish is bubbling with the ferocity of a volcano erupting, and you are confused. 

Cleanliness is your friend

First of all, did you clean your nails? It’s the first step to remove the oils around and on your nails. So take your time with that warm water and soap because unless you need reminding, it is also hygienic! 

Scrutinize your nail polish

Yes, scrutinize it. Before you even apply it, check if it’s more of a glob of color more than a functioning nail polish. Thick and creamy are for coffee choices, not nail polish quality! 

Also, do not shake your bottle. Shaking leaves pockets of air, and those might pop off, leaving holes in your mani. So no shaking and yes to rolling. 

When you store it, make sure to remove residue from the neck, then cap it tightly. Don’t let it breathe, and then store it in a morgue! Or for a less gruesome option, a dark, cool place like your bathroom is good enough. 

More than just swiping

A salon-finish mani doesn’t only rely on nail polish. A good mani is a sandwich. You have the base coat, which seals your nail’s natural oils. Then your nail polish should be painted thinly and dry completely before another coat. And then the top coat for that smooth finish. 

Moisture and heat are your enemies. That is, direct sunlight and a shower after your mani is a horrible idea to entertain. So are fans and open windows. They are just big welcome signs for air to enter. 

CHECK OUT: Why are nails clear

How to fix nail polish that is dry

Okay, now this is some post-catastrophe recovery you need to do. But don’t despair!  There are a few tips to cover up that mess. 

Another layer

Again, the topcoat is your bulldozer. It will flatten and reduce the bumps you see. Another layer you can apply is actually that nail polish you just used. But make it thin! No need to make your problem worse!

Polish thinner

Nowadays, you can even salvage barely manageable polish. Polish thinners make the magic work. You just need to brush it on the bumps which formed.

With polish thinners, it’s a one-way street so don’t go back and forth when applying it! Start from cuticle to tip in a flowing and continuous stroke. You can then reapply the polish to the treated spots.

Sparkly additions

If you are on your last thread of patience, then let no man ever condemn you for actually trying to camouflage your mess with jewels or stickers. 

If you can’t impress them with smoothness, blind them with sparkles! 

CHECK OUT: Why does my gel polish peel off

How to make nail polish smooth

How to make nail polish smooth

Aside from the know-how already mentioned above, you might want that extra list of hacks. Who doesn’t? Smooth nail polish takes time and often more trials than you want to invest in. 

 But you are here already, and as Fergie said, big girls don’t cry. 

They just learn. 

The 90/10 rule

When you want to shape your nails, make sure it is 90% because of the nail clippers and 10% filing. 


The surface of your nails depends on whether you buffed it or not. And you guessed it right! Buffing creates a smoother surface for your nail polish to glide on. 

Oil and de-oil

Imagine watering your plants just for someone to say you need to dry them up for them to live. What a load of unmentionable curse words, right? But listen, while it might seem like that, there is a reason for it.

You must hydrate your cuticle with cuticle oil or serum. It’s still part of your prep, albeit the most counterintuitive one. 

The next part is washing away the effort you made. Kidding! You already know that oils of any kind are a big no-no. So scrub them off properly. You can even cleanse them with facial toner or alcohol for extra security!

CHECK OUT: Nail Glue Alternatives

Final word

It is all about quality— from the state of your nails to your nail polish to even how you dry them. Just remember, you may not have the experience of a professional, but you can learn like one. 

Take your time and nail it! 

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