Does Nail Polish Dry Darker Or Lighter? (Checked)

Have you ever spent a while trying to pick out that perfect nail polish color only to find that it dries down to a color you didn’t expect?

Most nail polish colors are not going to be exactly what you see in the bottle.

This begs the question, does nail polish dry down to be a darker or a light shade of what is shown in the bottle?

Here’s How Nail Polish Dries Lighter & Darker:

Nail polish can appear darker or lighter after it dries because of the pigment. High-quality nail polishes tend to be made with much more pigment that can help keep the color true to the bottle’s color. The same thing can be said for dark nail polishes.

Why Does Nail Polish Sometimes Lighten or Darken after Drying?

Depending on the brand of nail polish you buy, the quality of the pigment may dry differently than what is in the bottle.

This is because some brands don’t have strong enough pigments to keep the color you want. Instead, they fade quickly or dry differently.

However, some colors are super difficult to keep true to pigment. This is especially true for purple nail polish.

Purple is one of the most difficult pigments to get right every time. This is one of the reasons why purple shades tend to be far lighter once dried than they appear to be in the bottle.

Another reason why your nail polish may appear darker after it dries is because of how you processed the nail polish. This only happens when using a gel-based nail polish that needs to be cured under UV light.

Curing a nail polish can change the color; however, if you cure it for too long, the final nail polish color will dry down to be much darker than you expected. 

Do Most Nail Polishes Stay the Right Color after Drying?

Most nail polishes try to be pretty spot on when it comes to the color of the nail after it finishes drying.

However, they do vary when it comes to how dark or light they will be. Beauty brands try their hardest to ensure that you know exactly what shade you are getting, but there are many factors they cannot control.

One is how the nail polish will react to certain chemicals. Cleaning supplies are loaded with bleach and ammonia that can change the color of the nail polish you are wearing while you clean.

Also, the sun has a big effect on the chemicals in nail polish. This is especially true when it comes to exposing your nails to high heat.

This is why so many nail polish displays in beauty stores have a collection of swatches available for you to look through – this is because it is difficult to guarantee matching colors, so customers should know what they are in for.

Along with having swatches on display, many beauty companies have started to put a “sample” color dot on the bottom of the bottle. This will give a much more accurate idea of what the color will look like when it dries.

Can Nail Polish Colors Fade Over Time?

Whether or not your nail polish will fade over time has everything to do with how strong the pigment inside the nail polish is.

As mentioned, high-quality nail polish will have much more pigment, which means that while your nail polish may fade, it won’t be as noticeable.

Overall, most nail polishes will fade over time, especially if you use a color trickier to get right, like dark purple.

However, there is one nail polish that won’t fade as quickly or as noticeable as regular nail polish: gel-based nail polish.

Gel nail polish is made with ultra-strong pigments. This is why gel manicures last for much longer and tend to be more true to color than regular bottles of nail polish.

Even long-wear formulas of nail polish will fade over time. However, nail polishes marketed as “long-wear” take much longer to fade than a normal bottle of nail polish.

You can notice your regular nail polish will start to fade after 3-4 days of wear. With a long-lasting nail polish formula, you won’t see fading taking effect until after a week.

With gel nail polish, you generally won’t see any noticeable fading before you are reading to switch up your manicure every three weeks. This makes gel-based nail polish the winner for lasting wear without fading. 

Are Cheaper Brand Nail Polishes More Likely to Change Color after Drying?

While there is some great budget picks for nail polish, not all price points are created equal.

The biggest difference you are going to find between cheaper brands of nail polishes versus the more expensive brands is in the formula of the polish itself.

Luxury brands have spent the time – and the money – to develop polishes that are made to last as well as ones that are true to the color in the bottle.

This is one reason why cheaper brands of nail polish may change a bit after they have finished drying. This is simply because the pigment of the nail polish is just not strong enough to stay true to reflect the bright color you see in the bottle.

While the nail polish is meant to be “buildable,” where with every coat, the color will get more opaque and concentrated, the cheapest of brands still may not get you to the desired color.

This leads you to have to pack on more color and pigment with every application, which will not only give you a messy manicure but also mean you will be going through your product much faster.

Can Chemicals or Hand Products Lighten or Darken Nail Polish?

Another reason you may find that the color of your polish is different than the bottle or may have changed is the chemicals you put on your hands.

As mentioned, chemicals in household cleaning supplies will react when exposed to the polish on your nails. This can sometimes come across as the polish fading or even changing color altogether.

A hand cream that is meant to moisturize your skin will tint or fade your nail polish color if left on the nail for too long. This is because while the oils in hand cream do a great job of nurturing the skin, those oils will also break down pigment in your polish.

To combat this, after you apply the cream or ointment to your hands, grab a damp cotton ball and run it over the surface of your nail. This will help break down any excess oil left over from the hand cream and should prevent your nails from fading or darkening. 

Final Thoughts

Always check for a swatch or a sample color of the nail polish before settling on that brand. This is the most accurate way to know what the end color result will ultimately be.

Also, if you work in the sun or with your hands, do not skip using a top coat. This will help to seal your nail color and protect it from fading. Good luck.

Reference Links:

Gel Polish Fading? Here is How to Fix It!

Why Does Gel Polish Change Color?

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