Why do they happen?
Perhaps you know exactly what I’m talking about, but perhaps not. Sometimes I’ll paint my nails, a miracle will occur and I’ll not smudge a single one of them. I’ll feel very smug about my perfect manicure and then, when I wake up the next morning, bubbles will have formed in a few of the nails.
It looks almost as if I pricked the nail with a pin to leave a gap in the polish, but the top coat sits neatly over the hole, so there’s no way this is caused by having touched something when the nails were still wet. So, how does it happen?
Well, being the type to go and research things, I decided to look into it. So I have the answer for you.
Nail polishes dry because the solvents in them steadily migrate out of the polish and evaporate, which is much the same way that many paints dry. It’s also why your nails can seem dry on top but still be soft and tacky underneath (how many times have you smudged a nail that you thought was already dry?) While the top layer dries quickly because it has direct exposure to air, the layers underneath dry a little slower because the solvents have to steadily leak out of the edges of the nail or slowly seep through the top layer.
Now, if the nail polish is too thick the solvents still evaporate into a gaseous form, but they can’t escape from the polish. They form bubbles that get trapped by the, now totally dry top layer, and sit there, ruining your manicure (and your day).
So, what’s the solution? Well, the problem is that your polish is too old and too thick. This can be remedied a bit by adding a few drops of nail polish remover, which will thin the polish out [EDIT: Don’t do this. This recommendation upset my beautician mother enough that she created an account just to tell me off. Seriously. You should use nail polish thinner instead – see comment by Denise below]. Really, though, it’s past its best and it’ll be difficult to ever get it back to exactly the right consistency.
I recommend chucking it out as soon as you find the problem because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll otherwise forget and end up using it again in a few months time, when it’ll be even worse and will ruin your day all over again. Then, you can cheer yourself up by repainting your nails with a nice, new polish, certain that no bubbles will form.