Skip Nav
Jennifer Lopez
How Jennifer Lopez Remains an Age-Defying Unicorn
Lady Gaga
See Lady Gaga's Glistening Super Bowl Beauty Look From Every Angle 
Beauty News
Beyoncé Lit Up the Super Bowl Stage With Her Perfectly Strobed Skin

Tips for avoiding nail polish smudges and marks

When You Don't Want to Leave Your Mark . . .


I'd be pretty steamed if I'd just paid for a manicure and it took a detour to Smudge City after having more than five hours of drying time. But there are a few ways you can avoid this type of annoyance. To find out what they are,

  • The most likely culprit of this crime against cuticles is thick, gloopy nail polish. Nail polish thickens over time, making it more difficult to spread smoothly and dry quickly. If you notice a consistency that's uneven or tacky, toss the bottle. (And at the nail salon, give the polish bottle a roll to gauge it.)
  • Another cause of smudged polish is applying too much polish, or not allowing time for the polish to start to dry between coats. If you brush on too much polish or go for a second coat too soon, you're asking for trouble.
  • If you have your nails done by someone else: I wouldn't ask the nail salon for a refund, but I do think it's worth bringing up the smudges next time you're there. For instance, you might say, "I love coming here because you always do such a wonderful job with such-and-such. Last time, though, it seemed like the polish took a really long time to dry, and I woke up with sheet marks on my nails. Any idea why that might have happened?" That way, you're still friendly, and presenting the issue as something that the nail salon might be able to solve.
  • Finally, keep it all in perspective. Smudged nails are minor annoyances, so don't stress out about them.

Image Source: Shutterstock
Around The Web
Chanel New Long-Wear Nail Polish
Bridal Nail Polish and Bouquet Ideas
Best Nail Polish Remover
Target Defy & Inspire Nail Polish

POPSUGAR, the #1 independent media and technology company for women. Where more than 75 million women go for original, inspirational content that feeds their passions and interests.

Join The Conversation
Nadia24gv Nadia24gv 6 years
The cold water is the best trick. Also, lightly stick your tongue on your nails after about an hour, if it taste like nail polish, they are not dry. Dry nails have no taste. Sounds weird but it's helpful.
Allytta Allytta 6 years
i consider myself to be too much into beauty (just look ar my bathroom shelves), but i didn't know that giving time between coats makes a difference. i guess it's a good thing i'm so into beauty blogs :)
AlkalineSteam AlkalineSteam 7 years
I realize this is an old thread, but this just happened to me today and I'm a bit steamed. I paid $35 for a mani/pedi and the pedi is ruined after an hour of drying.
chutzpah chutzpah 8 years
I used to have that problem but now I go to a salon that uses a fan to dry my nails in between coats and I haven't had sheet marks again! Ask your salon if they have a small fan they can use when you get your nails done.
ThePerfectScore ThePerfectScore 8 years
Just brush a lil cuticle oil over the entire nail before going to bed or slipping into shoes.... make sure the polish is pretty much dry before you do this... I find that the oil shields my nailpolish
NickiH NickiH 8 years
If you go to any beauty supply store (Ulta, Sally's, etc.) you can purchase nail enamel dryer. It is a spray that helps quicken the drying time of your nail polish, and some have wheat protein to help condition the cuticles.
jkat jkat 8 years
For pedicures my salon puts oil on the nails when the polish is dry to the touch (but maybe not dry enough to withstand stronger bumps) and then puts plastic baggies on your feet. You can then put your socks and shoes on without a problem. Plus it really deep conditions your toes too! I have the same sheet-related problem when I paint my nails at home. I can paint them at 10 am and still wake up the next day with smudges! I think it is because my essie basecoat has seen better days and it might be time for a new bottle.
WiCkeD_LaDy WiCkeD_LaDy 8 years
yes that's stinks..... a good tip that I always use, when my nail polish get gloppy, I put two or three drops of acetone (the thing you use to get your nail polish off), and shake it well, and the nail polish turn out like new =) it slide better, just like when you buy it.
LadyP LadyP 8 years
I used to get my nails done all the time but getting the french mainicures all the time ruined my nails for the longest time. I still go and get myself a pedicure here and there and I just make sure I either wear sandals (if it's warm enough) or just barely touch the polish to make sure it's dry to put my shoes on.
partysugar partysugar 8 years
Thanks for the tips Bella, there is nothing worse than a manicure going bad right after it was done!
Le-Luxe Le-Luxe 8 years
That is sooo annoying and has happened to me too! I bought Essie 'Good to go' its the best quick drying top coat there is- I LOVE it and highly suggest it!
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
crazykitty-what a great idea! That seems to do the trick eh? I've had this happen but very rarely at the place I go.
mrsesquilo mrsesquilo 8 years
Funny, it never happens to me when I have my nails done, as long as I wait a good long while before getting in bed (or allowing anything to touch my nails). I will sit there with my nails under those little lamp/fan dealies for an hour, sometimes, just to make sure I'm nice and dry.
Candyhunnie Candyhunnie 8 years
This has happened to me before; I was getting my nails buffed, polished, shaped and coloured- they looked quite nice for my horrible nails (; I waited outside on a bench with a friend for around 20 minutes before going to the book star- when I wen't to get my purse out of my bag- It has smudges! It was just one finget- but I diddn't have that colour at home so I had to spend the rest of the day looking embarrasingly unkept, and I'm not a high maintenance person- but that was horrible! On the bright sid it was only £5 ($10)
angelaminx angelaminx 8 years
ohhh..can't we have a life and pretty nails.
Nickey Nickey 8 years
That happens with my manicures all the time. I use a quick dry by Sally Hansen and then a quick dry OPI spray that works really good on my pedicures, but whenever I do my own manis, I just can't keep still that long.
brightongirl brightongirl 8 years
Out The Door is a sure way to NOT have sheet marks!
Neekoh Neekoh 8 years
DearSugar's got nice nails. :)
Baby-Girl Baby-Girl 8 years
I usually do my nails weekly. And instead of the ice bath crazykitty180 mentioned, I run them under really cold water for several minutes when they are about 75% dry, then I air dry them. It works.
crazykitty180 crazykitty180 8 years
I always stick my nails into an ice bath and keep them in there for as long as I can handle it. It makes sure that your polish is set nice and hard.
eyesparkle eyesparkle 8 years
i think manicures are a big waste of money because they always chip and smudge the same day. plus you have to worry about getting fungus or another infection. i usually just do mine at home.....
emalove emalove 8 years
This happened to me with the manicure I got right before my wedding this summer...I was so pissed!!!!!!! I think they put too many layers on sometimes and it takes eons to dry.
pickle pickle 8 years
I have this problem ALL the time -- I have to set aside 4 or 5 hours to do my nails and nothing else but watch TV and let them dry. Even then it's a little hit or miss. It's always caused by the the undercoats not setting properly before adding a new coat. I used to work with a woman with those crazy 1980's full Lee-Press-On-but-actually-real nails that she manicured beautifully herself. She said she applied one coat at night (which dries pretty quickly)and then finished up the next morning. And I remember an old Quick Dry aerosol top coat from I think L'Oreal (and also the '80s) that used to work exceedingly well in comparison to the liquid top coats of today. Is anything similar still around?
candace117 candace117 8 years
I agree with the top coat idea, it really works. What some nail techs do is take a wide brush and dip it in polish remover, and lightly brush it over the nail to smooth out the ridges, let it dry, then go over the nails again with a thin coat of polish, and then a good top coat. I can't stress the importance of cuticle oil. It seals the top coat, aids the polish in drying faster, and smoothes over any ridges, also keeps your hands looking fresh. If you apply it daily, it will keep your manicure looking sweet and shiny.
Latest Beauty
X