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Smudged Your Nail Polish? Don’t Freak! We Asked the Experts How to Fix It


There's nothing quite as frustrating as meticulously painting your nails only to smudge them moments later because you mistakenly thought they were done drying. Smudged nail polish can quickly ruin a perfectly polished look, leaving you feeling disappointed and in need of a quick fix. But worry not! With a few simple tricks and a little patience, you can easily repair smudged nail polish and achieve flawless manicures every time.

Being able to fix smudged nail polish like a pro is a lot easier than it sounds. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced nail enthusiast, these tips and tricks will come in handy. With the right techniques and a gentle touch, you'll be able to salvage your manicure and get those nails looking flawless without having to start from scratch.

So, if you've ever wondered how to rescue your smudged nail polish in a pinch, keep reading. We will reveal invaluable tips, products, and methods to help you repair smudged nail polish with ease and create stunning manicures that you'll love to show off.

About the Experts:

Mazz Hanna is a professional manicurist and the CEO of Nailing Hollywood.
Michelle Nguyen is a professional nail artist and the founder of Paris Lash Academy, specializing in nails, lash products, and training for professional technicians.

How to Fix Smudged Nail Polish

1. Use Quick Dry Drops

Tight for drying time? Invest in quick-drying drops that can help dry your nail polish almost instantly. Apply one drop to each nail after painting them, and wait for a few seconds to let it dry. “Allow each coat of polish to fully dry before applying the next if you are painting your nails at home. Use thin layers, polish that is too thick will not properly dry and is more prone to smudging,” says Mazz Hanna, professional manicurist and CEO of Nailing Hollywood.

2. Try a Nail Repair Pen

A nail polish corrector pen can be a savior to fix nail polish. Simply use the pen’s brush to remove the smudge and then fill it in with polish. It’s an essential nail care product, and it's what the pros often use in the nail salon too.

3. Grab a Toothpick

If you’ve smudged a spot after painting your nails you can still quickly fix it even if you’ve put the top coat on already. Just dip a toothpick in the same color nail polish you used on your nails and gently use it to fill in the smudge.

4. Try Cuticle Oil

Did you know cuticle oil can help fix a smudge in your nail polish? “If the polish isn’t completely dry yet, apply a little bit of cuticle oil and gently rub it to try to even out the surface,” says Hanna. Use a smooth surface to work the oil into the smudge. This can be a cosmetic sponge or even a cuticle stick.

5. Take a Cold Water Plunge

After painting your nails, dip them in a bowl of cold water for 2-3 minutes. This will help the polish set and harden, making it less likely to smudge.

6. Don’t Forget the Clear Top Coat

Sometimes, applying a layer of topcoat can help to smooth out the smudge, making it less noticeable. “Opt for a fast dry topcoat and give it at least 10 minutes to dry. My favorites for this are JIN SOON Hyper Gloss, ORLY Shining Armor, and SECHE VIVE,” shares Michelle Nguyen, a professional nail artist and the founder of Paris Lash Academy.

7. Try the Sponge Method

Dab a small cosmetic sponge or beauty blender in the same color of polish and lightly press it over the smudged nail to give it an ombre effect. “Apply a small amount of polish to the smudged area and try to level out the thickness of the surrounding polish. Once dry, apply a plumping topcoat like CHANEL Le Gel Coatto seal,” says Hanna.

8. Reach for Acetone and Cotton Swabs

This is a more drastic smudge fix measure, but if the smudge is too big to fix with a repair pen or toothpick, use an acetone-soaked cotton swab to remove all the polish from that nail. Then, repaint the nail and wait for it to dry thoroughly. “If your polish is still wet, dip the nails in nail polish remover (I prefer non acetone) and use your finger to gently tap on the smudges until it blends in with the whole nail. Allow it to dry then apply the top coat,” says Nguyen.

9. The Nail File Method

“If your polish is semi dried, and you smudged it (like if you've put your socks on too early, ruining that perfect pedicure—we've all been there!), don't fret, there are fixes. The easiest way to fix it is to allow it to dry all the way, and then use a file and gently fill the spot where it smudged until it's even. Wipe all the dust with alcohol, then reapply the polish. Allow it to fully dry before touching it again,” says Nguyen. This method takes a little bit more time and skill, but once the fix is made flawless, it will all be worth it for the mani.

Love DIY beauty tricks and want to try more at home? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own IPSY beauty subscription. Already an IPSY member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

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About the author
Olivia Cefalu
Olivia Cefalu
Olivia is a freelance beauty writer. With experience in influencer marketing at Tata Harper Skincare and editorial at Very Good Light, she loves covering Gen Z beauty, wellness, and nail trends. Read her work on Very Good Light and Well + Good.
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Article Last Updated October 26, 2023 12:00 AM