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7 Tips For Avoiding Nail Polish Stains

By on November 11, 2009
in Tips and Tricks
barielle-blackened-bleu-nail-polish-all-lacquered-up Even though I get excited when fall comes and I break out my favorite deep, dark polishes, there’s always one caveat to wearing them… staining. Whether it’s during application or removal we’ve all experienced the irritation of polish stains on the skin. If you’ve ever worn a deep blue, you KNOW what I’m talking about. OPI DS Fantasy, I’m looking at you! Smurf hands aren’t cute except maybe on Halloween and even then blue skin isn’t exactly the hotness.

So one of my missions while backstage during New York Fashion Week was to get some tips from the pros working behind the scenes. I’ve combined their best advice with a couple of my own ideas and a quick tutorial video to help you wear your vampies with ease.

Avoid polishes containing toluene. Even pale/sheer polishes will stain nails yellow if they contain toluene. – Elle, Celebrity Manicurist

When applying base coat allow it to touch the cuticle. Apply polish just inside the cuticle line and should it touch the skin, the base coat will prevent staining. - CND’s Angi Wingle

Remove polish mistakes by applying a bit of top coat to each spot. The top coat will help loosen the polish so you can easily remove it with an orange stick. - Elle, Celebrity Manicurist

Apply CND Solar Oil on, around and under the nail prior to removal. If there are chunky looking bits of polish post-removal, it’s probably dead cuticle stuck on the nail. Use CND Cuticle Eraser and a cuticle pusher to free it. - CND’s Angi Wingle

Move your removal pad in one direction pulling from the cuticle to the tip. Do not go back and forth or push back down towards the cuticle. This causes chunks of polish to get stuck under the nail in addition to staining the skin. - All Lacquered Up

Apply a layer of polish/top coat (not quick drying) over old polish to soften/liquefy, making a one swipe removal easier. - All Lacquered Up

One thing all the manicurists I spoke with agreed on is saturating the cotton and not reusing the same piece. Elle, Angi, Sheril Bailey and Deborah Lippmann all stressed this point. For that reason I suggest buying rolled cotton (as demonstrated in the video below) so you can tear off a nail sized piece rather than waste an entire cotton ball/pad on each finger.

I saw Deb backstage at the Julie Haus show during NYFW and as you’ll see below, when asked for her polish removal tip she did a quick tutorial for me to share with all of you.

What you might not have heard as she turns from the camera, is that she saturates a second piece of cotton to remove the piece she left soaking on the nail.

You can see more of Deb’s manicure tips and tricks in the video on her site,

My thanks to Elle, Angi Wingle, Sheril Bailey and Deborah Lippmann for imparting their wisdom on us.

Do you have a great tip to avoid polish stains? Or stain removal advice for when all else fails? Let’s hear what works best for you.

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There Are 10 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Cynthia @ says:

    Great tips! thx

  2. D:) says:

    Huh – Lippmann suggests storing your polish in the fridge. I thought that was a myth!

  3. Dee says:

    I hate stained cuticles, and I discovered Blue Cross cuticle remover will get rid of the stains in a couple minutes. They literally fade out while I look at them. It is also dirt cheap, probably too cheap to get the notice of anyone at NY Fashion Week.

  4. All Lacquered Up says:

    Cynthia – Thanks, I hope they were helpful.

    D:) – I say take all advice with a grain of salt. I continue to hear both side of that, storing it in the fridge and that it's a myth. I would need an entire fridge for my collection so it makes no sense for me though I've heard some rave about how it helps their polish last.

    Dee – Great tip, thanks! I actually bought a bottle of Blue Cross after a celeb manicurist recommended it to me. I don't know that I love it more than my tried and true Sally Hansen blue gel remover but it definitely works.

  5. theshoegoddess says:

    Michelle your advices are always the best,I can't wait for the new ALU,yey.

  6. Anonymous says:

    That video is like magic! Any places where I can get the rolled cotton?

  7. TLM says:

    I have been a devotee of Pretty Nails (formerly by Scherer, now Calico Laboratories, Inc.) for years, because I loved the fact that it did not leave any tiny cotton fibers on the nails like cotton balls can do, and that if you messed up one nail, you could remove and redo without risking messing up the others. I can only think that rolled cotton is worse, because of the easy way it pulls apart. However, if you use dark shades, forget it. They will trash a container of Pretty Nails in one use, blacken the sponge, and your fingers will come out dark grey every time you stick them in. So with the darks, I’ve had to resort to cotton-ball removal again. I’m not happy about it!! My father was a dentist years ago, and I used to use gauze pads from his office supplies for removal instead of cotton balls, but I don’t know where I can order these now. They had a woven layer over the cotton, so that you would never get fuzz left on the nail. Anyone ever use these? I might ask my current dentist to order them for me…! :)

  8. Brittany says:

    Great tips! I hate this problem.

    I don’t always use a base coat, but I’ve found that using a lighter shade as a base coat works well for avoiding stains too. Ie. wearing lavender under a dark plum color.

    (I put an example of how well this works on my blog,