Why Does Gel Nail Polish Change Color?

Why does gel nail polish change color? What causes that horrible yellowing and other discolorations? 

It happens now and then, mostly to your dominant hand, right? 

We know how frustrating it can be, especially if you’ve only had the gel for a few days. The trouble is, there’s no way to tell when or if it will happen. 

There are several reasons why gel polish changes color. Let’s discuss these reasons and possible solutions. 

What This Article Covers:

Why Gel Nail Polish Changes Color - Common Causes

Gel Formulated to Change Color

Certain gel nail polishes are designed to change color under certain conditions.

 Why Gel Nail Polishes Change Color

These include thermal gels that change color according to the temperature. This begs the question: can nail polish freeze? 

Other gels change color under UV light too. They’re pretty cool and are a definite fashion statement. 

And let’s not forget the nail polishes that glow in the dark.

How do you keep gel nails from changing color

Poor Quality Gel 

Not all gel polishes are created equal. This is why some nail salons charge more than others. 

Lower-quality gels will be more brittle and prone to discoloration. When nail polish gets thick it can affect the outcome too. If the gel was exposed to sunlight, it could have gone bad. 

That’s why the best way to store nail polish is in a cool, dry place. 

As a general rule, quality and price are equivalent to each other. The more a salon or brand charges, the more likely they are to use high-quality products. 

Of course, this might not always be the cause. But we like to believe that most people are honest about their products and services. 

It’s also possible that the gel used was contaminated with a different color. This is why it’s good to know how to clean a nail polish brush.

Overcuring, Sunlight, or Self-Tanners

As you know, gel polish is cured under UV light. But, what you may not know, is that overexposure is possible. 

This can also happen if you spend a lot of time in the sun or use self-tanners. This would be a mostly summer problem. 

And since everyone tans differently, the discoloration will be varied for everyone. 


Does gel polish change Colour

It’s common knowledge that smoking causes teeth to turn yellow. The same happens to your nails, especially your dominant hand. 

So, if you’re a smoker, and wondering why the gels on one hand change color? That’s likely the hand you hold your cigarette in.

Exposure to Chemicals

This one seems obvious, right? The first thing that popped into your head was likely cleaning supplies. 

And yes, gel polish can react to the chemicals in cleaning supplies. But there are less obvious chemicals that can affect your gel nails too.

Makeup and skincare products can stain and discolor your nails as well. 

And let’s not forget hair dye. Colored hair dyes will stain your nails and hair bleach will discolor them.

Spices and Other Food Ingredients

Food with high acid content could cause discoloration in the gel nails. 

Other spices and/or ingredients can stain your nails as well. These include turmeric, ghee, and tamarind. 

Another obvious one is food colorants used in baking. 

How to Bring Back Previous Gel Polish Color

Nail Polish Remover or Rubbing Alcohol

For mild to moderate discoloration, use nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol.

How to Bring Back Previous Gel Polish Color

As long as the stain didn’t sink to the next layer, this should work. It’s more effective soon after the stain appears. 

Dip a Q-tip in your remover or rubbing alcohol then lightly rub the affected area. Be gentle or you’ll risk damaging your manicure.

It’s also best not to use acetone-based products. 

P.S: Did you know that you can use remover to make nail polish last longer in the bottle? And yes, it works.

Scrub Your Nails

If the discoloration is due to spices, food, or make-up products, you can scrub it clean. 

Use water and mild soap for this. You don’t want to use anything too harsh or you’ll dry your skin. 

Scrub your nails well as soon as you notice the stain. It’s best to do it immediately after using the spices or products. 


It might seem unconventional, but it works. 

Get an old towel and place your hand on it. Spray the hairspray on your nails until they’re wet (be generous with the spray). 

Grab a Q-tip and gently scrub the stained areas. Once you’re satisfied, wash your hands with soap and water. 

This works for older stains and discoloration.

Tea Tree Oil Soak

As a natural stain-remover, tea tree oil works well for nail discoloration. It’s also plant-based and gentle on the skin. 

Fill a bowl with warm water and add tea tree oil. You only need about 2-tablespoons for it to work. 

Soak your nails for about 10-minutes, pat dry, and moisturize.  You can repeat this once a day until the original gel polish color returns. 

Get Your Nails Redone

Sometimes there’s just nothing else you can do. If the stain or discoloration is bad, getting your nails redone is your best bet. 

How often should you change your nail polish? You should change your polish at least every 3 weeks. 

But, if you suspect the problem is the gel quality, then find a new salon. Or, take a look at our gel essentials and try it on your own. 

Preventing Gel Nail Polish Discoloration

There’s honestly no guaranteed way to prevent gel polish discoloration. But, we can provide some pointers that might help. 

Here’s how you can reduce the risk of discoloration:

  • Use quality gel nail polish.
  • Make sure you don’t overcure your nails
  • Reapply a gel top coat regularly.

Why did my gel nail polish change color

Preventing Gel Nail Polish Discoloration

  • Wear gloves when using cleaning products, hair dyes, food ingredients, etc.
  • Wash your hands immediately after using anything that can stain your nails. 


Let’s recap why your gel polish might change color and how you can fix it.

Possible Causes:

  • Poor gel quality
  • Chemicals (cleaning products, etc)
  • Hair dyes
  • Overcuring/sunlight/self-tanners
  • Food ingredients and/or spices
  • Smoking 

Possible Solutions:

  • Use nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol
  • Scrub with soap and water
  • Tea tree oil soak
  • Hairspray and scrub
  • Redo nails

We hope this answers your question about gel polish color changes. 

If you’re using gel polish at home, remember to seal the bottle after every use. It’s a good idea to learn how to swirl nail polish as well. It prevents air bubbles from forming in the polish. 

Having trouble opening your polish? See our article on how to open stuck nail polish bottles.

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