How to Fix Stained Nails

Do you have stained nails from dark nail polish? Learn how to fix them here with our easy tips for removing nail stains.

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Nails with dark nail polish

As CF’s current resident nail blogger, it’s safe to say that I’m obsessed with polish. I own more than 80 bottles of varnish, I paint my nails three times a week and my nails are very rarely chipped, or even polish-free.

The biggest downside to this fascination (apart from my ever-dwindling bank account) is that I’ve had to learn how to fix stained nails from dark polish. My stained nails are always worst in the wintertime, when we all start rocking deeper, darker shades. This is by far the biggest downside of wearing nail polish, but can be (somewhat) prevented and avoided. 

Are you sick of yellow nails? Here are a few tips to get rid of yellow stained nails, once and for all:

How to Get Rid of Yellow Nails:

Here are my two best tips for preventing and getting rid of yellow nails caused by dark polish. In my experience, these are the only two methods that really work.

1. Use a Base Coat

Orly Bonder Base Coat

I know, I know – I also used to think that applying base coat was a completely useless step, but I can assure you that it isn’t! Not only does it help your polish stay on, it protects your nail big-time from stains.

I cannot stress this enough, if you’re not using a base coat, you absolutely must! After wearing a dark shade for a few days, my bare nails are much less yellow than they would be if I hadn’t been using a good base coat. A few months ago I outlined my favorite base coats, so definitely pick up one of those up and be on your way to cleaner, pinker nails.

2. Let Them Breathe

Natural nails

To a polish-fiend like myself, this is basically the kiss of death – you want me to show my yellow, stained nails when I could just paint my nails any other gorgeous shade? Unfortunately, yes.

Every 5 or 6 weeks, I try going polish-free for at least 3 to 4 days. At the beginning, my nails are unsightly, but by the end, they’re back to their healthy, normal pink shade. This is, unfortunately, the only fool-proof way to get rid of stains on your nails.

What WON’T Work for Stained Nails:

I’ve showed you the effective methods fixing stained nails, but there are two popular methods that, from my experience, don’t work at all. Don’t waste your time on…

Lemon Juice:

When I first got nail stains, I googled and googled “how to remove nail stains” and the tip that kept popping up was to put my nails in lemon juice, as lemon juice is allegedly a bleach and will remove stains. Too bad that this totally does not work at all, and the only thing it achieves is making your hands reek of lemon juice for hours.

Buffing your Nails:

Okay, so this technically will work, but buffing your nails is really bad for them – it completely thins and weakens the nail bed. If you have to do this, make sure to use this solution extremely sparingly!

How to Fix Stained Nails in a Pinch:


Sometimes during my half week off from polish, I have times when I absolutely need my nails to look presentable. In these situations, I wait till the last minute and put on a thin coat of my favorite light, semi-sheer pink polish.

My favorite light polish is Essie’s Mademoiselle ($6.09 at Amazon,) but I’d recommend going to the drugstore and trying on different colors to find your perfect light pink shade. This gives your nail a nice, neat, natural, polished look, and best of all, it will camouflage any stained nails!

What do you guys do when you have stained nails?

Any other tips and tricks for fixing stained nails? Do you have this problem a lot? Tell me everything in the comments!

9 thoughts on “How to Fix Stained Nails”

  1. I’m so tired of dealing with this every winter when I wear dark polish. In the paring/summer I am a fresh nail lady but I love my dark colors in the winter.
    Please send me any advice you have for stopping the staining!

  2. I have used Rock Hard nail polish base/hardener but it does not help keep staining from happening. My nails look horrible! I’ve tried bleach for 10 min at a time, I’ve tried it all. Nothing seems to work. I’m really frustrated.

  3. Someone told me my nails turned orange from not getting any oxygen as I wear polish all the time. is it that? or is it staining???

  4. i used a base coat before painting my nails a medium-purple colour, but they still got stained. is there a reason for this? o.O

  5. I love nail polish! Especially a teal colour i bought 2 months ago… The only problem is that the colour stains my nails soo badly! The only thing that works for me is: two tablespoons of hudrogen peroxide mixed with teo tablespoons of lemon juice and 1/2 cup of water. Soak them for 10 mins
    And rinse. After that i get whitening toothpaste and apply it to my nails for 2 mins and brush with a nail brush. That makes my nails soo mush better!

  6. What I usually do to avoid stained nails is – apart from the obvious base coat – I always take off my nail polish in the weekends. Nobody sees them then, and it gives them a good 2 1/2 days to air a little bit, and be good to go throughout the workweek 🙂

  7. Beauty supply stores make stain removing soaks and scrubs for your nails. Also, baking soda, whitening tooth paste and denture cleaner tablets all work wonders (it makes sense if you think about it).


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