Are you surprised more people haven’t asked about this? Why? Because it’s TRUE that sunscreens can soften or dissolve acrylic nails or nail polish. Sunscreen ingredients can be tough to dissolve.
Anyway, it just so happens that some of the ingredients used to dissolve the sunscreen agents also dissolve the kinds of acrylic chemicals used in nail polishes and fake nails. In fact, some of these “dissolving agents” (or emulsifiers, as we chemists like to refer to them) are used in acetone free nail polish removers!
For example, if you look at Cutex’s Acetone Free polish remover, you’ll see that it contains “dimethyl adipate” which is very similar to “dibutyl adipate,” a common emulslifier used in sunscreens. So it’s not surprising that you’re seeing a problem with your sunscreen making your nail polish sticky! And, this problem is only likely to get worse because as new high SPF, broad spectrum sunscreens become increasingly popular, cosmetic formulators will have to add more “dissolving agents” to the product to keep the active ingredients dispersed.
Unfortunately, we can’t just tell you which sunscreens will cause the problem and which won’t. We’d have to test each sunscreen with each type of nail polish before we’d know for sure. That’s not very practical for us do to, but we can give you a tip for testing your favorite products:
How To Tell if Your Sunscreen Will Ruin Your Manicure
Smear a little of your favorite nail polish on a piece of glass (you can use an empty nail polish bottle or even a old compact mirror. Then, take that with you when you’re shopping for a sunscreen. Squeeze a little of the sunscreen product onto your polish smear and see if it softens the film. That should be a pretty good predictor if it will be ok when you actually apply it with your manicured fingers.