Thermal Polishes: Tips and Tricks

Thermal Polishes: Tips and Tricks

June 6, 2022

Thermal polishes are dazzling bits of magic that you can wear on your nails. Aside from multichromes, they are usually the formula that entices people to try Indie polish. But for a newbie, they can be really intimidating. We have collected some tips and tricks to help you on your thermal-mastering journey.



What is a thermal polish?

A thermal nail polish is a nail polish that is filled with temperature sensitive pigments. They generally have two distinct colors; one for "hot" and one for "cold".

There are such things as trithermals and even quadthermals. They work basically the same, but have much more complex transitioning patterns.



How do they work?

To see the magic of a thermal nail polish, just expose it to heat or cold. They transition between shades depending on your body temperature and the temperature of the environment around you. 

Heat reactive thermals will lighten with warmer temperatures (it makes dishwashing more interesting) and Cold Reactive thermals will darken with colder temperatures. You'll notice this effect mostly as your nail bed displaying the "warm" state and your free edge displaying the "cool" state.



What temperature is best?

That all depends on the thermal polish you are using and the effect you are looking to capture. We find that the body temperature + cool air gives the most interesting effect. But you should experiment with warm and cold environments to see what you prefer the most!



Application tips

When it comes to application it all comes down to your polishing style, formula viscosity, and brush size. Thicker thermals are generally easier to apply with thinner layers. They can be thinned using Nail Polish Thinner if you find the formula too thick for your liking. But average viscosity formulas are applied just like any nail polish. And don't forget your base & top coats! 



Storage tips

Thermal Polishes are temperamental beasts. They will do best if you store them in a cool, dark place away from heat sources and direct light. They hate extremes and exposing them to very hot or very cold temperatures will "kill" them, e.g. they will no longer transition and cease to be a "thermal" polish.

Some of our brands recommend keeping thermals in a refrigerator if you live in a very warm climate.



What is the lifespan of a thermal polish?

Most brands caution us to expect 12-24 months of easy transition with a properly stored thermal polish. Some unicorn shades have been shown to still transition after many years, but that lifespan isn't the norm.

If you notice your thermal starting to slow down with age, you can try adding matching pigment to your bottle to freshen the transition.



 What "state" will it "die" in?

Thermal polish can be pretty unpredictable when it dies, but the general rule is this: if you overexpose it to extreme heat, it will "die" in the warm state. If you overexpose it to  extreme cold, it will "die" in the cold state. 

But being the fickle beasts that they are, sometimes they'll die in between states resulting in a weird muddy shade.


They can be intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of them they might just become your favorite special effect polish! Be sure to tag us at @polishpickup on instagram and tiktok so we can see your awesome PPU thermals!