The Magic Behind Cat Eye Nail Polish. How Those Mesmerizing Swirls Happen

Introduction to Cat Eye Nail Polish

Cat eye nail polish, also known as cat eye gel polish, is a popular nail art technique that creates a striking linear design resembling a cat’s eye shape. The defining feature of cat eye nails is the bold, opaque line that runs vertically down the nail bed.

The cat eye nail trend first emerged in 2018 and quickly gained popularity on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. It offers an artistic, modern take on classic French manicure tips or simple nail art stripes. While new variations continue to evolve, the recognizable cat eye shape remains at the heart of this stylish manicure.

The Cat Eye Effect

The cat eye effect on nails is created through the use of cat eye gel polish that contains special magnetic particles. Unlike regular polish, cat eye polish responds to magnets by moving the particles to create a shimmering, holographic finish on the nails that resembles a cat’s eye or galaxy.

cat eye polish contains magnetic particles that align when magnetized

When applied to the nail, the magnetic particles are randomly dispersed throughout the polish. But when a magnet is held over the nail, the particles shift and align along the magnetic field, creating streaks and an elongated, prismatic pattern.

This alignment of the particles is what creates that distinctive cat eye look, with vibrant flashes of color visible from different angles. The effect is an exciting alternative to regular polish, yielding nails with an eyecatching, opalescent finish.

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Ingredients in Cat Eye Polish

The key ingredients that produce the eye-catching cat eye effect are:

Mica – This mineral powder adds a metallic, shimmery look. The plate-like structure of mica reflects light to create a pearlescent sheen.

Iron oxide – Tiny particles of iron oxide introduce a shift of color depending on the viewing angle. This gives a multidimensional look.

Glitter – Bits of glitter catch and reflect light. Larger glitter provides dramatic flashes of color.

In addition to these special effect pigments, cat eye polishes contain standard nail polish ingredients like nitrocellulose, plasticizers, and solvents to allow application and drying. But it’s the unique combination of mica, iron oxide, and glitter that produces the distinctive cat eye appearance by reflecting and refracting light.

Application Tips and Tricks

proper application involves thin coats and quickly magnetizing

Proper application technique is key to achieving the perfect cat eye effect. Here are some tips for applying cat eye nail polish:

Start with a base coat to ensure the cat eye polish adheres properly. Apply a thin, even layer of cat eye polish. Don’t overload the brush or apply too thick of a coat. Immediately after painting each nail, hover the magnet over the wet polish to manipulate the metallic particles. Hold the magnet still for 5-10 seconds before moving to the next nail. Experiment with different angles and distances to control the intensity of the effect.

Work one nail at a time. If the polish starts to dry before you get the magnet close, the effect won’t be as strong. Cap the free edge of the nail to prevent chipping and peeling. Finish with a glossy top coat to smooth and seal in the design. This helps prevent scratches and dulling of the metallic finish over time. Avoid using quick-dry top coats, as these can interfere with the magnetic particles before they fully set.

When using cat eye polish with a built-in magnet on the cap, hold the cap upside down and keep the magnet side facing the nail as you paint. Quickly move the cap over the entire nail in a waving motion to disperse the particles. Repeat 2-3 times while the polish is still wet for maximum sparkle.

See this video for a helpful visual demonstration: [](Link from exact source list)

Curing and Drying

The curing and drying process for cat eye nail polish is different from regular polish. Cat eye polish is made with magnetic particles that react to magnets during the curing process. After base and color coats are applied, cat eye polish is painted on the nail. A magnet is then held close to the nail for 5-10 seconds to manipulate the magnetic particles and create the cat eye effect [1]. The nail is then cured under an LED or UV lamp for 30-60 seconds to harden the polish.

after base coat, cat eye polish is cured under led or uv lamp

With regular nail polish, there is no magnet required. The polish is simply painted on the nail and left to air dry for around 10 minutes. The magnetic cat eye particles allow for a specialized curing and drying process that creates the distinctive cat eye design not possible with traditional polish.


Removing cat eye nail polish requires some care to avoid damaging the natural nail. Gel polishes are notoriously difficult to remove, while regular lacquer polishes tend to come off more easily. Here are some best practices for removing cat eye nail polish:

For gel polishes, do not peel or pick at the polish. This can damage the natural nail. Instead, use a gel polish remover like pure acetone to soak cotton balls and place them on the nails for 10-15 minutes. Gently slide the polish off after soaking. You can also use foil wraps to help the acetone work more effectively. Be patient and take your time removing gel polishes.

For regular lacquer polishes, you can use acetone or nail polish remover. Apply the remover to a cotton ball and gently roll or press against the nail to dissolve the polish. Don’t rub too aggressively. For glitter polishes, double cleanse by removing polish then going over nails again with remover to get any remaining glitter off.

After removing cat eye polish, apply cuticle oil or nail strengthener to condition the nails. Be gentle with nails for a few days after removing polish to prevent breakage or peeling.

For more tips, see:
How to Remove Cat Eye Nail Polish: Tips and Techniques


Maintaining a cat eye manicure requires some extra care and upkeep to keep the effect looking sharp. Here are some tips for keeping your cat eyes flawless:

Be gentle with your nails. Cat eye polish can chip and crack more easily since it contains magnetized particles. Avoid picking, peeling, and scratching. Wear gloves for household chores that are tough on nails.

Use a fast-drying top coat like Seche Vite to seal in the cat eye polish and help prevent chips and scratches. Reapply the topcoat every 2-3 days.

If you notice cracks or chips in the polish, use a small brush to fill them in with more cat eye polish. Work quickly and use a magnet to realign the particles.

When the polish starts looking dull, revive the shine with regular nail oil. Gently rub a drop of oil onto each nail.

For bigger touch ups, carefully file away lifted edges or damaged areas. Then cleanse nails and reapply cat eye polish. Use magnet and top coat again to refresh the look.

Plan to fully remove and re-do the cat eye manicure every 7-10 days. The magnetized particles will gradually become misaligned with wear.

Take off old polish gently with non-acetone remover and avoid scraping. Then start fresh to get the best results.

Pros and Cons

advantages are visual effect and easy application

Cat eye nail polish offers a range of advantages and disadvantages to consider before using it.


Some key benefits of cat eye nail polish include:

  • Mesmerizing visual effect – The magnetic cat eye design is extremely eye-catching and glamorous (
  • Easy, fast application – Cat eye polishes typically come with a wide applicator brush that makes applying the polish simple and quick.
  • Long-lasting – Cat eye gel polishes are formulated to be chip-resistant and can last over 2 weeks on nails.
  • Adds dimension – The gradient shimmer and color shifting effect gives nails an added pop.


Some potential drawbacks to consider include:

  • Small bottles – Cat eye polish bottles tend to be on the smaller side, running out more quickly.
  • Challenging removal – Glittery magnetic polishes can be more difficult to fully remove from nails.
  • Not as versatile – The visual effect limits the versatility and range of nail looks possible.
  • Expensive – Cat eye gel polishes are pricier than regular polish.

Popular Brands

Cat eye nail polish has become incredibly popular in recent years. As it has grown in popularity, many major nail polish brands have created their own unique cat eye polishes and effects. Some of the top brands for cat eye polishes include:

OPI – A leader in innovative nail products, OPI has a variety of shimmering cat eye polishes like Suzi Loves Cowboy and Dulce de Leche that create a brilliant cat eye effect.

Essie – Essie is known for their stylish colors, and their metallic cat eye polishes like Penny Talk and As Gold As It Gets are top sellers.

China Glaze – From holographic to color-shifting, China Glaze has cat eye polishes like Swing Baby and Atlantis that deliver serious sparkle.

Sally Hansen – Sally Hansen’s Insta-Dri line has quick-drying cat eye shades like Wild Card and The Big Chip that provide a bold, gel-like finish.

Revlon – Revlon’s scented polish collection offers cute cat eye options like Raspberry-scented Starry Eyed.

L’Oreal – L’Oreal’s limited edition collections often include dazzling cat eye shades like Galactic Glam and Cosmic Sparkle.

With so many great cat eye polish options, you’re sure to find your perfect brand and shade.

Latest Trends

Cat eye nail polish continues to evolve with new styles, colors, and techniques emerging each season. Some of the latest trends include:

Metallic and chrome cat eye polishes are hugely popular, providing a futuristic, galactic effect. Brands like OPI and Essie have metallic collections.

– Multicolored cat eyes with an ombre or color gradient are on trend. Transitioning from dark to light shades elongates the nail.

– Negative space cat eyes use bare nails as a canvas, with polish only on the tips. This minimalist look makes a statement.

– Cat eye gels allow wider shapes not possible with regular polish. Bold graphic liner and tapered points are runway styles.

– Embellishments like rhinestones, glitter, and foils create textured, jewelry-inspired cat eyes.

– Stamping and nail art techniques let you customize cat eyes. Mix colors, patterns, and designs for one-of-a-kind looks.

The versatility of cat eye manicures means endless creativity. As new products and techniques emerge, the possibilities will continue expanding. The futuristic, fierce cat eye is clearly a mainstay in nail trends.

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