Sunday, June 6, 2010

Guide: How to identify your OPI polish

Lately there has been a lot of talk about fake OPI polishes being sold, not only online, but also in stores. While there is the occasional fake floating out there, I do think that most of this is blown out of proportion. So I have decided to write a little guide to help you identify your OPI bottle.


For the first nine years after OPI launched in 1989, the bottle design stayed the same. After that there were numerous little changes made almost every year. Size and shape of the bottle varies slightly, as well as print size.


1989 – 1998
The first bottle design was relatively simple. It would list the three major cities, plus the measurement units using uppercase characters. On bottles made before the mid 90s, the print is located slightly lower on the bottle.

This is the transition year where they slightly started the bottle change process. The old bottle style remains, but the labeling is slightly different. They also added the e symbol, which indicates that the packaging and content adheres to European average standards, in other words, to indicate that there is indeed 15 ml in the bottle. The measurement units are now all lowercase characters.

The new bottle design is introduced. Instead of listing the three major cities, it now lists the French and Spanish translations of ‘Nail Lacquer’.

2001 – Mid 2001
The German translation of 'Nail Lacquer' is added to the design.

Mid 2001 – 2004
The measurement units are switched around, ml is now listed first.

2005 – present
The measurement units now use uppercase characters again.


1989 – 1999
On the back a warning message and the address are printed, all in uppercase. No warning symbols are printed.

2000 – Mid 2002
The European distributor is now listed on the back, underlined and all uppercase. Two warning symbols are printed. The US address is printed in uppercase, except for ‘Hollywood’. Also printed is ‘MADE IN USA’.

Mid 2002 – 2005
The zip code is now listed for the European distributor, and the address is no longer underlined. A third warning symbol is added at the end of 2002.

2006 – Present
A fourth warning symbol is added, indicating the shelf life in months. Initially it would say 36 months, but by late 2006 it was changed to 24 months (this is because of the 2006 formula change, more about this below).


The bottle labels seem to have changed even more through the years, so I'll write a little bit about that as well. With a few exceptions, all labels are two-layer labels. The top layer can be peeled off, and the ingredients are listed on the backside of the top layer.

1989 - Mid 90s
The name and color code are printed in the middle. The codes
back then were shorter, and started with OPI instead of NL. The address is printed around the edge, along with the phone number (note the parenthesis around the area code).

My bottles do not have the top label anymore, any help with this is greatly appreciated!

Mid 90s - Mid 2002

The top layer lists the bar code on the top half. The name is printed in the middle, with the production code stamped below. On the bottom half it says PEEL HERE, with the color code in between the two.

The second layer lists the name and code in the middle, and around the edges the address and phone number. Note that the phone number has changed, as well as the formatting.

Mid 2002 – Mid 2004
The production code is now listed above the name. The color code is now printed directly below the name. The bottom layer remains the same.

Mid 2004 – Mid 2006
The name is now printed along the top edge of the label, with the color code below. The production code is printed in the middle, above the bar code. The bottom layer remains the same.

Mid 2006 – Present
The label color changed to green. It is commonly believed that the green label indicates that the polish is B3F (Big 3 Free – free of the major three toxic
chemicals). This is incorrect. The green label only indicates that the polish is free of dibutyl phthalate. Toluene has been part of the formula up until 2007 in
the US. In Europe OPI polishes have been truly B3F since the end of 2006 due to the strong enforcement of the ban by the European union.


The Suede Collection
This collection has a label identical to the green label mentioned above, except it is brown colored. The color codes start with NN instead of NL. These polishes are B3F.

The Designer Series
There are two sets of designer series polishes available. The older ones are not B3F and contain toluene. The top layer label lists the color code first, then the production code. The name is printed in the middle, with Designer Series printed in red. The newer Designer Series polishes have a label that is identical to the regular green label, except it is all printed in a dark red. These are B3F.

Salon exclusives

These are one-layer labels, since US law does not require the listing of ingredients on salon products. The print is black and resembles the bottom layer of the green labels. Since the ingredients are not listed, they MAY contain toluene – although this is very unlikely for newer polishes.

Promo bottles are marked not for resale. These are not very common.

The 'X' Collection
Not much is known about this collection, only the shades that were part of it, and the color codes. The bottle labels are all one layer only, list the production code, as well as two of the warning symbols.

When I got Rainforest, I sent an e-mail to OPI asking if it was the real thing, and what collection it is from. They told me it was released in 2005 as part of the Color Centric collection. The thing that confuses me about this, is that the bottles are obviously older than 2005, and nothing pops up when I Google that collection name. My bottle of Creme de Menthe has the late 90s design, and my bottle of Rainforest has the 2001 design.


Since 2001, OPI engraved all bottles with a 8-digit production code along the upper side of the bottle. There are several different fonts used for this, and not consistently. Sometimes small and narrow, sometimes bigger and rounder. In some rare cases, it is engraved in the cap instead of the bottle.

Since 2008, OPI also stamped a production code along the bottom side of the bottle, matching the code stamped on the bottom label. This stamp can be easily removed by scratching with a fingernail, or using some acetone. So keep in mind that when you got the bottle from an unauthorized seller, it might not have the stamp on the side.

NOTE: The font used for the stamping is related to the font used for the engraving. If the engraving is bigger and rounder, so is the stamping.


In 2006, OPI introduced the Pro-Wide brush. This brush is wider and more rectangular shaped for better nail coverage. The stem is oval instead of round, and has the OPI logo etched near the top.


Even though the chance is very slim, you might have a fake OPI polish in your collection. Luckily, the fakes are really easy to spot:
  • The color does not match the description, for example: pink polish in a bottle labeled 'Black Onyx' (I've seen this in an actual store!)
  • The color looks off and not familiar. Sometimes OPI bottles are refilled with random polishes and sold mostly on eBay.
  • Spelling or grammar mistakes in the print.
  • Bottles labeled just 'Pink' or '306'.

The information in this article is carefully compiled from examining my own collection of (hundreds of) OPI bottles, the information provided by the official OPI book ‘I’m Not Really A Waitress’ and information provided by OPI via e-mail.

Some bottles may still use the old front and back print, while they are released a year after discontinuation of that particular design. Therefore, dating a bottle purely by its design might not be fully accurate. I suggest dating by label AND bottle design for a more accurate result.


Krystal said...

Very interesting and a nice resource.

Biba said...

Great post. You really know a lot about OPI.

Pretty said...

wow this is intense. I'm going to have to reference this somewhere! Useful info for not being duped!

Bregje said...

Woah, very nice post! :)

Jillian said...

Very Informational, thanks ^^

stephanie said...

wow just stumbled on your blog thru a google search, and u really know a lot abt opi and ur polishes (: thanks for sharing!

Cristina said...

Very informative post, thanks for sharing.
I'm in love with the fourth and the fifth polishes in the first picture. Can you tell me the names of those shades? Thank you!

Ainnir said...

@Cristina: the fourth one is La Boheme and the fifth one is Movin' Out

Cristina said...

Thank you so much Sanne!
I'll certainly include them in my next polishes order! ;)
Have a nice day :)

Viva La Fashion said...

wow. thanks! :) this was so helpful.

Nails 4 Stars said...

this is a awesome post. Thanks for sharing :).

nirfreak03 said...

thank you for this guide! really helped :)

had a question though... do you know what year opi started using the gear shapes on the inside of the cap? thanks!

Screen Door Prep said...

Thanks for sharing the info!

I thought that the I'm Not Really a Waitress book listed the collections & colors that make them Rainforest not in the book?

owner said...

Thank you so much . So , how about the dot (.) on the cap .some has it , some without . ??

Blu11 said...

Exquisite article! Thanks so much for posting this.

Claire said...

Thanks so much!! This is a really useful article

cheyyi said...

Thanks alot for ur info....I have got another question! Does OPI have small sized one? the one which is 3.75mL?

Sueching said...

They sell small bottles of OPI In some of the stores in Thailand. Are they fake?

lazylungs said...

just found this post from a link on NB. fantastic, thank you SO much for compiling all this info!

Unknown said...

yes, OPI has the small bottle. usually they called it "opi mini" @ 3.75ml but usually they sell itu by set not individual :)

does anyone knows, if OPI nail polish have the oval brush or not? (either it's old edition/ not) or is it fake? because i have bought at AMAZON and it has an oval brush instead of pro-wide brush & doesn't have a hole at "P" letter :(

thx for sharing

@a_plena (AKA Julia) said...

WOW I Love this post it is very informative
there are many girls wondering if the polishs theyre purchansing are fakes or just an ond version of the OPI bottle
- I would like to translate to portuguese and publish with you name and credits of course - and obviously only if you gave me permission.

Drinking Hot Chocolate said...

Thank you for the posting and I have some questions. Is it possible for a genuin bottle to have a thicker print than usual?
Some of mine has thicker "O.P.I" prints and underneath it the little letters are thicker as well. It is not that readable unless I stick my eyes close to them.
Some say that the print thickness varies between factories.

Also, there are only 3 warning signs that is bigger than the size of 4 warning sign sizes. And one of my bottle do not have those engraved numbers on the bottle. I bought mine from a website and Im not sure if they really sell genuin bottles as it is stated in the website.

Irin said...


I am wondering? Does all real opi has the gear shape design on the inner part of the cover?

Anonymous said...

Great Post! I'm sure your information would be useful to my readers.

Unknown said...

Love the OPI history you laid out. It looks like it took you a lot of time!
Where To Buy OPI Polish

CarolineSwing said...

Excellent! Really excellent! Thank you so much for all the work you did.

Anthea said...

Thank you so much, I bought an bottle of Malaysian Mist which is much older than all my other bottles and I couldn't tell if it was real or not. Being able to see your barcodes over the years really helped :)

Unknown said...

These are great sets of nail Polish. I would like to get 4 of them the color is amazing. how to win him back

beachgal said...

Super resource. Please keep this page active. It has info that will be helpful for year & years.

Sangu1ne said...

This is great to know... I was about to have a fit about some bottles I thought were "fake"... and now I know... they're just old!

ss said...

Hi, Nice post thanks for sharing. Would you please consider adding a link to my website on your page. Please email me back.



Marisa said...

I have an OPI from 1989-1999 with the top label still on it, if you're still interest 3 years later. Heh.

Polished Pinay said...

What an interesting read!

Nailsaloveaffair said...

This is wonderful! I just discovered this. Thanks so much for compiling this information. :)

Cheryl said...

This is a great post! You did your research and not only answered how to tell if an OPI polish is the real deal or not, but added in a lot of history about OPI and gave so much information based in specific time frames. Thank you. You also did a good job in general with your writing style. I saw within two sentences that this post was not about what I was searching for, but because you made the info interesting and because it was so well written, I ended up reading the whole thing anyways. Thank you for your effort!

Cheryl said...

This is a great post! You did your research and not only answered how to tell if an OPI polish is the real deal or not, but added in a lot of history about OPI and gave so much information based in specific time frames. Thank you. You also did a good job in general with your writing style. I saw within two sentences that this post was not about what I was searching for, but because you made the info interesting and because it was so well written, I ended up reading the whole thing anyways. Thank you for your effort!

Celeste said...

All the pictures are down :(

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