In this paper, a simple, cost effective, and potentially universal method is proposed for the formation of high-aspect-ratio nanopillars on various polymers. Our method involves direct reactive ion etching (RIE) using self-formed nanomasks oriented from a dummy material (cover glass). The mechanism is evaluated using nanopillar characterization and surface analysis results from x-ray photoelectron microscopy (XPS) and Auger electron microscopy (AES). By varying the dummy material configuration and modifying the RIE etching time, the distribution and dimensions of the nanopillars can be manipulated to meet a range of requirements. The maximum structural aspect ratio of 60 (6.7 microm high and 112 nm thick nanopillars) can be easily prepared using a 60 min self-masked high-aspect-ratio polymer nanopillars fabrication (SMHAR) process on poly(monochloro-p-xylylene) (Parylene C). Furthermore, nanopillars can also be generated using the same SMHAR process on poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) and SU-8 photoresist, creating nanostructured PDMS or SU-8 materials in lab-on-a-chip (LOC) or nano/micro-electromechanical systems (N/MEMS).