How Long Does Nail Polish Take To Dry Completely?

You want to paint your nails before you go out but you wonder how long it takes for the polish to dry. We have done the research for you and found not only how long it takes for nails to dry completely but also how to make it happen faster.

Nail polish needs to dry completely for best results. Plan for 10-15 minutes for your nail polish to set and another one to two hours for it to cure completely. If you don't have that long to wait, here are some suggestions on getting nail polish to dry faster:

  • Fast-dry polish
  • Nail strips or stickers
  • Quick-dry product
  • Nail dryer
  • Blow dryer
  • Freezer
  • Oil drops
  • Cooking spray
  • Cold water
  • Use thin layers
  • Hair spray
  • Air duster

Continue reading to get more details about getting nail polish to dry faster, including product suggestions. We will also explore why you might be having issues with your nail polish drying. Without further ado, let's get into it!

A woman drying her nails on the lamp, How Long Does Nail Polish Take To Dry Completely?

How Do I Get My Nail Polish to Dry Faster?

Here is a list of methods and products that you should consider next time you need your nail polish to dry quicker than usual.

Young woman blowing on nails after applying nail polish

Fast-Dry Polish

One of the easiest ways to get dry nails fast is to use a polish labeled as a formula that dries very quickly. This polish has everything in one bottle, so you don't have any additional steps. Apply polish in a thin layer, and wait about a minute for the paint to dry.

For a top-rated brand, try Sally Hansen Insta-Dri.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Nail Strips or Stickers

An alternative to consider when your nails don't have time to dry is nail color strips or stickers. They come in sets of pre-formed strips to fit each nail, making them easy to apply. These products stick onto your nail bed with adhesive and easily remove nail polish remover.

Some strips are made with nail polish, while others are vinyl, another type of plastic. They are convenient and come in various colors and designs, so you change your look without a lot of time or effort.

Consider these glossy gel nail strips from Dashing Diva.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Quick-Dry Product

Oil drops, sprays, and polishes are available to help your polish dry faster. Add these products after your final layer of top coat.

They contain solvents that speed up evaporation, allowing the polish to set more quickly. However, your nail polish may not be completely dry even with these products. You can still smudge or chip a nail if you aren't careful.

If you prefer a spray, consider this product from O.P.I.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

If you prefer a topcoat polish, consider this dry fast nail coat from Seche Vite.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Nail Dryer

Nail dryers are compact machines that reduce the drying time of nail polish. For regular nail polish, a nail dryer will blow cool air. Nail dryers for gel nail polish contain a UV lamp that cures the nail polish. Some nail dryers are suitable for use on hands and feet, while others can do both hands simultaneously.

Consider this nail dryer from Antobag with a cooling fan and UV lamp for drying regular and gel nail polish.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Blow Dryer

Use your blow dryer on your freshly-painted nails to help them dry faster. However, use the cool button rather than heat.

Besides the risk of burning yourself, applying heat creates steam which can keep the nail polish tacky longer. You also want to use your blow dryer on a low setting because too much force can ripple your nail polish.


This isn't the most practical option, but the cold air may thicken the polish while any circulating air helps to evaporate the solvents in the polish, allowing it to dry faster.

Oil products

Oils absorb the solvents and thin out the nail polish, causing it to dry faster. Use a dropper to apply the oil to coat the nail bed. Don't forget the cuticles, as it will help to soften them too. Let the oil sit for a few minutes until you start to see beads form. Once dry, wipe off the excess with a lint-free cloth.

Professional oil drop products contain additives for conditioning and strengthening nails. However, if you don't have any on hand, you can substitute baby oil or cooking oil.

Consider these drying drops from essie.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

Cooking Spray

Aerosol cooking spray like Pam is another at-home hack for drying your nail polish faster. Let your nail polish dry for a minute or two, then grab the cooking spray. Be sure to hold the can away from your nails. Also, expect some greasiness on your hands, but you can easily wash it off.

Cold Water

Ice water is another trick believed to dry your nail polish faster. Let your polish dry for at least a minute, and then submerge your hands into a bowl of cold water and ice for another two minutes. When the process is complete, you should see water beads form on top of the polish.

This process thickens and sets the polish, but it won't' be completely dry. It also can be uncomfortable if you are sensitive to cold. Be careful when drying your hands. You can still smudge the polish and catch lint from the towel in your new polish.

Use thin Layers

Nail polish has thickeners in its formula to keep its dense consistency. When you spread out the polish on the nail bed, the thickeners settle, and the solvents can evaporate, allowing the nail polish to dry.

If the layers are too thick, it slows the process. Stick to thin, even layers which will dry much faster and look better.

Hair Spray

Spraying means for drying nail polish

Use aerosol hair spray to speed up the drying process on nail polish. Let the polish sit for at least a minute or two they spray each nail. Be sure to hold the can approximately a foot away from your nails to prevent the force from creating air bubbles in your nail polish.

Air Duster

It may sound strange, but the cold compressed air and propellant in canned air work to harden the nail polish. Be sure to hold it away from the nail, or the force may damage your polish rather than just drying it.

However, canned air is much more costly than most other quick-dry options, so this will not be your go-to solution but rather a trick that you might use if you are in a bind.

Why does my nail polish never fully dry?

Check your polish to see if it is gel polish. If so, there is a process to follow for the gel polish to cure correctly.

Make sure that you apply both the base coat and the top coat. Also, make sure that you are using a UV lamp to cure the polish. Also, remember to wipe off the excess top coat after removing your nails from under the lamp. Otherwise, your polish will remain tacky.

How do you know when your nail polish is fully dry?

Beautiful groomed woman's hand with pink nails

One way to tell if your nail polish is dry is to touch your nails tips together. Use the smallest nail and touch together in the least noticeable spot. If the nails try to stick together, the polish isn't dry.

Unfortunately, this can leave a small dent or divot, but that may be less bothersome than a huge smudge. If they pull apart effortlessly, then you know the polish is dry.

Why is my nail polish always tacky?

If your regular nail polish stays tacky, there might be a few reasons leading to the problem.

First, it's possible that you aren't giving your nail polish long enough to dry. It can take several hours before your polish completely dries and is safe from smudges and dents.

Second, your nail polish is expired. Polish that is too old gets thick and gloppy, and you should throw it out or thin it down with lacquer. Using an old polish may result in thick, uneven layers that don't dry properly.

If you know that your polish isn't old but it still seems to stay tacky, you might be applying too many layers or applying your layers too thick or too soon.

Try to use thin layers using only one stroke, and make sure to let each layer dry before applying the next one. Also, you shouldn't apply more than three layers of polish.

Finally, make sure you use a top coat, and consider adding a quick-dry product to your routine to help set your nail polish.

When can I shower after painting my nails?

Feet of a young girl with red nails in a thick foam

It would be best if you waited at least an hour after painting your nails before you hop into a steamy bathtub or shower. The heat and water from the shower aren't good for fresh polish. It can cause bubbles or smudges in your freshly painted nails.

In Closing

No one wants their nail polish ruined because it didn't dry fast enough. Many methods can help set the polish more quickly. Some may work better than others, but it never hurts to have multiple ways available.

For more tips to help you with your at-home manicure, take a look at this post: How Many Nail Polish Coats Should You Apply?

For even more helpful hints, consider reading this post: Should You Let Nail Polish Dry Between Coats?

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