How Long Does Nail Polish Take To Dry Completely?

Painting your nails can add a nice touch to your look, but sitting around waiting for the polish to dry might not be your favorite part. It's tricky to know exactly when your nails are fully dry and safe to touch without ruining the polish.

Young woman blowing on nails after applying nail polish

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In this article, we'll break down how long it usually takes for nail polish to dry completely. We'll also share some tips to speed up the process. This way, you can enjoy your beautiful nails faster and avoid any smudges.

How long does nail polish take to dry?

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 for getting nail polish to dry faster:

1. 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. Just apply a thin layer and wait about a minute for it to dry, no extra steps needed.

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

2. 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.

3. 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 Demert.

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

4. 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.

For regular nail polish, consider the product from eyxformula.

View on Amazon.

For gel, consider the product from SUNUV.

5. 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.

6. Freezer

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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

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

11. Hair Spray

Use aerosol hair spray to speed up the drying process on nail polish. Let the polish sit for at least a minute or two then 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.

12. 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.

Beautiful groomed woman's hand with pink nails

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?

One way to tell if your nail polish is dry is to touch your nail 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?

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.

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

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?

Drying Tactics for Perfect Nails

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.

Pass along these secrets by pinning this image below on Pinterest, Facebook, or any social media. Spread the knowledge and care.

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

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