Many of us have walked out of a nail salon or spent time painting our nails at home only to experience the frustration of smudges and scratches across that perfect paint within a minute. The struggle of keeping your nails in pristine condition and out of use while the polish dries can be tedious and feel like a monumental task. But what if we told you there was a faster way to get your nails dry?
Instead of playing the waiting game with your manicure, you can try out one of our pro tips instead. These tips will help you cut your polish drying time in half and keep your nails looking fantastic no matter what you put them through after they’ve been painted.
How Long Does It Take Nails to Dry?
The exact time it takes your polish to dry depends heavily on the formula of it. On average, your nail polish will be completely dry to the touch within 2 to 3 hours, though it could take up to 2 days to be fully set in each layer.
The more layers of polish you have, including base and top coats, the longer it will take for it to dry all the way through. Most nail polishes are designed to have the top coat dry first (within 20 minutes), leaving you free to use your nails gently until the polish is all the way set.
You should keep in mind that non-toxic, formaldehyde-free polishes take longer to dry than chemically-based ones. Metallic and glittery colors typically dry faster, and gel polishes take the longest to dry.
Pro Tips to Speed up Nail Drying Time
When you just don’t have time to wait for your nails to dry, you can try out one of these pro tips to cut your drying time in half and get on with your day!
One of the best tips for speeding up nail drying time is to dunk your nails in a bowl of very cold water.
- For this to work, paint the nails on one of your hands completely.
- Wait approximately 5 minutes for the polish to set.
- Then submerge your nails into a small bowl of very cold water (add in ice cubes for the best effect).
- Leave your nails in the water for another 5 minutes before pulling them out and gently drying them off.
This trick works due to the cold, causing the polish to contract and harden faster than if you air-dried your nails. When you pull your hand out of the water, be sure to check for water beading on the surface of your nails, a sign that your polish is now dry.
Also, it is important not to place your nails in the water immediately after applying paint to them. Doing this could cause the polish to run and make a mess. 3 to 5 minutes after your last coat of polish has been applied is the best time to dunk them in the ice bath.
Similar to how an ice bath will work to dry your polish, running your hand under cold water will have the same effect. You can run your completely painted nails under very cold tap water for around 3 to 5 minutes in order to fully dry them – just remember that you need to let the paint dry for 5 minutes first or you will end up washing the polish off your nails.
Time in the Freezer
It may seem strange, but sticking your hands in the freezer for a few minutes can do wonders for the drying time of your nails. Place your manicured nails in the freezer for as long as you can tolerate the cold breeze in order to dry them. And as a side note, we don’t recommend this method if you’re a fan of pedicures!
Use a Hairdryer
A few minutes under a hairdryer is great for drying out and hardening up your polish. This method works best when you use the “cool air” setting on your hair dryer on one hand, and then repeat the painting and drying process on the other hand.
Make sure not to use the hot hair drying setting; this can melt the polish a little bit and can increase the risk of you burning your fingers.
Invest in Drying Drops
Drying drops are one of the nail world’s best inventions and can be a great product to try out if you are looking for a foolproof way to speed up your manicures. Drying drops are formulated to turn your polish from freshly applied to dry and smudge-proof within a few minutes, and they can be a lifesaver if you’re always on the go.
However, drying drops can dry out your nails and cuticles, so it is important to care for your nails properly if you regularly use these.
Thin Polish Layers
When painting your nails, it can be very helpful to use several thinner layers as opposed to putting on a large amount of polish at once. Thinner layers will dry more quickly and will be less prone to smudging after the very top layer is dry due to the lack of thick polish layers that are still wet underneath.
Wait Between Coats
Between every coat of polish, including the base and top coats, it can be helpful to wait 5 to 10 minutes for the coat to fully dry before putting on another coat. While this process can speed up your overall polish application time, it can be very helpful for preventing smudges and bubbles under the nail as you wait for all coats of polish to dry at once.
Use Olive Oil
All kinds of oil, including olive oil, baby oil, and cooking spray, can help speed up the drying time of your nails. This is due to the oil seeping into the applied polish and thinning it out, effectively drying out wet spots and encouraging the paint to dry more quickly.
To try this method, put a small drop of oil onto the middle of your nails and then wait for a few minutes. Once the oil is beading on top of your nails, you can wipe it off. As a bonus, olive oil will keep your nails moisturized!
Try Out Hairspray
Hairspray is the go-to product for when you want your newest hair style to stay in place, but you may not know that it can also be used to keep your polish set. Add a light spritz of your favorite hairspray across your nails to dry them. Just remember that while this tip works for the top coat of your polish, it doesn’t dry the layers beneath very well, so you should avoid being rough with your nails too soon.
Caring for Your Painted Nails
Once your nails have been completely painted, it is important to take proper care of them to ensure they stay in perfect shape.
Strengthen Your Nails
If you can’t live without your nails painted, you may want to consider incorporating nail-strengthening foods into your diet. These foods, in addition to nail care products like cuticle cream, can keep your nails hydrated, strong, and healthy, and ready for that next round of polish.
Remove Polish Carefully
Removing polish is a necessary step in changing up your style, even though it can be incredibly tedious. When removing your nail polish, make sure you are using the materials suited to your nails; this can include nail polish removers, cotton pads, or acetone. If you are wearing acrylic nails, it is a good idea to visit a salon for removal, and if you are wearing gel nail polish, you may need to take a few extra steps to remove it safely at home.
The important thing to remember is to not pick at your nail polish, as this can chip and break your nails, comprising their integrity.
Take a Hiatus
Sometimes, the best way to care for your painted nails is to not paint them at all. A hiatus of a few weeks between manicures or pedicures can let your nails breathe and give them time to repair themselves, so they will always stay healthy and strong.
What if Your Nail Polish Just Won’t Dry?
If your nail polish absolutely won’t dry no matter what you do, you could be dealing with a polish that is expired. Not drying is a sign of the chemicals losing their efficacy, and if you notice other signs like a hard to open bottle or a polish that looks separated, gritty, or clumpy, it is probably time to throw the bottle out and invest in some new colors.
The Best Nails of Your Life
Painting your nails is a great hobby for both manicure enthusiasts and anyone who wants to change up their style. However, this relaxing activity can quickly turn into frustration when your polish refuses to dry and creates a mess.
Fortunately, with the help of our pro tips, you have many different options to speed up the drying time of your nails, so you can quickly get back to your day with your nails looking their best.