6 Clever Ways to Dry Your Nail Polish In Nearly No-Time

Because time is money.

If you take all the time and energy to give yourself a DIY manicure, the last thing you want is for your hard work to be ruined by an inconvenient smudge. But let’s be honest: No one likes to wait for their polish to dry—especially when multiple coats are involved. Sure, blowing on your fingertips might speed up the process a tiny bit, but it’s not quite the same experience as sitting under the dryer at the salon.

To speed things up a bit, we talked to two nail experts for their advice on how to quickly dry nails. These tips are made for impatient people like us, so we can all spend more time going about our day, and less time waiting for our precious polish to dry.

How to dry nails fast:

Use thin, even coats of paint.

“I usually paint my nail polish in light, thin layers so each layer can dry,” says Chillhouse‘s lead nail tech and nail artist, Molly Romah. The thicker your nail polish is, the longer it will take to dry, so using a delicate hand is key. “After each layer, allow one to two minutes for that layer to dry before applying the next layers,” she says.

“It’s also important to wait for the previous layer to dry to the touch before applying the next, says Annie Howley, celebrity and editorial manicurist for Orosa Beauty. “This ensures you’re building color on a solid foundation.” So, not only will thinner coats help your mani dry faster, but it will also provide an even color payoff and a smooth finish.

Select a fast-dry nail polish.

essie quick dry nail polish

Shop It! $9, ulta.com

“I always look out for nail polish brands that have ‘fast-dry’ in the name when I’m looking to make the drying process go quickly,” says Romah. The formula for these polishes is essentially the same as regular polish, but they contain higher levels of solvents, which evaporate quicker and reduces the overall dry time. Some quick-dry polishes, like this 2020 Beauty Crush Award winner from Essie, boast dryness in just about 60 seconds flat. How’s that for fast?

Apply a quick-dry topcoat.

quick dry topcoat, how to dry nails fast

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Sometimes our favorite nail color isn’t available in a quick-dry option, which is where a topcoat like this one comes in handy. This cult-favorite products cures the layers of your nail polish in one easy brushstroke, coating the nail and creating a hard, protective barrier that dries fast and won’t smudge.

Spritz on a little cooking spray.

cooking spray, how to dry nails fast

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If your nails are taking forever to dry and you’re pressed for time, spritzing some cooking spray on them is a quick an easy option that will temporarily prevent smudging. It won’t actually dry the polish, but it will work similarly to the oil drops you find in salons that create a slick, protective surface that won’t interfere with your polish while it’s still wet.

For best results, spray the oil at least six inches away from your hands and wipe off your fingertips after as this can leave them a bit greasy. 

Soak your nails in ice water.

Nail polish hardens when it is cold, so Romah says another great tip is to let your nails dry for about 60 seconds, then dip them in a bowl of cold ice water for one to two minutes. “Be careful not to let your nails touch the ice,” she warns, since that could create smudging. “I like to use the cooking spray on my nails before dipping them in the water to protect the polish.”

Blast your nails with cool air.

Another way to dry and harden your polish is with cool air. Though salons use fancy fans to do this, you can use your hairdryer for the same effect. Switch the dryer to the cool setting (not hot, as this will keep the polish from firming), then use it on your nails for 30 to 60 seconds to lock in the lacquer.

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