A Manicurist's Tips For Making Nails Dry Faster

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The wait for nail polish to dry is undeniably the most frustrating part of getting your nails done. We've all experienced the disappointment of smudging our freshly painted nails during everyday activities, such as opening car doors, changing clothes, or even just breathing the wrong way. This can truly dampen the experience, especially when you've invested in a salon manicure. However, there's a silver lining: drying time varies depending on the type of polish you choose. To help you navigate this nail conundrum, we've sought advice from renowned celebrity manicurists Sonya Meesh and Jin Soon Choi to gather all the essential information on how long it takes for nail polish to dry — and how to make nail polish dry faster.

Your nails deserve perfection, and you deserve the freedom to do whatever you please without worrying about ruining your polish. Read on to discover typically how long nails take to dry, effective ways to expedite the drying process, and expert-recommended products to assist you along the way.

How Long Does Nail Polish Take to Dry?

According to Choi, "Regular nail polish usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes to dry, depending on the thickness of the coats applied." However, some formulas can take up to one hour. Sheer polish, with its lower color pigment content, tends to dry faster compared to dark colors or thick-formula polishes. If you're using glitters or sheer colors, they generally dry quicker and are more forgiving when it comes to smudges.

Fast-drying nail polishes are specifically formulated with ingredients that promote quicker drying times. These polishes often contain solvents that evaporate more rapidly, allowing the polish to dry within one to five minutes — each brand of polish may have its own claims of dry time. As a general rule of thumb, "It's best to avoid touching anything for 15 minutes to be on the safe side," Meesh says.

How to Dry Nail Polish Fast

To dry nail polish quickly, Choi recommends a technique used at JINsoon salons. They have a dryer installed under the manicure table, allowing them to apply one layer of polish and let it dry while working on the other hand. This process helps speed up drying time between layers. "If you're doing your nails at home, you can use a hair dryer on a cold setting," says Choi, who personally uses this method when she's in a rush, ensuring the polish dries faster.

Another way to expedite the drying process and provide a protective seal, as recommended by Choi, is to use quick-dry topcoats, like JINsoon Top Gloss ($18), or quick-dry drops, like the OPI Drip Dry Lacquer Drying Drops ($14). These products are designed to accelerate drying time while giving a glossy finish. Remember to wait a couple of minutes after applying the polish for it to partially dry before applying the quick-dry drops. To achieve fast-drying results, ensure that the nail surface is 100 percent dry (this is crucial) and free from any oil residue. Additionally, using a quick-drying polish formulated for fast results — like the Olive & June Quick Dry Nail Polish ($9) — and applying thin layers of polish can help speed up the drying process.

How to Prevent Nails From Smudging

Even if your nail polish feels dry to the touch, it can still be vulnerable to smudging or denting until it fully dries. "Nail polish dries from the outside surface to the nail, so even though it may seem dry with a gentle touch, the underlying layers of the polish may not have completely dried," Choi says. To minimize the risk of smudging, she advises painting thin layers of polish, allowing each layer a better chance to dry thoroughly. The drying time can also vary depending on the viscosity of the formulas and the pigmentation level of the polish.

According to Meesh, smudging can also occur when you mistakenly assume the nails are dry after applying the topcoat without allowing sufficient time for the layers of polish underneath to fully dry. It's important to note that the topcoat may have a faster drying time, which can create a false impression of readiness.

To avoid smudging your freshly painted nails altogether, Meesh suggests only getting a manicure when you have some free time to sit around. "I personally do mine while I'm watching TV at night or listening to an audiobook." If you tend to have accidents and smudge your nails easily, it might also be a good idea to consider using gel polish or press-on nails, as they provide a more durable and long-lasting manicure.