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Expert Tips To Cut Your Nail Polish Drying Time

Last Updated on December 28, 2020

How long does nail polish take to dry?

Ever found yourself painting your nails and wondering how long does it actually take for those pretty colors to dry?

We’ve all been there after spending time doing our nails at home then going to reach for something and it’s game over, your perfect manicure now a smudged mess.

Painting your nails takes both time and patience- which is hard to come by these days. We try our hardest walking around with our hands out in front of us so we don’t smudge on the corner of the door. But just when you think it’s dry it has other plans.

If you’ve ever gone to bed with freshly painted nails you’ll know the pain of waking up to the realization that they weren’t completely dry.

But keep reading to find out exactly how long it takes for nail polish to dry and a couple of ways you can speed up the process. So you can have that beauty at home.

dried nail polosh ready for work cut down

So how long does it take nail polish to dry completely?

This is a question we always ask ourselves if you have applied a base coat, two coats of color, and a topcoat how long should it take these nails to dry?

Ideally, it should take only two to three hours to dry. However, formaldehyde-free polishes (like OPI and ZOYA) can take longer, some taking up to 24 of air drying to dry fully.

You may be looking at your nails after a couple of minutes of application, but if you’ve smudged many nails in the past as I have you’ll know it takes longer than you may have first imagined.

After you’ve finished your nails wait at least 10 to 15 minutes of doing nothing so the paint has a chance of drying and to set.

We’ve all seen it happen.

Right after coming out of the salon you reach for your keys and one nail hasn’t completely dried and smudges.

I feel your pain, girl.

But there are ways you can actually speed up the process and we will get into that now.

How do I make nail polish dry faster?

Here’s a couple of tips and tricks on how to make nails dry faster and overall saving you from the dreaded accidental smudge.

These tips and tricks will help give you dry nails quicker.

Thin layers:

Instead of applying one thick coat of polish apply smooth and thin coats and allow a minute or two drying time in between each later. This may make the applying process longer but it will save you a lot of time in the drying process.

If you apply fewer layers of products it means less drying time!

Cold water:

If you want a super quick and easy way to dry your nails this method is the one for it. Just fill a bowl with ice water and after a minute of drying them plunge your hands in the water and wait for 2 minutes, it will ultimately firm the color and give you dry nails.

But does cold water really dry nail polish? In some ways yes, the cold temperature difference will help firm the polish and keep the color in place. Also, make sure you stay out of hot water and prevent having hot showers for at least 6 hours, this could be game over for a fresh mani-pedi.

Don’t use old nail polish:

if your nail polish is getting old and has a sticky feel about it, don’t then it could be past its time. I would avoid nail polish that’s older than 6 months, the thick consistency will take forever to get dry nails and you won’t get that smooth look you’re looking for. It can also be hard to get right to the edge, or the very tip of your cuticle.

Always use a good top coat and base coat:

The best nail polish base coats prep your nails and a great top coat will trap the color in your nails, and give you a sheen finish that will prevent chipping and can actually give you that quick dry. It will dry quicker on top of the surface even if it’s not completely dry underneath.

Cuticle oil:

Using cuticle oil or a quick-dry oil can actually safeguard your polish color, it provides that extra layer of protection, allowing them to dry quickly and smudge-free. You won’t need much, two or three drops on top of each nail will be plenty and the skin will quickly absorb the oil. You’ll find this is always used if you have your nails done in the salon.

Nail spray:

Unlike cuticle oil, sprays aren’t always the healthiest option for your nails, they can actually dry them out. But if you’re looking for a quick-dry, then using a nail spray will definitely speed up the time to dry and be done in minutes. But it’s not the best method for your nails, I would definitely recommend using cuticle oil over this method


Using a hair-dryer will definitely dry your polish quicker if you use it on a cool setting. All you need to do is hold the hair-dryer 6 inches away from your nails for a minute until set. It will cut your drying time massively.

But why does nail polish take so long to dry?

Why does it take so long for polish to dry?

When we apply thick layers of nail polish it has a lot of layers to penetrate through for your nail to be completely dry all the way through. It takes longer because it requires all of these chemical reactions to harden so you can go about your day smudge-free or chip-free for much longer.

How long should nail polish dry before bed?

Make sure you don’t paint your nails less than 12 hours before you plan on sleeping.

We’ve all been there, a glass of wine in hand deciding at like 9 pm thinking that painting your nails is a good idea. But you’ll find yourself full of smudges the next morning and regret spending so much time on them.

But how long does it take for nail polish to dry?

Some nail polish can take up to 12 hours of air-drying to fully set and some as long as 24 even when applied by an expert.

Trust me it will be worth it in the end.

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