Top Tips On How To Dry Nail Polish Fast

Time to freshen your nails up at home?

There’s nothing better than a freshly painted set of nails, but the problem with using nail polish at home is that your nails can take a long time to dry.

But don’t let that put you off! Read on for our top nail polish drying hacks, and get ready for smooth, smudge-free nails without the wait!

Table of Contents:

Why does nail polish take so long to dry?

What are the best products to speed up the drying process?

Quick-drying top coat

Drying drops

How else can I make my nail polish dry fast?

Apply thin coats of polish

Choose lighter shades of polish

Does hairspray make nails dry faster?

Does cold water dry nail polish?

Conclusion: Can I make my nail polish dry quickly?

Why does nail polish take so long to dry?

Even if a base coat, two fine coats of nail polish and a topcoat are applied, most nail polishes can still take up to a couple of hours to dry fully. 

To avoid smudging, it’s probably best to paint your nails on a day when you don’t have to be anywhere in a hurry. Otherwise, moving around too soon may cause your newly painted nails to smudge and chip.

If your nail polish takes much longer to dry than it should, this could be caused by a few factors. 

The first could be your base coat or, more importantly, lack of it. Applying a base coat is a crucial part of the nail polish application process and helps it adhere to your nail’s surface. Without it, it’s easier for your nail varnish to slip and smudge.

Applying too thick a coat to your nails can impact your polish’s drying time, causing it to be tacky for hours after application. Always opt for thin coats for a much more convenient drying process.

What are the best products to speed up drying your nails?

If you want to learn how to make nail polish dry quickly, it’s best to start investing in additional products to help you achieve a perfect manicure. . 

Here are some of our favourites and why we recommend them:

 Quick-drying top coat

Add a shine to your nails, speed up drying time and prevent them from chipping by applying a quick-drying topcoat to your newly applied polish.

Specially formulated to cut out drying time, they solidify quickly and seal off the polish to prevent chips, lumps and bumps.

A good top coat can be the difference between a quick-to-chip manicure and a long-lasting one, so switch out your current topcoat and choose a quick-drying one instead.

Here are some of our favourites:

Sally Hansen quick drying top coat
  • Jessica Quick Dry 60 Second Topcoat sits halfway between a topcoat and drying drops. Each drop of oil creates an invisible film across the surface of your nail to speed up the drying process and protect your nails from bumps and scratches.
Jessica quick drying top coat

Apply your nail polish in thin layers for a quicker drying time before adding your quick-drying top coat for best results.

Drying drops

Unlike topcoats, drying drops don’t add an extra layer to your manicured nails. 

Usually dropped onto the nail using a pipette, they have a quick-drying formula that helps protect the nail polish surface to prevent it from smudging whilst it dries and helps the solvent in the nail polish to evaporate much more quickly.

Easy to use, most drying drops are applied to the nail a couple of minutes after the topcoat. After a few minutes (or as advised by the product instructions), hands can be rinsed in cold water to remove the drying drops’ oily residue.

We recommend the following drying drops for flawless nails every time:

  • China Glaze Fast Free Quick Dry Liquid dries up to 5 coats of lacquer in 30 seconds, penetrating the layers for a quick-drying finish. Complete with an insertable pipette, drop onto each nail plate to accelerate the drying process.
  • Zoya Fast Drops Speed Dry Drops dries polish right through, from base coat to top coat. Protecting bubbles from forming, it also enhances colour vibrance and keeps your manicure protected for up to two weeks.

Alongside these essential products, here are our top tips on some home remedies and life hacks so that you’ll never need to wait forever for your nail polish to dry again!

How to make nail polish dry faster

Apply thin coats of polish

apply thin layers to make your nail polish dry faster

If you tend to apply two thick coats of nail polish, this could be why your nails take so long to dry. 

Instead of going for thick coats, try to apply multiple coats of thin nail polish to each nail. Although the application process might take longer, you’ll have a much faster drying time overall and a more even finish that’s less likely to smudge.

Practice by applying your first coat to your thumbnail, as this is a much larger surface to work with. Remove excess polish from your brush, and layer onto your nail as thin as possible.

Leave a couple of minutes between each coat, and apply polish to each nail one at a time, repeating the process in the same order as you layer up your coats.

Choose lighter shades of polish.

how to make nail polish dry fast -  light nail polish against dark skin

Darker colours contain pigments that take much longer to dry than those in lighter coloured polishes, so it might be time to change your colour if you really can’t wait for your nails to dry. 

Lighter shades tend to be more forgiving and show fewer mistakes, so you’ll be less likely to see significant smudges.

Whichever colour you choose, always leave drying time between coats.

Baby oil can help with drying time.

Although not proven to reduce drying time, baby oil, cooking oil, and olive oil can prevent clothing and other unwanted fibres from sticking to your nails whilst drying. Not only that, but the moisturising properties in the oil will help to soften up your cuticles too!

Add a drop to each nail, and when the oil begins to sit on top of the polish’s surface, this is a good indication that it’s dry.

Rinse in cold water and wipe away with a paper towel after application. 

Use a hairdryer on a cool setting.

Switching your hairdryer to cool is a great way to reduce the drying time of your polish.

Since the polymers in nail varnish dry quicker in cold air, blast each hand in turn with your hairdryer to help that polish to set.

Always use cool air to prevent your polish from bubbling, so you don’t burn your skin.

Does hairspray make nails dry faster?

Using hairspray to dry your nail polish is a great life hack if you’ve run out of nail hardening spray.

Performing in the same way, it sets the top layer of the polish easily, so you can go about your day without worrying about smudges.

Allow your nail polish to set for a few minutes, then spray hairspray onto your nails’ surface from eight to ten inches away. After a few more minutes, rinse your hands in cold water to remove the sticky residue.

Hairspray will only set the top layer of polish, so you’ll still need to take care to avoid deeper chips.

Does cold water dry nail polish?

A long-standing life hack, cold water has always been rumoured as the saviour of smudge-free, quick-drying nails.

Although it doesn’t decrease the drying process, water can thicken the nail polish, creating the appearance of a quick-drying surface.

However, it can help you know when your nail polish is dry. Wait until your polish has started to set, then submerge your nails in a bowl of cold tap water for a few minutes. When the water begins to sit in beads on the nail’s surface, this is a sign that your polish has set.

Can I make my nail polish dry quickly?

If you love a home manicure, the best way to keep it looking at its best is to invest in a good quick drying top coat and some drying drops. 

Products such as these penetrate all layers of the polish for a deeper dry, saving time and money on replacement nail polish should yours smudge.

Although home remedy hacks can help, such as blow-drying your nails on a cool setting or applying hairspray to your nails, they seal the top layer only, so further smudging could still occur.

Once you’ve applied your manicure in thin layers, from base coat to quick-drying topcoat, avoid waving your arms around, exercising or participating in activities that could cause your nails to chip or smudge until you’re sure that they’re dry.

For stunning manicures at home, browse our full selection of nail polishes, and shop the links above for all of our best products to set that that manicure in place. 

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