Beauty & Health

How Long Does it Take for Nail Polish to Dry?

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Getting a new manicure does feeling exciting. However, many of us have probably once in our lifetime went to bed and woke up with a messed up nail polish. Just know that having a perfect and long-lasting manicure can happen, as long as you know how to apply the nail polish properly. If you are wondering how to achieve only the best results then you are at a right place.

Approximately, your nail polish can dry in 2 hours. You can still use your hands during this waiting period, but be careful with the nails themselves. Many polishes will dry 5-20 minutes after they are applied, but it takes about 2 hours for the color to completely set.

How Long Does Nail Polish take to Dry

However, there are always some steps that you need to follow and rules that you need to read if you want to achieve the best salon like manicures. If you want to have the best-looking manicure that dries fast then make sure you follow these steps!

1. Know Your Dry Time

Not every nail polish dries fast, the same, or as efficient. If your nail polish is old, expired, or it is by some weird and unknown brand, chances are you might not get your desired outcome. Make sure you buy a well known and trust brand before proceeding with your painting skills. Also, know your nail polish finish. Matte nail polishes dry super fast, while gel polishes, sheer, sparkly, glitter, or clear ones will dry a lot slower. However, all of these factors depend on your base coat, top coat, or patience level, as well as the ingredients of the polish.

2. Apply Thin Coats

Slow and steady, as well as ”little by little” rule applies here when doing your nails. Always make sure you are building up your nail polish instead of just applying thick unneeded coats. Once you apply your first coat, let it dry for at least 2 minutes before going in with another. You can also use UV lamps when drying your nails or just wait it out while reading some posts or watching the TV.

How Long Does Nail Polish take to Dry

3. Cuticle Oil

Cuticle oil is a great choice for your nails, hands, and cuticles. The oil will provide moisture, as well as the extra protective layer between your nail polish and external factors. You can use it once you are done with the manicure and simply ”seal the deal” with this and your top coat on top. Cuticle oil can easily be purchased at any drugstore, plus it smells lovely and it provides the ultimate moisture.

4. Hair Dryer

Use your hair dryer if you are impatient and if you are in a rush. This is also a great substitute if you don’t own a UV lamp. Make sure you put it on low or cool heat setting instead of just using hot steamy air. Hold the dryer about 6 inches away from your nails and leave it on for 1-2 minutes. Your polish will set in that time and will look and feel dry. However, make sure you give it another 30 minutes just to be completely sure.

More: How to Get Nail Polish Out of Clothes

5. Layering

After you are done applying your desired coats, don’t think about redoing or adding more. The perfect manicure should be consistent out of 2 colorful layers, and not more. When it comes to the proper layering, it should look something like this:

  • A primer (your base coat) can be purchased at any drugstore and should be applied only once. A highly talked about nail base is the one by OPI called the Natural Nail Base Coat.
  • Two layers of your favorite nail polish color. It can be any brand, any finish, and any color you wish for. Just make sure you are doing two coats.
  • Your top coat. This will help you put everything in place and will give you the right amount of protection.
  • Once you are done applying all of these coats let them air dry for at least 2 hours. If you have a UV lamp you can use it and cure your nails under it for 2 minutes.

6. Clean Surface

If you did all of the above and you are still experiencing some weird issues, then your nails might be dirty. Your nails should be clean (free of dust, oils, dirt, nail creams, any type of moisture and etc). You can clean them with warm water, soap, and a little bit of acetone before proceeding with your manicure. Also, make sure your hands are not oily, and make sure your nails are not chipped since this will affect the setting period of your nail polish.

What You Should Avoid

Avoid Interactions

This one may seem weird, but you shouldn’t come in interactions with anyone. Let your hands and nails rest for the next 5-6 hour period. This means no showers, gym, or any humid environments. If you have to do any of these things, better get them done before proceeding with your manicure.

Don’t Go Straight To Bed

Your nails will need some proper time to dry, and the worst thing that you can do is go straight to bed after doing them. You should do your nails in the morning or sometimes throughout the day. However, if you end up doing them at night, you can run some cold water over the polish 2 minutes after your appliance. Leave the water on for 3 minutes and don’t let it go on directly. Lean your nails on the side and make sure your water pressure is low. If you fail to do this properly your manicure might smudge, so better be careful.

Don’t Make Small Strokes

One stroke shouldn’t be your strategy. As you probably know it or you’ve experienced it somewhere at the salon, you need to make 3-4 strokes per one nail. One single and small stroke won’t look nice, precise, or even. Also, the color might fall off in a day to come. When applying your polish start at the middle and then swipe down to the right side and go back and forth between the right and the left side.

More: How to Remove Acrylic Nails Without Acetone

Don’t Shake Your Nail Polish Bottle

This might seem like a weird step, but you shouldn’t shake your polish. It might create weird bubbles because some air might be trapped on the inside. These bubbles are a bit problematic since they can leave a nasty mark on your nail. So, the less air you make, the better for your nails. Also, don’t pump the brush back and forth in the bottle since this will create some additional unwanted air. Just roll the nail polish bottle in your hands as you’d do if you were playing with dough and then apply it over your nails.

What You Need To Have

Now once you’ve mastered all of these rules, here is the list of items that you need to have in order to have the best manicure.

  1. High-quality nail lacquer- Either try out Essie or OPI. They are very well made and highly talked about around the globe. Make sure your polish is no older than 1-2 years before doing your manicure.
  2. Base Coat – It can be any type as long as it is clear and it isn’t outdated.
  3. Top Coat – You can purchase even mattifying top coats, so make sure you know what to look for based on the style that you are going for. If you love shiny nails don’t set them with a mattifying top coat and vice versa.
  4. Nail polish remover, non-acetone – This can come in handy during your clean up process. You can use it around the edges of your nails or on the nail itself.
  5. Cotton balls – You will have to pick up the acetone with them.
  6. Q-tips – You can use them if you are aiming for precision and you want to clean the corners of your fingers the best.


With your proper equipment, you can have a flawless manicure. If you are someone who hates redoing their nail polish every now and then, then you might find these tricks and tips helpful. Women who have dry nails or hands should definitely purchase a good cuticle and hair cream/oil in order to see and feel the difference. Also, if you are over fake nails, gels, and acrylics, you should definitely try out these 6 must and 4 must not do helpful guides.