How Long Does It Take for Nail Polish to Dry Completely?

If you’ve painted your nails before, chances are, you know how dooming it feels to smudge your polish before it’s dried. You admire the color, turn your fingers in the light, and then lightly tap your polished nail beds to test it, only to accidentally end up leaving a fingerprint behind. 

Or, worse yet, your nails pass the tap test, but then you go to grab your keys and end up finding a knick in your fresh coat. There is no way around it — smudging your nail polish sucks. 

In this guide, we’re going to share with you some information below that will help you understand how to best achieve and maintain top-quality manicures. To learn the answer to the question: “how long does nail polish take to dry?”, read on!

The Short Answer

When you’re doing your at-home nail routine, nail polish drying time will depend on the layers of polish you apply. If you paint on a base coat, two coats of color and finish off with a top coat, it should take one to two hours to completely dry. If the polish you used is free of formaldehyde, however, it can take longer. 

Additionally, if you make sure to apply your polishes quickly, evenly and in thin layers on clean nails that have already been painted with topcoats, polishes can dry pretty fast. Healthy nails ultimately make for the best candidates for a good polish painting. So if you use acrylics often, be sure to remove them safely to keep your nails healthy.

How to Dry Nails More Quickly

Let’s be honest — having patience isn’t always easy. And when it comes to giving yourself a manicure and waiting for the polish to dry, patience is basically a requirement. To support you in a short-drying process, we’re sharing with you some tips below on how to help your nails dry more quickly:

  • Always use a base coat. It’s important that no matter what, you always remember to do this step in your nail-painting routine — definitely don’t skip the base coat. 
  • Thin layers. When you’re applying your polish, for a fast drying time, it’s best to keep your layers thin and quick. 
  • Stay away from old polishes. When you’re going through your stock of polish colors, avoid choosing any that are sticky and old (specifically older than six months). If its consistency is thick, it’s past its prime and best not used for your mani. 
  • Get a good quality top coat. Make sure to get yourself a top coat that is good quality: Sally Hansen is generally a good buy. 
  • Make sure you’re oil-free. Before polishing your nails, you’ll want to be sure your hands aren’t greasy or oily, as this will cause the polish to bubble and chip. 
  • Apply a nail drying spray or quick dry oil. Either of these nail items are perfect for speeding up the drying process and protecting your nails from smearing. 
  • Stick your nails under cold water. Alternatively, you can dip your fingers into a bowl of ice water for 3 seconds. The reason this works is because the sharp difference in temperature keeps color in place. However, just remember to be cautious while drying your hands afterward.

Maintaining Your Mani

If you made it through the dreaded two hour drying time, that’s wonderful, but it doesn’t mean that your nail polish will remain smudge-free. There are best practices to help you make your manicure last as long as possible. 

For example, if you’re going to do any cleaning or something that involves using chemicals, wear gloves. The reason this will help is because it keeps your polish from coming into contact with cleaning chemicals, and therefore drying out. 

Another technique that helps your mani last long is applying a cuticle oil a couple times each day. This works by keeping your cuticles and nails hydrated. Lastly, you can always freshen up your mani by applying a new top coat every 3 to 4 days until your next manicure. 

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