Nail Polish Guide: How Long Does It Take Gel Nail Polish to Dry?

how long does it take gel nail polish to dry

One of the easiest ways to look great when stepping out of your house to work or a special event is to wear beautiful nail polish.

However, when you are running late, you may feel like it’s not a good idea to paint your nails because you don’t know if the nail polish will be fully dry before you get to where you are going. So, everyone wants to know: How long does it take gel nail polish to dry? Read on to find out.

What Is Gel Nail Polish?

Gel Nail Polish

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A gel nail polish is a type of nail polish made from strong ingredients, including acrylic oligomers and monomers. These ingredients enable it to hold on to your nails tighter than the traditional lacquers.

Therefore, it can withstand daily wear and tear to last for several weeks without chipping. Compared to the traditional lacquers, a gel nail polish is more flexible and is cured under LED or UV lights and in oxygen.

Today, many people are painting their nails with gel nail polish because it has proved to be indestructible, completely glossy, and readily available. This type of nail polish can last for a long time without chipping, especially when you are digging through your handbag. It will remain intact for several weeks, keeping your nails looking perfect, even without a retouch.

How to Dry Gel Nail Polish


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As mentioned above, gel nail polish is made with acrylic oligomers and monomers that bond together when exposed to UV and LED lights. This process is commonly referred to as curing. When the gel is exposed to these lights, it turns into a tough coating that is resistant to chemicals.

However, many people still want to know if they can dry their gel nail polish by simply allowing it to air dry. Regrettably, this is impossible because gel nail polish can’t dry in the presence of oxygen. When the gel is exposed to oxygen, its molecules can’t hold together and harden, making it hard for your gel nail polish to air dry.

Fortunately, the process of curing gel nail polish isn’t very complicated. This process involves the use of LED or UV light. You just place your hands under the UV or LED lamp and turn it on. Your hands should sit still under the lamp until it goes off.

Fortunately, there are many affordable UV and LED gel nail polish lamps that you can use to cure your nails. The light in this lamp is designed to go off automatically when the gel is completely dry and hardened. Also, these lamps can cure the entire hand at once, so you won’t have to cure each nail at a time. Others allow you to cure your fingers and thumbs separately.

But is there any difference between a UV and an LED gel nail polish lamp? These lamps are designed to perform the same task, so they don’t have any major difference. However, an LED lamp tends to be faster in terms of curing gel nail polish than a UV lamp.

It’s also important to note that UV light is found in both sources of LED and UV light. The UV wavelengths in both lights perform the curing process, ensuring that your gel nail polish hardens completely without blurring or chipping.

These wavelengths are commonly referred to as photoinitiators. They compound the gel nail polish, allowing the gels in the polish to come together in a process called polymerization.

Once the molecules come together, your gel nail polish hardens and creates a coating that will remain firmly attached to your nails for weeks without chipping.

However, the LED light emits wavelengths that are narrower and have more energy than wavelengths emitted by UV lights. Therefore, an LED lamp will dry your gel nail polish much faster than a UV lamp.

Do Gel Nails Dry Instantly?


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As mentioned above, gel nail polish doesn’t dry instantly because of the oxygen in the air. The oxygen prevents the molecules in the gel to bond, keeping it in gooey form. So, you shouldn’t waste your time trying to air dry your gel nails because they will take longer to dry. And when they dry out, they will be blurry and the gel will come off easily.

It’s also important to mention that gel nails can dry instantly when cured under a UV or LED lamp. The lamps generate wavelengths that flare up the bonding process of the molecules in the gel, allowing your nails to dry quickly without appearing blurry or chipping easily.

How Long Does It Take Gel Nail Polish to Dry?


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It’s needless to say that gel nail polish requires professional curing under the UV or LED lamp. Therefore, the time it takes to cure all your nails depends on the type of gel nail polish curing light you are using. As noted above, an LED lamp dries gel nail polish faster than A UV lamp.

When you dry your gel nails under a UV lamp, their base coat will take between 60 and 90 seconds to harden, while their topcoat takes another 60-90 seconds to dry. With an LED gel nail polish lamp, the first layer of your gel polish will dry within 30 seconds, while the second layer takes another half a minute to harden.

Many of the latest UV and LED nail polish lamps come with bulbs that go off automatically when the gel is completely dry. Fortunately, this process takes a few seconds. So, you don’t have to worry about exposing your skin to UV light for a long time.

How Do You Make Gel Nail Polish Dry Faster?


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Although using an LED gel polish curing lamp helps to dry your gel nails faster, there are several other simple methods that you can use to flare up the drying process.

  • Quick-Drying Gel Polish

Now you can buy a clear topcoat of gel nail polish that’s specially designed to dry much faster. Fortunately, most of the quick-drying gel nail polishes are as affordable or even more affordable than regular nail polishes.

These quick-drying options are also touted as capable of adding a layer of sheen to your nail, preventing chipping, and drying in less than a minute.

  • Cold Water

This is a rather elaborate trick that requires some prep work. So, before you start painting your nails with gel polish, put cold water in a small bowl and add ice cubes to it. Once you’ve painted all your nails, wait for two minutes to allow the gel polish to fully adhere to your nails.

Then dip your nails in the water and hold for five minutes. When you remove your nails from the water, you’ll notice water beading on their surface. This shows that the polish is completely dry.

  • Hair Dryer

With your hair dryer plugged in, set it to “cool air” and leave it on as you paint your nails. When you are done polishing your nails, blow them with cold air for about one minute.

Since you are going to hold the hairdryer with one hand, it’s more reasonable to start by polishing nails on one hand and dry them first before polishing the other hand. Remember to set your hairdryer to cold air because hot air can burn your fingers.

  • Oil Spray

Olive oil, cooking oil, and baby oil sprays can help you to dry your gel nails much faster. Just put the oil in a decanter to control the amount that’s sprayed on your gel nails. This procedure doesn’t require a lot of oil. A single drop on each nail is enough.

When you spray your nails with oil, hold your hands stead for about one or two minutes to allow the oil to work to dry your nails. Please note that thinner gel nail polish dries faster through this method. Wipe your nails with a clean towel when the oil starts to bead on the surface because it shows the gel is completely dry.

  • Drying Drops

Gel nail drying drops are readily available at beauty stores and on the internet. Many people prefer them over quick-drying topcoats because they don’t add an extra layer to the manicure. Apart from helping your gel nails to dry faster, these drops will also condition your cuticles because they’re obtained from oil.

Why Is My Gel Nail Polish Not Drying?


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If your gel nail polish takes too long to dry, it means that it hasn’t been cured properly. It could be a problem with your gel polish drying lamp. For example, the bulbs on your UV lamp could be broken. So, it’s important to replace the bulbs once in a while, especially when the nail drying process begins to take longer than normal.

Also, maybe you are removing your nails from underneath the UV or LED light too early. Remember that you are supposed to remove your nails from the light when the bulb goes off automatically.

Another reason why your gel nails may take longer to dry is that you are applying very thick gel polish. So, make it as thin as possible, but make sure it covers your nails properly.

Tips on How to Get a Great Gel Nail Finish


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Applying gel nail polish isn’t rocket science, but it requires attention to detail and a bit of creativity. It’s also a form of art that requires practice. If you don’t have time to go to the salon for nail polish, you use these tips to give your nails a makeover.

1. Prepare Well

Painting your nails with gel polish may seem like a simple task, but if you fail to prepare, you will end up ruining your nails. So, start by pushing your cuticles back with a cuticle pusher. You can also snip off the dead cuticles with cuticle snippers.

Then buff your nails with a nail buffer to give your gel polish something to hold on to. This helps your manicure to last longer. Then, remove dust and debris from your nails using a cotton pad or a brush with acetone.

2. Apply Thin Layers of Gel Polish

As mentioned earlier, you should apply thick layers of gel nail polish because they’ll take longer to dry. So, make them thin. Thin layers are easy to cure and remove if you mess up one layer between coats.

3. Cap the Free Edges

Don’t make the mistake of leaving the edges of your gel nails uncapped. This means covering the entire nail with gel polish. Make sure the gel goes a little under the nail to cap the edges fully. This prevents your gel nails from chipping and developing scratches.

4. Remove Wet Gel Polish

Make sure the gel nail polish doesn’t get to your cuticles and sidewalls. But if it accidentally spreads to any of these areas, dip a brush or cotton pad in acetone and clean up your fingers. The unwanted gel polish should be removed before you cure your nails under the lamp. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to remove it later.

5. Take Care of Your Nails

Taking care of your gel nails is as important as applying gel polish. So, don’t forget to apply cuticle oil and hand ointment after painting your nails because the acetone used when polishing your nails can leave your nails dry. The ointment helps to moisturize your gel nails to prevent them from developing cracks.

Gretchen Walker
Gretchen is a homemaker by day and writer by night. She takes a keen interest in life as it unfolds around her and spends her free time observing people go about their everyday affairs.