Does UV Light Dry Nail Polish?

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Discover whether UV light does dry nail polish or not and many ways to dry nail polish faster

Having our nails done is something we all enjoy until it gets to the drying stage; waiting for nail polish to dry is long, tedious, and something we all try to avoid. As we know, there are other types of manicures that have faster drying processes, but regular nail polish is simply just air drying. Something that gets asked all the time is; does UV light dry nail polish?

UV light is used for gel polish, and many people question whether it’ll work for regular nail polish; well, the answer is no, UV light does not dry regular nail polish. Although if you did try it, the heat from the light would speed up the drying process, it is not a method that is recommended for regular nail polish.

This post looks at why UV light doesn’t dry nail polish and alternative methods that help dry nail polish a lot faster than air drying. There are also the answers to some frequently asked questions about regular nail polish.

Does UV light dry nail polish?

No UV light does not dry regular nail polish; it only dries only gel polish; however, if you try to use a Uv light, the heat from the light will speed up the drying process for regular nail polish.

Regular nail polish is made with solvent bases, and they use evaporation to dry, so using UV light will not only waste your time, but it stops the natural process for the solvent to evaporate.

As we all know, light gives off heat, and the heat can potentially help speed up evaporation, but it is not advised as it will still take longer than allowing it to air dry. Also, too much exposure to UV lights can be dangerous and cause us harm, so it is not recommended.

How to dry regular nail polish?

Regular nail polish takes between 1 to 3 hours to completely dry; now, if you’re anything like me, I don’t have the patience or the time to sit and not do anything for that length of time.

So, finding a quicker way to speed it up is something I’d always look for, and although UV lights do not dry regular nail polish, there are so many ways to lessen the drying time for regular nail polish. Here we have five products and tips to help your nails dry quicker.

Nail Fan

If you are used to getting your nails done at a nail salon, you have most likely seen one and probably used them a few times; nail fans are one of the most common ways to dry your nail polish professionally and at home.

Nail fans are designed to speed up nail polish drying; they gently blow either warm or cool air, making the evaporation faster. They can speed up the drying process by 30-40%, which is great if you have a busy lifestyle and don’t have the time to let them air dry.

There are so many types of nail fans to choose from, so try and get one that has the option of warm and cool air as this allows you to choose what you prefer and what works better for you.

A hairdryer

If you don’t want to buy a nail fan, that’s fine; there are alternatives, such as a hairdryer. A hairdryer works in the same way as a nail fan, and it has the same results. Ensure that you set the hair dryer at the lowest speed setting and the coolest temperature; otherwise, it could damage your manicure.

This is a great alternative as it saves you money from buying a specific product. Also, it’s an item that most people have in their household, so if you are ever stuck in an emergency, and you need to dry your nails as fast as possible, a hairdryer is your answer.

Nail polish dry spray

Nail polish dry sprays are specially designed to speed up the drying process; they contain specific chemicals that speed up the evaporation rate of liquids, which is exactly what is needed for your nail polish to dry faster.

These are great to use; you often see them being used in nail salons, as your nails could be dry within a few minutes rather than the many hours it usually takes. 

Once you’ve finished painting your nails, all you need to do is allow them to sit for a few minutes to start drying naturally. Then take the dry spray and spray a good amount on your nails from about 6 inches distance, making sure you cover each whole nail.

Leave that to sit on your nails for about 1 – 2 minutes, and then wash your hands with cold water to remove any excess and wipe with a paper towel.

Hairspray and cooking oil spray

If you don’t have any nail polish dry spray, then there are great household alternatives you can use, such as hairspray or cooking oil sprays. These items have substances that speed up the process of evaporation in nail polish, so these are great to use.

All you need to do is follow the same steps as the nail polish dry spray; just make sure to spray it from a further distance, like 8 inches. This to make sure the force of the spray doesn’t cause air bubbles on the polish.

Applying thin layers

This one may seem very simple, but applying thin layers will help your nail polish dry quicker. When applying your nail polish, if there’s too much polish on the brush, it will apply think and clumpy and take a lot longer to dry; some people even find that the nail polish ends up being very soft and never fully dries.

To prevent this from happening, all you need to do is wipe one side of the brush on the nail polish bottle’s neck, as this will get rid of some of the nail polish on the brush.

After applying each layer, allow them to dry for about 1 minute before applying the next layer; this gives it a little more time for the evaporating process to start before you layer it. 

Cold Water

Placing your hands in water can help your nails dry a lot faster. All you need to do is get a bowl of cold water, some choose to add ice as it works faster, but it is unnecessary. Once you have finished painting your nails, allow them to air dry for about two minutes, so they start to set slightly. 

Then place your hands in the water, making sure they are fully covered, and leave them in there for roughly five minutes; if you chose to use ice water, it might be less. This ensures that the nail polish has adhered properly to the nail, and it’ll “harden” the nail polish. 

Once the time is up, remove your hands from the water; you should be able to see water beading on top of the nail polish, if you see this, then it means that your nail polish is dry.

If you don’t see this straight after removing your hands, you need to put them back in for a few minutes. When you see the signs of your nail polish being dry, you can then dry your hands and nails using a paper towel.

Frequently asked questions

Do LED nail dryers work on regular polish?

No LED nail dryers to do not regular nail polish; LED dryers only dry specific gel nail polishes. However, if you apply a gel topcoat, once the regular nail polish has dried, you can cure the topcoat with a LED nail dryer, if it is a LED gel.

I’d advised you not to use any light curing techniques for regular nail polish as it doesn’t work and too much exposure can be dangerous, so it is best to stay away from them if it is not needed.

Can you put a gel top coat over regular nail polish?

Yes, you can put a gel top coat over regular nail polish, but you can only apply it once the regular nail polish has completely dried. If you apply it too early, then the regular nail polish won’t ever dry and could cause damage to your natural nail and ruin your manicure. You also need to make sure you cure the top coat so that it hardens properly.

How can I make my nail polish last like gel?

There are many ways you can make your nail polish last, like gel, but a few key ones include applying a gel topcoat. This adds the same seal as gel nails, which is a lot stronger than regular nail polish, so that it won’t chip as quickly. 

Another way would be to avoid getting nail polish on your cuticles; as your cuticles move around a lot more than your nails, the nail polish on your cuticles will eventually break off and chip. So, to avoid this, you need to use a cotton bud soaked in acetone to tidy up your nails and prevent them from chipping. 

Finally, we all shake the nail polish bottle; if you do this, then this is the reason why your nail polish chips straight away. Shaking the bottle creates air bubbles in the nail polish, which, when applied to your nails, causes the nail polish to break up and chip almost instantly.

To avoid this from happening and to make your nail polish last better, roll the bottle in the palm of your hands; it gives an even colour without the air bubbles.


I hope this has been helpful and you have found a new way of drying your nail polish. Your time is valuable, and we don’t want you to waste it drying your nails; give these methods a go to find which one works best for you.

Each of these methods does work and is quite popular, but everyone is different, so they may not all work for you, but there is definitely the best one for you and your manicure.

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