The Ultimate 2023 Guide: How to Dry Your Nails (part 2)


Welcome to the 2nd part of our ultimate guide on how to dry your nails.

For part 1 click here.

Here are all the questions we’ll answer in this section:

Does olive oil help dry nails?

How does oil dry nail polish?

Does baby oil dry nail polish?

Can you use hairspray to dry nails?

Does rubbing alcohol dry nail polish faster?

Does rubbing alcohol dry nail polish?

What dries nail polish?

Does ice water set nail polish?

Why does ice dry nail polish?

Does cold water really dry nail polish?

What light dries nail polish?

Does UV light dry nail polish?

Can I use an LED flashlight to cure gel nails?

Does Hairspray make nail polish dry faster?

Will hairspray dry nails quickly?

Does Hairspray dry nails?

Is it better to let nail polish dry between coats?

Why is my nail polish not drying?

What does rubbing alcohol do to nail polish?

How can I dry my nails faster without smudging?

Why is my gel polish not drying?

Let’s jump right in with our first question.

Does olive oil help dry nails?

does olive oil dry nail polish

No, olive oil does NOT help to dry nails.

However, the propellants in a spray can of olive oil will help to dry your nails faster.

You can use olive oil to dry your nails. But it’s important to note that it isn’t the olive oil itself that speeds up the drying process.

A spray can of olive oil will work to dry your nails. Because there’s a chemical in the spray can called a propellent that works as a quick-drying agent.

So, if you wanna dry your nails with olive oil, you’ll need a spray can, not a bottle.

pam oil spray can for nails

I don’t personally use olive oil. I find it a little bit messy (plus I like my Seche Vite fast drying topcoat).

But a spray can of olive oil will definitely work.

How you apply it is up to you.

The easiest way is to just go ahead and spray it on your nails.

Make sure that you hold the can about 6 inches away from your nails to avoid ruining them though!

6 inches

You could also try dunking your nails into a bowl of olive oil, (just spray the oil into a bowl before you start). Or drop the oil onto each nail using a pipette.

Not only will a spray oil help to speed up the drying process but it will also make your cuticles nice and soft – yay!

Pro tip – if you have an empty nail polish bottle, fill it with oil. Then, you can paint the olive oil onto your nails, it’s way less messy that way.

However, you choose to apply it, leave the oil on for 2 minutes. Then gently wash it off using cold water.

Never use hot water to remove the olive oil. Because hot water will cause your polish to soften and go gooey.

How does oil dry nail polish?

A lot of people claim that oil dries nail polish.

It doesn’t.

There is a lot of misleading information about this online, but the fact is that oil does not dry nail polish.

But loads of people have used oil and they say it works…so what the heck is going on?

Well, if you look at the success stories, you’ll notice that they all have one thing in common.

They used a spray oil.

Why does that matter?

Because all aerosol sprays contain chemical propellants.

oil propellant spray can

It is these chemical propellants, and not the olive/cooking oil, that are drying their nails.

Basically, the propellant acts as a quick-drying agent, speeding up the evaporation of the solvents in the nail polish.

So you can use any oil (as long as it’s in spray form) to dry your nails quickly. But it’s actually no different than using a quick-drying nail spray (which also contains propellants).

Does baby oil dry nail polish?

does baby oil dry nail polish

No. Baby oil does not dry nail polish.

For any type of oil to dry your nails noticeably faster, it must contain a propellant.

The chemical propellants that dry nails fast are only found in spray oils (aerosol cans).

This is why a can of Pam can dry your nails in just a few seconds.

Since you can’t buy baby oil in an aerosol can, it can’t be used to dry your nail polish.

This is because it’s not the oil that dries the polish. It’s the chemical propellant that’s inside the can of oil.

Can you use hairspray to dry nails?

hair spray to dry nails

The hairspray nail hack is all over the internet.

But does it actually work?

It sounds super simple.

Just paint on 2 coats of regular polish (not gel), spray your nails, and voila!

The good news is that this beauty hack works a treat!

The propellants in the hairspray work to absorb the solvents in the nail polish, making it dry much faster.

All you need to do is spray the hairspray onto your finished nails from a distance of about 6 to 12 inches. Then wait a minute or 2 and your nails should be dry!

It’s a bit sticky though, (and you don’t want hairspray in your eyes). So you’ll need to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and cold water once you’re done.

Does rubbing alcohol dry nail polish faster?

Are you thinking of putting rubbing alcohol on your nails to dry them a little quicker?

Don’t do it!


I don’t know where this rumor got started, but rubbing alcohol does not help nail polish to dry at all.

In fact, it will have the complete opposite effect, removing your polish and making your nails soft and squidgy!

Rubbing alcohol is great for removing nail polish. But you definitely shouldn’t be using it to make your nails dry faster.

If you want your nails dry as fast as possible, you would be much better off using a fast-drying topcoat like Seche Vite Fast Dry, drying drops like Sally Hansen’s dry and go drops or a nail drying spray like Demert Nail Enamel Dryer.

Other fast drying techniques that actually work are:

  1. Dunking your hands in ice water for 2 minutes.
  2. Spraying your nails with cooking spray, olive oil spray or hairspray (the propellants in aerosols help the solvents in nail polish to evaporate quicker).
  3. Applying thinner coats.
  4. Using a hairdryer on cool.
  5. Using a can of compressed air.

Does rubbing alcohol dry nail polish?

rubbing alcohol 91 isopropyl

No, rubbing alcohol does not dry nail polish.

In fact, it softens and removes it!

Rubbing alcohol is the last thing you want on your nails if you’re trying to get them to dry quickly.

To dry your regular nail polish in the fastest possible time, try using a fast-drying nail product like a specially formulated topcoat, drying drops, or a nail polish drying spray.

You can also try spraying your nails with cooking oil, blasting them with cool air (use a hairdryer on cool or a can of compressed air) or dunking them into cold water to speed up the process.

The fastest possible way to get your nails done at home is to use a gel polish with an LED lamp which will dry each coat of gel polish in just 30 seconds.

So it might be worth considering an upgrade to gel nails if time is a factor.

What dries nail polish?

Air. The main thing that dries regular nail polish is air (and cool temperatures).


Here’s why.

Nail polish contains 4 key things:

  • Solvents – keep things mixed together and in liquid form.
  • Plasticisers – allow the polish to be flexible.
  • Polymers – strengthen the polish and help it stick.
  • Pigments – add the colour.

The key component of nail polish when it comes to drying is the Solvents.

The solvents in nail polish are what keep it in liquid form.

When you put polish on your nails, you expose the formula to the air. Which is what causes the solvents to evaporate, allowing the polish to dry and harden.

So many of the tips online for drying your nails faster (like dipping them in ice water or using a hairdryer) focus on 2 things:

The temperature and exposure to air.

science alert 1

I don’t wanna get too sciency on you, but basically, because of a thermal physics thing called vapor pressure, when you cool the nails you speed up the rate of evaporation caused by the exposure to air, so your nails dry much quicker.

Propellants found in many aerosol sprays also work to speed up the evaporation process, so they can be very effective at drying your nails, too.

The best techniques for drying your nails fast are:

  • Blasting cold air on them using a hairdryer or a can of compressed air.
  • Dipping them into a bowl of ice water for a couple of minutes.
  • Spraying them with a cooking spray or hairspray.

Does ice water set nail polish?

There are 2 key things that help nail polish to set.

One is air exposure, and the other is cold temperatures.

iceberg nails

Nail polish sets best when it is exposed to cold air – as this is a double whammy.

When you expose your nails to cool air, you’re giving the polish the 2 things it needs (cold and air) to harden and set.

Dunking your nails into ice water will help your nail polish to thicken up and appear to dry quicker, but you actually need to allow enough time for the air to evaporate all of the solvents in the polish before they will be fully dry.

So should you bother using ice water at all?

Well, it’s up to you.

Ice water does help to initially thicken up the polish, so you will be less likely to get smudges after you’ve dipped.

It certainly doesn’t do any harm, and it might speed things along a little, but blasting your nails with cold air (you can use the cold shot button on your hairdryer) will be much more effective.

Why does ice dry nail polish?

ice cube

As we’ve learned, ice doesn’t actually dry nail polish, it just thickens it up slightly.

Most nail polish formulas are designed to thicken when exposed to cold temperatures.

This thickening effect makes it seem like your nails dry faster, but you will still need to allow enough time for the solvents in your nail polish to evaporate fully after you take them out of the ice water.

To dry nails in the quickest possible time, you need to expose your nails to both cold temperatures and air.

The cold causes the polish to thicken up, and the air causes the solvents to evaporate and the polish to harden.

Does cold water really dry nail polish?

Is dunking your freshly painted nails into cold water a smart idea?

The internet would have you believe it is, but does cold water really dry nail polish?

sort of but

The answer is …sort of (but not really).

Let me explain.

Cold water can help your nail polish to thicken up, making it appear to dry faster, but cold water alone does not dry nail polish.

Let’s think about this for a second.

You want something to dry, right?

So the last thing you’re going to want to do is dunk it in water!

For your nails to fully dry, they need to be in a cool or cold environment – yes – but most importantly, they need air.

The main thing that dries nail polish is not the cold (although cool temperatures are better than hot) but exposure to the air.

So, dipping your talons in cold water might help you to avoid catching them and ruining your mani, and it will cause the polish to thicken slightly, but it won’t dry your nails and it won’t save you a whole lot of time.

What light dries nail polish?

ultraviolet light nails

An LED or UV lamp will dry all types of gel nail polish, but you can not use any kind of light to dry regular non-gel nail polish.

Regular nail polish dries when the solvents in the formula evaporate into the air, and light exposure doesn’t help the evaporation process along.

If you want to use light to dry your nails, you will need to use a gel polish and a LED or UV lamp.

LED lamps are much quicker and less harmful for your skin than UV lamps.

An LED lamp will dry 1 coat of gel polish in just 30 seconds.

A UV lamp will dry 1 coat of polish in 2 minutes.

Does UV light dry nail polish?

UV light works on gel nail polish, but it doesn’t work on regular nail polish.

uv black light

Regular nail polish needs air exposure to dry, so if you’re using a normal (non gel) polish, you could try blowing cool air onto your nails using a hairdryer from a distance of around 12 inches to dry them faster.

If you are using gel polish, you can use UV light to dry your nails.

Each coat of gel polish will dry in 2 minutes under UV light.

But you can dry your gel nails even faster by using an LED light instead of a UV light.

LED nail lamps are much healthier because you are not exposing your skin to harmful UV rays, and they will dry a single coat of gel nail polish in just 30 seconds!

That’s 3 times faster than a UV light.

If your having problems with your gel polish staying on check out this post

Can I use an LED flashlight to cure gel nails?

You can use an LED flashlight to cure your nails but it has to be an ultraviolet LED flashlight.

A standard non UV LED flashlight will not work.

You can tell the difference between the two because the ultraviolet one (the one that works) gives off a bluey purple light sometimes called a black light, whereas the standard LED flashlight (which doesn’t work) is white or slightly yellow.

ultraviolet black lght tourch

So, look for a blue or purple light and check the label for one that says LED/Ultraviolet radiation or black light and it should work.

LED UV flashlights are a great portable option as you can just pop it in your bag and you don’t need a power outlet to use it.

They are also really good if you only want to cure 1 nail-like if you did one feature nail or if you’re doing a touch up for example as you don’t need to put your whole hand into a lamp.

Using a UV LED flashlight, you can cure a single coat of polish in 2 minutes.

Does hairspray make nail polish dry faster?

does hairspray make nail polish dry faster

Yes, this nail hack actually works!

You can use hairspray, or any other type of aerosol (like cooking spray or olive oil spray) to dry your nails faster.

Aerosol sprays contain a chemical substance called a propellant, and this is what works to dry your nails fast.

  • Make sure you hold the can of hairspray at least 6 inches away (between 6 and 12 inches is ideal).
  • Then spray an even coat over each individual nail and wait for at least 30 seconds to a maximum of 2 minutes.
  • Wash your hands well with cold water and soap (don’t use hot water because it will soften the polish).

Will Hairspray dry nails quickly?

Yes, hairspray does dry your nails quickly.

This is because hairspray contains a substance known as a propellant.

The propellant in the hairspray works like a quick-drying agent, speeding up the rate of evaporation of the solvents in the nail polish.

Spraying hairspray on your nails can dry them much faster than if you just left them to air dry.

Depending on how thick your coats of polish are, with this awesome hack, your nails can be fully dry in a little as 30 seconds (but you might wanna wait a couple of minutes to be double sure they are dry).

Does hairspray dry nails?


Hairspray works in exactly the same way as a quick drying spray.

This is because all aerosol sprays (like hairspray cooking spray and nail drying sprays) contain propellants.

Propellants make your nails dry faster by speeding up the rate at which the solvents in nail polish evaporate into the air.

So yes, you can use hairspray to dry your nails quicker,

Is it better to let nail polish dry between coats?

Nail polish needs a dry enough surface to adhere to, so yes it’s better to let your nail polish dry before adding another coat.

2 full

According to the nail polish experts, you need to wait at least 2 full minutes between coats of polish if you want the next layer to stick.

Why is my nail polish not drying?

why it no dry

Regular non gel nail polish dries best in a cool and dry environment without too much moisture in the air.

If your environment is too hot or too humid, this could be the reason why your nails are not drying.

Try blowing cold air on your nails using your hairdryer and see if that helps.

You’ll need to hold the hairdryer a safe distance away so that you don’t cause bubbles, 6 to 12 inches away should be fine.

Blow the cold air onto each hand for 2 to 5 minutes then check if they are dry by poking them with a toothpick or hair grip.

Older nail polish also takes longer to dry than freshly bought polish, so if you’ve had that polish for ages, that could be what’s slowing down the drying time.

If you’re using gel polish and it won’t dry, then you may be using the wrong kind of lamp for that gel.

An LED or UV lamp should in theory dry any kind of gel polish, but gel polish formulas are all slightly different, which is why some gel polish makers bring out their own gel lamp which perfectly matches (and dries) their specific formula.


But before you go blaming your lamp, it’s important to note that there is a thin layer of gel polish called the inhibition layer that never fully dries.

With gel polish, no matter how long you cure your coat of polish, you will always have a thin sticky layer.

It’s not a problem, you can just paint over it and it will cure the next time you put your hand under the lamp, but you do need to wipe this sticky layer off after you cure your top coat.

Use a lint-free wipe soaked in 91% isopropyl alcohol and you should be good to go.

What does rubbing alcohol do to nail polish?

Rubbing alcohol is a solvent – meaning it breaks things down.

Alcohol softens and breaks down nail polish, so you can use it to remove regular nail polish.

Rubbing alcohol does not dissolve cured gel polish, so it is safe to use rubbing alcohol to remove the top sticky layer of a gel manicure.

Does old nail polish not dry?

pexels photo 755993

Nail polish that is 12 to 18 months old will take longer to dry than newly purchased polish.

To keep your nail polish in the best condition so that it dries well, store it in a cool dark place and make sure the lid is screwed on tight and there’s no gunk clogging up the lid.

How can I dry my nails faster without smudging?

The faster you can dry your nails, the less likely you will be to smudge them.

But the answer to how to dry your nails faster without smudging them depends on whether you are using gel polish or regular polish.

The best way to do your nails at home without smudging them is to use a gel polish and an LED lamp.

30 seconds tick

An LED lamp will dry your nails in 30 seconds.

If you can manage to get your nails into the lamp without catching them, and you can stay still for 30 seconds, your nails will be cured and you should be smudge free.

When you are using gel polish and a UV lamp, the same advice applies but you’ll have to keep your hands still for 2 minutes per coat.

If you are using regular nail polish, you’re going to have to wait until the solvents in the polish have fully evaporated and until this happens you are going to be in danger of smudging.

You can dry your nails faster and minimise your chances of smudging by either:

  • Soaking your nails in a bowl of ice-water (this will help the polish to thicken a bit so it will be less likely to smudge but will not dry it completely).


  • Blowing cool air onto your nails using a hairdryer. (you can either hold down the cold shot button while you dry your nails or dry them on the coolest setting but keep a good distance (12 inches).

Why is my gel polish not drying?

A lot of people don’t realise this, but the very top layer of each coat of gel polish you put on never fully dries.

This is perfectly normal, and it happens because that little bit of gel polish right at the top is in contact with the air, and gel polish just won’t cure if it’s exposed to the air.

So, if your gel polish doesn’t seem to be drying, you didn’t do anything wrong!

thin layer of sticky gel2

There is supposed to be a thin layer of sticky gel even after you have cured your gel nails.

You don’t need to remove this top sticky layer until you get to the final coat.

So just go ahead and paint over it – it will cure and harden on the next cure because it’s no longer in contact with the air.

Once you’ve cured your topcoat or last coat of color if you aren’t using a topcoat, simply wipe this sticky layer off with a lint free wipe soaked in rubbing alcohol.

Your nails will be rock hard underneath!

Well, that’s it we’ve reached the end of our epic nail drying journey!

Thanks for reading and I hope you found the answer you were looking for!


  • Phoebe Meadows

    Phoebe Meadows is a self-proclaimed nail addict, always on the lookout for the latest trends and techniques. When she's not creating stunning nail designs, you can find her researching the latest nail care products or experimenting with new techniques.