Having your nails painted is one of the most popular ways of treating yourself to some well-deserved TLC.

Our favourite act of self-care is not only an excellent opportunity to let your self-expression shine, but also a reliable source of serotonin.

But we are all far too aware of how short-lived that serotonin high can be when we reach for our wallets and our fresh mani is nothing but now-ruined polish and are often left wondering "how long does it take for nail polish to dry"?!

So, how long does nail polish take to dry you wonder? Keep reading and find out.

How long does it take nail polish to fully dry?

Nail polish dry time varies and it’s dependent on several factors. Generally, you can expect to wait anywhere between 10 minutes - an hour to let your nail polish dry fully.

Typically the top will seem dry, however the internal layers need longer to dry all the way through.

Why does drying time vary?

Nail polish dry time will vary depending on whether you’ve chosen to use a top and base coat, the thickness of each coat, how many coats you’ve applied, and what type of polish you’ve chosen to use.

You may still be wondering, but why does nail polish take so long to dry?

If you’re using a formaldehyde-free polish, it may take longer to dry.

But the plus side to this is that while your nail polish is taking longer to dry, you’re reducing your bodily intake of harmful toxins that are found in traditional polishes and preventing the possibility of your nails becoming brittle.

Always use a base coat, this not only ensures your mani lasts longer, but it also makes it easier for you to apply even layers of colour and speeds up the drying process.

Applying your nail polish in thick coats may seem like a fool-proof way to ensure better coverage, but the thicker the coat, the longer it takes for the polish to dry.

Try applying two thinner coats, waiting about two minutes between each coat to speed up the overall drying time.

So, you’re wondering how long to let nail polish dry before topcoat?

We recommend allowing two minutes for your final coat of colour to dry before applying your topcoat, and then how long for topcoat to dry depends on the topcoat you're using, but we recommend allowing a further two minutes for your topcoat to dry.

How can you help speed up the drying time?

You’ve followed all the recommendations but you’re still wondering “why is my nail polish not drying”?

Keep these pointers in mind:

  • Applying a base coat to your nails at the start.
  • Applying thinner coats of polish.
  • Using a quick-dry topcoat.
  • Applying a couple of drops of baby oil to your nails.
  • Submerge or run your nails in iced or cold water.

5 things to do while you wait for your nails to dry

  1. Have a dance break! Put your favourite tracks on and dance it out.
  1. Spring clean your phone photo gallery.
  1. Catch up on your favourite tv show.
  1. Go online shopping!
  1. Call a friend you’re overdue for a catch-up with!


- How long should I wait for nail polish to dry between coats?

About two minutes.

- Can you dry nail polish with a hair dryer?

Yes! But only on the cool air setting.

- Does cooking spray speed up drying your nails?

Yes! It helps to dry the top coat of polish, hold it about six inches away from your nails.

- Is quick-dry nail polish bad for you?

Not always, however try to use a formaldehyde-free polish to minimise avoid harmful toxins.

July 02, 2022 — Destiny Flaherty