Drying Nail Polish Quickly: Using Science to Debunk the Myths

Learn why some Internet nail-drying tricks work and some don't

woman applying nail polish

 Getty Images / Agostina Valle

The Internet is full of tips that supposedly will help nail polish dry faster, but do any of them actually work? Here's a look at some of the most common suggestions and the science behind whether or not they'll actually speed the drying time of your manicure.

Plunging Polished Nails Into Ice Water Dries Them Faster

Does it work? No, this doesn't work. If it did, don't you think every nail tech out there would be doing it? Think about it: Nail polish is a polymer, formed by a chemical reaction. Lowering the temperature lowers the rate of the chemical reaction, plus it actually slows the evaporation of the solvents in the polish.

So, while the icy water may thicken the polish so it seems to dry more quickly, the only way to get a hard coat of polish is to let it dry. The cold water won't hurt anything, but it won't speed the process up—unless you dry your hands under an air dryer afterward.

Still not convinced? Consider how much time you spend with your hands submerged in ice water, and compare that against normal drying. Or, conduct your own science experiment and put one hand in the ice water and leave the other to dry on its own.

Putting Polished Nails in the Freezer Dries Them Faster

Does it work? Yes, sort of... the cold can thicken the polish, and as long as the air is circulating, it will evaporate the solvent. It's not the most economical method, but it's unlikely to hurt anything—other than your electric bill.

Using a Blow Dryer or Fan Dries Nail Polish Faster

Does it work? Yes, by speeding up the setting time of the film formant (usually nitrocellulose). Just be sure you don't use so much force that you blow ripples into your polish—unless that is the desired effect.

Applying a Quick-Dry Product Dries Nail Polish Faster

Does it work? Yes, because quick-dry agents contain solvents that evaporate quickly, pulling the liquid in the polish along with them.

Applying Cooking Spray Dries Nail Polish Faster

Does it work? Sometimes—whether or not it does depends on the product. If you use a simple pressurized oil, you're not going to see much of an effect aside from moisturized hands. On the other hand (punch line intended), if the spray contains a propellant, it will evaporate quickly, acting like a quick-dry product.

Spraying Nails with Canned Air Dries Nail Polish Faster

Does it work? Yes, but again, this works much like a quick-dry product. Canned air is expensive, so you might want to opt to use it to blow keyboard chow out of your laptop and get an inexpensive quick-drying topcoat for your nails instead.

Last Word

What works best? Quick-drying polish is the most effective. While it does matter what's in the product, these are made specifically for the task at hand.