If you’ve just painted your nails and need them to dry quickly, you may be wondering if you can speed up the process by blow drying them. Using a hair dryer on wet nail polish is a common technique many people rely on when short on time.
So what’s the verdict – can you effectively blow dry nail polish? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide a definitive answer and outline everything you need to know about safely and properly blow drying freshly painted nails.
In short: Yes, you can blow dry nail polish to speed up drying time. Using a hair dryer on a low, cool setting can cut nail polish drying time in half. However, there are some precautions to take to avoid damaging your nails or messing up your manicure.
How Blow Drying Works to Dry Nail Polish
Speeds up evaporation of solvents
Nail polish contains solvents that allow the lacquer to flow evenly over the nail and then evaporate as the polish dries. Using a blow dryer speeds up the evaporation process by directing a steady stream of warm air over the freshly painted nails.
This continuous air flow carries away the evaporating solvents, allowing the next layer of solvents underneath to evaporate more quickly. So instead of waiting 30+ minutes for nail polish to dry naturally, you can set it in just 10 minutes with a blow dryer.
Provides a continuous flow of air over nails
Unlike fanning your hands back and forth, blow drying maintains a constant stream of air focused on the nails. This levels out the drying times over all nails, rather than the edges drying faster from more air exposure.
The steady airflow also prevents dust and particles in the air from settling on the wet polish and marring the smooth surface as it dries.
Warms nails slightly to aid drying
In addition to moving air over the nails, blow dryers also gently warm the nails and polish. The heat energy helps to speed evaporation, especially when paired with the airflow. However, it’s important not to hold the dryer too close or use excessively hot settings, as this can cause bubbling in the polish.
Keep the dryer 6-12 inches from nails and use a medium or low heat setting.
By harnessing the power of heat and focused airflow, blow drying nails reduces total drying times by up to 75%. This enables quicker coats, less likelihood of smudges, and the ability to add multiple layers of color and top coat in minutes.
With some practice, blow drying can help anyone achieve a perfect manicure fast.
Tips for Safely Blow Drying Nail Polish
Blow drying your nail polish can help it dry faster, but it’s important to take precautions to avoid ruining your manicure. Here are some useful tips for safely speeding up the drying process with a blow dryer:
Use low, cool settings on dryer
High heat can cause bubbles or cracks in your polish. Set your dryer to the coolest setting and use a low fan speed. This will provide a gentle stream of air to dry the polish without the risks of high heat.
Keep dryer 6+ inches from nails
Holding a dryer too close can overheat the polish and damage your nails. Keep the dryer nozzle at least 6 inches away and move it around to evenly distribute air over all your nails. Never keep it aimed in one spot for too long.
Work in short 5-10 second bursts
Don’t blast your nails with prolonged high heat. Work in short 5-10 second intervals, allowing the polish to cool slightly between drying bursts. This prevents excessive heat buildup.
Don’t wave dryer over nails
Waving the dryer nozzle back and forth vigorously can disrupt the top layer of polish. Instead, hold the dryer in place 6 inches from your hand, moving it slowly and steadily to direct air over the polish.
With some care and patience, you can safely speed up nail polish drying time with a blow dryer. The key is low, cool air and avoiding too much concentrated heat on one spot. With the right technique, you can have salon-quality results in a fraction of the usual drying time.
The Drying Stages of Nail Polish
After applying a fresh coat of nail polish, it first goes through the wet stage. This is when the lacquer is still very fluid and hasn’t started to dry yet. It is important not to touch or bump into anything during this time, usually taking 2-3 minutes, as the polish can get smudged or dented easily.
Patience is key!
The next stage is when the nail polish becomes tacky to touch, meaning it feels slightly sticky. This means the solvents are beginning to evaporate from the lacquer. The tacky stage allows you to do touch ups if needed without messing up the overall manicure.
Letting it air dry is best, but you can speed it up by blowing on your nails to evaporate the solvents faster. This stage usually lasts another 2-3 minutes.
The final stage is when the nail polish has hardened and feels dry to the touch. The lacquer will no longer feel sticky, but do be gentle at first as it still needs a bit more time to fully set. An average nail polish takes around 15-20 minutes total to reach the hardened stage from application depending on factors like layers, thickness, and brand.
Once hardened, the manicure is much less prone to smudging and dents.
Blow drying nail polish can help it get through the drying stages faster, especially if you focus on the tacky stage. However, hold the blow dryer far enough to not cause bubbling from the heat. Gently blowing on wet nails helps too.
Going slow overall creates the most durable, long lasting manicured nails.
What Types of Nail Polish Dry Best with a Hair Dryer?
Traditional nail polishes
Most traditional nail polishes are formulated with nitrocellulose lacquer. This dries by solvent evaporation, meaning the solvents in the polish evaporate as it dries, leaving the colored pigments and resins behind on the nail.
Using a hair dryer can speed up the evaporation process by warming the polish and surrounding air. This allows the solvents to evaporate faster. Most traditional polishes dry well with a hair dryer in just a couple of minutes.
Gel polishes also dry well with a hair dryer. Gel polishes contain polymers that require curing under UV or LED light to set completely. However, using a hair dryer first can help shorten the curing time. The heat from the hair dryer helps initiate the curing process before going under the light.
Using a hair dryer for 60-90 seconds before curing gel polish can cut the light curing time significantly.
Acrylic nail polishes
Acrylic nail polishes consist of a polymer powder and liquid monomer that polymerize when mixed together. The mixture remains in a liquid state briefly before hardening on the nail. Using a hair dryer during this time can speed up the hardening process by gently warming the product.
However, caution is needed to avoid overheating and damaging the acrylic. A hair dryer on a low, cool setting held 6-10 inches from the nail can effectively hasten acrylic nail polish drying time.
UV/LED curable polishes
Most UV/LED curable nail polishes rely on light curing to set fully. However, some types contain solvents and can air dry to a certain degree. Using a hair dryer on these polishes may help speed up the drying slightly before curing, but will not result in a hard finish.
For best results, UV/LED polishes should be cured under the light shortly after application, according to manufacturer instructions. A hair dryer may cut down curing time by a minute or less in some cases.
When to Avoid Blow Drying Nail Polish
If nails are dehydrated or damaged
Blow drying nail polish can potentially cause more harm than good if your natural nails are already dehydrated or damaged. The high heat and fast drying action of a blow dryer can lead to further dehydration, peeling, splitting and breakage.
If your nails are already weak or brittle, it’s best to avoid blow drying your manicure.
Instead, allow your polish to air dry naturally. You can encourage the drying process by waving your hands gently to circulate air around the nails. Using cuticle oil or a rich hand cream after painting your nails can also help restore moisture and prevent excessive dryness caused by polish.
Let your nails fully recover their health before attempting to speed up drying time with a blow dryer.
On natural nails prone to peeling/splitting
If your natural nails have a tendency to peel or split, refrain from using a blow dryer on your manicure. The intense rush of hot air can cause already fragile nails to become even more dry and brittle. This will likely worsen peeling and increase the chances of cracks or breaks in the nails.
It’s better to gently air dry polishes on nails with these characteristics. You can apply a hydrating oil after painting nails to nourish and protect them. Using a base coat underneath polish can also help prevent excessive drying.
Let each coat of color dry thoroughly before adding another layer to avoid trapping solvents against the natural nail.
On artificial nails if bond is weak
Artificial nails such as acrylics, gel manicures, dip powders or press-ons rely on a strong bond with the natural nail for best durability. If the bond is weak or damaged, blow drying polish on artificial nails can potentially cause lifting, cracking or separation.
The sudden blast of hot air against the overlay can weaken the connection between the enhancement and natural nail. It’s safest to air dry polishes carefully applied to artificial nails with any bond weaknesses.
Go slowly and avoid blow drying until the bond can be properly repaired by a professional.
If polish formula is quick-dry
Many nail polishes today are formulated to dry quickly on their own without heat acceleration. Using a blow dryer in addition to these types of quick-drying polishes is unnecessary and risks over-drying or damaging the manicure.
If your chosen polish already advertises fast drying times like “60 seconds” or “5 minute dry”, allow it to air dry without additional heat. The polish should cure rapidly on its own. You can gently wave hands to circulate air if desired. Avoid blow drying for a smoother, more flawless manicure.
Blow drying nail polish with a hair dryer can cut drying time in half, allowing you to get a durable, long-lasting manicure in a fraction of the time. While most polishes respond well to blow drying, always keep the dryer on a low, cool setting and avoid over-drying nails to prevent damage.
With the proper technique, blow drying is generally safe for most nail types and colors. So next time you’re short on drying time, go ahead and use your hair dryer to get a quick, salon-quality manicure at home.