This Is How Long It Actually Takes for Your Manicure to Dry

This is what happens every time I painstakingly give myself an at-home manicure: I admire my pro-level work and go to bed…then wake up with my thread count laid bare to the world on the surface of my nails. But the polish was dry! Or so I thought. It turns out, it takes longer for that polish to dry completely than I thought.

When I chatted with my manicurist, she dropped the bomb that nail polish actually takes up to two days to set. 

TWO DAYS? I can’t sit still for 30 minutes post-top-coat, let alone treat my hands like precious, delicate flowers while waiting for that lacquer to cure.

There’s a science lesson behind it all…so bear with me. Nail polish is made of a film-forming polymer and a solvent. When you swipe it on, the solvent slowly evaporates and the polymer dries. So when you’ve got multiple coats of polish…plus a top coat, well, you get the idea. That solvent isn’t going anywhere fast. (It’s also why, after a day or two, your mani might feel tight or heavy on your nails.)

While I (and, I assume, you) don’t have the luxury of lounging around for days in the name of a smooth manicure, there are some preventative steps to take. For starters, always paint thin coats of polish—and make sure to let each coat dry (two or three minutes to be safe). And if you’re as impatient as me, you can always try the old hair dryer trick: Blast your fresh polish with your tool on the cold setting.

The more you know, the better the mani.

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Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...