Does Gel Nail Polish Air Dry?

Last Updated on December 24, 2021 by SulaBeauty Staff

There are different types of nail polish in the market and the most popular amongst them is Gel nail polish. Gel polish is made of acrylic oligomers and monomers that tend to bond under UV/LED light and harden the gel polish on nails.

Gel nail polish is not the same as regular polish, they both differ in many features. One of them is the drying process.  

People know that they can naturally dry regular nail polish; however, they are not sure if they can dry gel polish in the same manner or not. Well, in this article, I am going to clear this doubt and tell you if you can air dry gel nail polish and if not, then how to dry it.  

Can You Air Dry Gel Nail Polish? 


I know you might have wondered sometimes if you can simply air dry your gel nail polish to save a trip to your salon. But unfortunately, the answer to this question is No. You can’t dry your gel nails naturally, as air or oxygen will stop the molecules in the gel nail polish from bonding and hardening.  

If you don’t believe what I am saying, you can try putting some gel nail polish on a lid or something else and let it sit for a night and you’ll observe it will stay wet for days. You require a UV or LED lamp to cure your gel polish. Curing is the name of the drying process of gel nail polish under ultraviolet rays. Curing helps harden or toughen up the gel nail polish.  

Does Gel Polish Dry on Its Own? 


Gel polish doesn’t hold the capability to dry on its own, the formula is thicker than regular polish and therefore, can’t be dried on its own. If you attempt to dry the gel nail polish naturally without UV or LED light then, your polish will definitely get smudged and ruined as it will not dry even if you keep your hands still for hours.

However, there is a type of gel polish, i.e., no-light gel nail polish that doesn’t require curing and can be air-dried.  

So, for gel nail polishes except for no-light gel nail polish, I would recommend you to either buy a UV or LED lamp or get your gel manicures straight from a nail salon. If you are looking to buy a lamp, it’s not that expensive. I used this 54W Professional UV LED Nail Lamp. I’ve been using the same one for 2 years now, it’s effective and affordable.  

How to Dry Gel Nail Polish Fast? 


There is no other way that you can use to dry gel polish. You can quickly dry your gel nails when you cure your hands under a LED or UV lamp. An LED nail lamp is proven to be faster than a UV lamp in curing.

But don’t forget to ensure that the type of gel nail polish you are using is compatible with the type of lamp you own.

If you don’t want to use a lamp then, you can skip to the third method that includes the use of ‘no-light gel nail polish. 

1. Operating with LED Nail Lamp 


I’d suggest you choose an LED nail lamp over a UV lamp as it’s quicker and also, considered to be safer. UV lamps can harm your skin with continuous use and take twice as much time as LED. So, a LED nail lamp can save a lot of your time.

I know it is more expensive than UV lamps but worth the investment. Also, choose a LED nail lamp that’s at least 36 watts to dry your gel nails quickly. This one from Winjoy has different time settings 30s, 60s, 90s, and 120s. 

Follow the steps given below to know how to dry gel nail polish using an LED lamp: 

1. Plug your LED nail lamp into the socket, some LED lamps run on batteries or adapters.  

2. Paint your nails with LED compatible gel nail polish and then, put your hand below the lamp. Make sure that the nails are facing upwards and keep your hand straight with fingers spread out.  You must use a base coat before applying the gel nail polish.

3. Now, using the other hand, set the timer at 30 seconds. A 30-second cycle is enough to cure the gel nail polish. After setting the time, press the Start button and don’t move your hand until the timer stops. 

4. When the light goes off and the time cycle finishes, you can remove your hand and proceed with the next coat. It’s highly suggested to cure for 30 seconds after every coat you apply including the base and top coat.

Doing this will ensure that your gel nail polish stays for a long period and dries within each layer. I would recommend you apply thin coats. 

5. After you’ve applied two or more coats and got a shiny finish look, do the same on the other hand. 

6. Once you have cured all your nails, use rubbing alcohol to get rid of the tacky residue from curing. After curing the top coat on every nail, take a cotton pad and soak it in rubbing alcohol or a nail cleanser and then wipe off the sticky dispersion layer to get a glossy finish.  

2. Using a UV Nail Lamp 


While using the UV lamp, you need to take a few precautions. I’d suggest that you apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen before curing your nails under a UV nail lamp or you can wear fingerless UV-absorbent gloves to protect them from UV light.

I use these UV gloves for my nails and they help me prevent my skin from damaging, you can get a pair for yourself from here.

Also, it is suggested to replace the light bulbs present in LED lamps after 2 to 4 months.

1. Choose a 36 watts UV nail lamp for a quicker drying process, plug the lamp into a socket and follow the next step. 

2. Apply base coat and gel polish on your nails and then, gently keep your palm under the lamp. Keep it straight with gel nail polish facing upwards.

Also, try to minimize the skin exposure to the UV light inside the lamp, only put your fingernails and not the whole hand.  Don’t forget to cure the base coat before you apply the initial coat of gel nail polish.

3. Using the timer on the lamp, set it for a two-minute cycle and keep your hand still inside the lamp until the timer goes off. The time depends on the type of gel nail polish and the brand you’re using so consider the manufacturer’s direction before curing. 

4. Cure gel polish after each layer you apply including the base and the topcoat. 

5. After you’ve cured the gel topcoat on each hand, using rubbing alcohol or gel cleanser wipe off the tacky residue or nail dust caused by curing your nails to get a glossy finish.  

3. Drying No-Light Gel Polish 


For this process, you will have to buy a no-light gel polish, I‘d recommend this one from sally hansen. This product comes in a set of two containing a gel polish bottle and a gel top coat bottle.

The clear topcoat usually comes in an opaque bottle to protect it from UV rays. Also, please use the same brand for the topcoat as the gel polish to ensure quick drying.  

Please remember that these polishes are not the same as the regular polish, the formula is different and thus, doesn’t require curing under a LED/UV light.

Here’s how you can use the ‘no-light gel nail polish’: 

1. Apply one coat of no-light gel polish, and then let it naturally dry for at least 8-10 minutes. Do not hurry the process, let your nails dry completely to avoid smudging. 

2. Then, once the first coat is dried, apply the second coat and let it dry completely. I’d recommend applying this gel polish during the daytime with natural UV exposure.  

3. Lastly, apply the clear no-light topcoat over your gel polish. And give it time to dry until the polish hardens.  

How Long Does It Take Gel Nail Polish to Dry? 


Well to your benefit gel nail polish takes less time to dry than regular nail polish if you’re in a hurry and need to get your nails done. The curing process for gel nail polish hardly takes less than five minutes.

However, the curing time also depends on the type of lamp you are using and how thick a layer you’ve applied.  

It’s highly suggested to apply very thin layers so that they can cure properly. You are supposed to cure after applying each layer. And with an LED nail lamp you can speed up the process, UV lamps take a little more time.  

Why Won’t Gel Polish Air Dry? 


Gel nails can not be air-dried as air prevents the gel molecules from bonding and hardening. If you want to dry gel nail polish then, it can only be done under a Led or UV light as gel polish absorbs the light and makes it hard.

The curing process works on the topcoat of gel nail polishes, and thus, if you won’t cure after each layer then, the lower layers will not dry. Therefore, you are advised to apply thin layers and cure after each layer for 30-45 seconds.  

Can I Dry My Gel Nails Using a Sunbed? 


Well, the technology used in sunbed and nail lamps are quite similar but it’s not ideal to use a sunbed to dry your gel nails. The light intensity and wavelength required for curing a gel nail polish can differ from brand to brand. You need a concentrated light on your nails to cure it and thus, sunbed is not the preferred choice.

Nail lamps, on the other hand, are designed for the sole purpose of drying and hardening gel polishes and have a specific wavelength and light intensity.  

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