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How to dry gel nail polish without UV light

One great pleasure in life is splurging on a fabulous manicure.

And if you’re already splurging on one, why not get the one that lasts longer?

Gel nail polishes are made up of acrylic monomers and oligomers that bond together when cured under UV or LED light, making a more durable manicure that lasts for 2-3 weeks. So you don’t have to worry about chipping your manicure after a short period of time.

But you might be asking, “Isn’t UV light bad for your skin?”

Repeated exposure to UV light is harmful and can cause multiple skin conditions.

So now you’re trying to look for other ways to dry your gel nail polish without using UV light.

Well, follow along as we discuss less harmful alternatives for drying gel nail polish at home.  


How to dry gel nail polish at home

Before we get into other alternatives, let’s go back to basics.

You might be wondering why gel nail polish needs UV or LED light to harden. 

Well, gel nail polish contains a chemical called, photoinitiators, which needs direct UV wavelengths to dry. This process is called photoreaction

The photoinitiators are then converted into energy needed to start the polymerization process. This is when molecules inside the gel bond together, turning it into a hard coating.

How to dry gel nail polish at home

Either a UV or LED nail lamp is used as they both emit UV wavelengths. The difference is, UV lamps emit broader wavelength spectrums, while LED lamps give off a more targeted number of wavelengths.

However, LED nail lamps are more expensive compared to UV lamps, as they tend to last longer. So it’s a better investment if you want a sturdier lamp.

The only disadvantage is, not all gel nail polishes can dry using an LED nail lamp. So you have to figure out which brands of gel nail polish can. 

CHECK OUT: Why is my gel polish sticky


How To Make Gel Nail Polish Dry Faster

When you’re in a rush but still need to do your manicure,  applying a thinner coat of nail polish can help speed up the drying time faster.

Also, an LED lamp can dry the polish faster compared to a UV lamp. It takes a single layer of polish 30 seconds to cure, while a UV lamp takes 2 minutes. 

That’s why more people are now choosing to buy LED lamps over UV lamps.


Can gel nails dry naturally?

What if you don’t have a nail lamp, or just generally want to avoid them, can gel nail polish still dry?

Nope, unfortunately. Without the help of UV wavelengths, oxygen will hinder in curing the nails. The air will stop the gel particles from binding together, preventing them from hardening. So leaving your nails to airdry is not a plausible solution.

But what happens if you use gel nail polish without UV light? Would it even be possible?

All hope is not lost. There are alternatives, albeit a little out of the box, but read on to find out. 

Substitute for UV light for nails

Here are a few ways on how to set gel polish without UV light:

Gel-like nail polish

Gel-like nail polish, or also called “Gel Effect nail polish”, is a type of polish that gives off the same shine and appearance as gel nail polish gives off.

They also have the same strength and durability, so they don’t chip off easily.

What’s great about gel-like polishes is they don’t need curing under UV light. You can apply them like regular nail polish and you’ll get the benefits of a gel nail manicure.

They can also be removed the same way as regular nail polish, so you don’t need to soak your nails in acetone for an extended period of time.

Gel-like nail polish

Natural sun

What better way to get UV light, than from the original source, right? 

Just like UV nail lamps, the sun emits UV wavelengths, so drying gel polish can be effective, it just takes a little longer.

As long as you pick a gel nail polish that’s light-sensitive, you can dry them under the sun for 20-45 minutes.

There’s also a brand that designed a gel nail polish line that can actually dry using natural sunlight.

Now you don’t have to wait for your gel polish to dry before going out. Just don’t forget to slather on your sunscreen.

Ice bath

Getting your nails wet to dry your nail polish seems like an unusual idea, but it can work.

After applying a coat of gel nail polish, air-dry your nails for 5-10 minutes, then dip them in cold water with ice. The bowl should contain more water, so you don’t smudge your nail polish with the ice cubes.

Keep your nails submerged for 3 minutes before removing them.

Let your nails air-dry for about an hour to allow them to be fully set. Remember to use your hands minimally to avoid smudging.

Fast-drying nail polish spray

If you’re not a fan of freezing your nails off, then try a fast-drying nail polish spray. This method takes the longest time, so if you do try this, set aside a few hours.

The method is easy:

  • Lay down a newspaper to protect your table.
  • Hold the can of fast-drying nail polish spray 6 inches away from your nails.
  • Apply slowly to your painted nails.
  • Allow your nails to sit for a few hours until completely dry. 

CHECK OUT: Alternative to Gel Nails


How long does it take gel nail polish to dry without UV light?

How long does it take gel nail polish to dry without UV light

The drying time for your gel nail polish will depend on a number of factors, like the method, brand, or coat thickness.

Gel-like nail polish can have different drying times depending on the brand that you’re using. It’s best to look at the label of the polish to get the best results.

But, typically, gel-like nail polish can dry to the touch in about 6-8 minutes, while it dries completely after 13-15 minutes.

As mentioned above, drying your polish using the sun can take around 20-45 minutes. The ice bath method can take about an hour, and the fast-drying nail polish spray can take several hours.

CHECK OUT: Why does my gel polish peel off


Final Thoughts

Gel nail polish can give off a shinier and stronger manicure that can last longer compared to regular nail polish. So if you want a good quality manicure, you also need to invest in a good UV nail lamp.

But sometimes the effects of the radiation from the UV light can deter you from this type of manicure.

All hope is not lost, though, as there are alternatives on how to dry your gel polish, you just need to experiment with the methods mentioned above.  

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