Can You Dry Gel Nail Polish With A Hair Dryer?

If you need to dry your gel nails in a hurry without a UV lamp, this could lead you to a frantic spiral of looking for the next best fast-drying alternative.

Since you have landed on this page, it’s safe to assume you have considered a hairdryer a potential next-best instrument. So, can a hairdryer dry gel nail polish?

Can You Dry Gel Nail Polish With A Hair Dryer?

You cannot dry gel nail polish with a hairdryer. Gel nail polish needs a UV or LED lamp to cure. However, you can dry non-UV gel nail polish with a hair dryer in cool shot mode. Be sure to apply thin coats of nail polish to prevent lines from forming from the air pressure.

Read on to learn if you can dry gel nails with a hair dryer and why or why you shouldn’t.

Drying Gel Nails With A Hair Dryer

a hair dryer used to dry gel nails

We’ve all been there; an important night out with the girls or a date that, in accordance with true Murphy’s Law, falls just after one of the most difficult work weeks. Not only do you have limited time to find the proper outfit and apply your makeup, but you also have the added stress of realizing your UV lamp is broken – and your nails are in need of an urgent makeover!

So what should you do? You certainly don’t have the time to dry your nails naturally. Plus, who wants to risk smudging them during the wait? You need dry nails, and you need them now. This search for a fast-drying alternative might make you wonder whether a hairdryer can dry gel nail polish.

How Does Gel Polish Dry?

We first need to understand the curing process of gel nail polish. Curing refers to the chemical process of hardening or toughening a substance. Gel nail polish contains photoinitiators. The photoinitiators react with direct UV wavelengths that set the nail polish. The result? Long-lasting and durable nails that give a freshly out-of-the-salon finish.

No wonder we’re hooked on gel nails. But here’s the catch, many brands have developed gel-like polish that does not require UV light to cure. These polishes are generally thicker than regular nail polish and can be cured without UV or LED lamps. So back to the main question – can you dry gel nails with a hair dryer or just let them air dry?

Technically speaking, NO. For true gel nail polish, you need a UV or LED lamp.

Can a Hair Dryer dry non-UV Gel Polish?

If you have purchased non-UV gel nail polish, that’s a different story. You can dry this type of nail polish with a hair dryer, but it is not advisable. If you use a hairdryer,  you must ensure that the hair dryer is a couple of inches away from the nails and on cool shot mode. Counterintuitively, hot air will keep your nails from drying. However, there are some drawbacks when drying your nails with a hairdryer.

For many hairdryers, the ‘cool shot mode’ produces slightly less hot air than pure cold air. This can interfere with the process of drying your nails. Not only that but the pressure from the hair dryer can sometimes result in wavey lines depending on the thickness of the coat. For this reason, many people refrain from using a hairdryer for their nails. But if you have to dry your nails with a hair dryer, what is the best way?

  • First, it is vital to make sure you apply thin coats of nail polish to your nails.
  • Once the first coat is applied, use the hair dryer in cool shot mode to quickly dry your nails.
  • Once the first coat is fully dry, you can proceed to apply a second thin layer of nail polish.
  • Repeat drying as mentioned previously.

For top coats or base coats, follow the same drying method.

How To Dry Gel Nail Polish

If you are looking for ways to dry gel nail polish, look no further. Below we have listed alternative ways you can dry gel nail polish.

a woman drying her gel nail

Dry Gel Nails With A UV Or LED Lamp

Okay, so many of you are familiar with this method. UV or LED lamps are often a go-to for fast-drying nails. UV lamps can take a couple of minutes to cure nails. LED lamps dry nails in a significantly shorter period of time – around 30 seconds. The difference in time is based on the technology used.

UV lamps emit a broader spectrum of UVA rays, whereas LED lamps emit a more intense and narrower range of rays. However, many people are stepping away from using UV or LED lights due to their possible health risks. Remember,  both UV and LED lamps emit ultraviolet radiation.

Ultraviolet radiation is linked to skin cancer, so there is a concern about how UV or LED lamps play a role, especially for those who frequently use them. When using UV or LED lamps, follow safety precautions.

Alternative Ways Of Drying Gel Nail Polish

Using an ice bath for your nails may sound unusual, but it works. To use this method, follow these steps:

  • Fill a bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes.
  • Once you have applied your nail polish, wait five minutes for the polish to set. Letting your nail polish set allows the polish to adhere to your nails.
  • Dip your fingers into the bowl, ensuring your nails are completely submerged.
  • Hold your nails under water for about five minutes. Once you have removed your nails from the water, you should see water droplets on your nails. The water beads are a good sign as they show the top layer of your nails has hardened.

Be sure to take care not to dent your nails after the ice bath. Ice will aid in the curing process, but it does not fully cure your nails.


Gel nail polish cannot be cured using a hairdryer. Instead, a UV or LED lamp is required. However, you can use a hairdryer on non-UV gel nail polish. While using a hairdryer on cool shot mode can harden the nail polish quicker, it can leave unsightly lines. Overall a hair dryer is a decent option if you’re short on time.