Nail Polish Dryers: ‘Hand’-y Tools To Make Short Work Of Curing Your Manicure
So, you’re a fan of home manicures - but not so much a fan of waiting around forever for your nails to be fully dry. Luckily, there is a handy tool to make this problem go away: the nail polish dryer!
Salons use them all the time, and for good reason. But with so many options on the market, which one should you choose? The answer depends on the polish you’re using. This article will focus on dryers for regular nail polish.
First I’ll explain the different types; then I’ll review some of the best dryer machines for regular nail polish.
What About UV and LED Nail Polish Dryers?
There are basically three types of nail dryers: those that use air to dry regular polish, those that use UV lights to dry and cure gel-based polishes, and those that use LED lights, again for gel-based polishes. For gel-based polish, curing under a light is essential; without the light, the polish will not set. Neither UV nor LED lamps will have any beneficial effect on your regular nail polish; however, if the lamp has a fan, the fan will act to help dry your polish.
So What Will A Nail Dryer Do For Me Anyway, And What’s With All These Lights?
A nail polish dryer is a machine designed to speed up the drying or curing time of nail polish. Polish takes time to fully cure because it contains pigment suspended in a solvent, along with plasticizers to give the mixture body and pliability, resins for a shiny finish, and film-formers that help - well, form a film on the nail.
As your polish dries, the solvent evaporates, and the other ingredients then bind to a hard coating on the nail. Only when each layer is fully cured will your manicure be durable and smudge-proof. This is where a dryer comes in handy - by speeding the cure time of your nail polish, it lets you go on with your life much quicker and without worrying about smudging your nails.
Are you convinced? Good. Let’s take a look at the best nail polish dryers for your regular manicure.
1. The Best Portable Option: USpicy Seashell Manicure Fan
If you paint your nails now and then, you will best be served by a simple nail polish dryer. These are small yet effective machines, designed to fit one hand at a time - which is fine at home, as you would normally be painting one hand at a time anyway.
The ‘Seashell’ is portable and convenient to take anywhere, since it runs on two AA batteries. It is a ‘mini’ nail dryer, so expect to dry your thumbs separately from your fingers. It turns on with the push of a button - conveniently located underneath your fingertips; however, you do have to hold this button down as long as you want the air to run. The Seashell does not offer a choice of heat settings, but simply uses a fan as a dryer to blow cool air on the nails. If you like to paint your nails at home occasionally, the Seashell is affordable and easy to use - and will save you plenty of time and frustration.
2. Top Single-Hand Plug-in Machine: Belson Profiles Spa Nail Polish Dryer
Equally portable but more professional, the Belson Profiles Nail Polish Dryer is designed to plug into the wall. It features a roomier design if you prefer that, although you may still have trouble fitting all five digits under the dryer at once. This unit comes with two heat settings - though neither is actually ‘warm’ - and runs extremely quietly. It turns on with a switch and stays on, no need to continually hold down a button. This unit is often spotted in small salons, so you know it does the job. Overall, it’s a great, inexpensive pick.
3. For The Salon or Serious Home Manicurist: Thermal Spa Professional
If you’re looking for a salon-quality machine, this nail dryer is the one you want!
The Thermal Spa Professional Dryer is a much larger machine than the others - but it can fit both hands at once, or both feet to dry a pedicure. It adjusts up and down for your comfort level. It does not apply heat.
This one is truly professional quality, and designed to last through many, many years of nail drying. It features a six-minute programmed cycle - two minutes of fan-only, three minutes of fan plus black light, and one minute of fan only to finish the process. However, you can also use the dryer with just the fan. I honestly have not been able to discern just what the black lights do for your polish, but some people swear by their ability to dry your polish harder than usual, preventing chips.
In any case, this model comes with two 75-watt black light bulbs. The Thermal Spa is so heavy-duty it even features a one year warranty; you’ll be using it to dry your nails for years to come.
What About Quick-Dry Topcoats?
Adding a quick-dry topcoat to your manicure is always a great idea, but doesn’t eliminate drying time altogether. These usually contain a higher concentration of solvents that evaporate faster, and they do help to form a film quickly over the top layer, thereby reducing your smudging risk factor. Seche Vite is widely considered to be the best and gets incredible reviews.
If you don’t like the idea of painting yet another layer over your nails, then try a quick-dry drop formula instead. Essie’s Quick-Drying Drops are a great example. These can be easier to apply over several layers of polish. Whatever top coat you use, it’s bound to have a positive effect on your manicure, but remember it isn’t a cure-all. Feel free to use them, but for the longest-lasting manicure, you should still use your dryer.
Nail Drying Urban Legends
There are many ‘tricks’ rumored to dry nails fast - although they don’t all sound pleasant. I read somewhere that putting your hands into ice water or into the freezer for two minutes will quickly dry your polish. But how comfortable would that be? No thanks! One thing is true about that method, though - it avoids heat, which will actually make your polish more goopy and make it take even longer to dry.
Nail Polish Dryers: Saving Your Sanity And Your Manicure
All in all, a nail polish drying machine is a handy tool that will help your manicures to cure quicker and last longer - and get you back in action that much faster. And, they’re much easier than trying to aim your hair dryer at your hands without any comical mishaps. Have you used a nail dryer at a salon? Do you think they would make life easier at home? Or perhaps you have another suggestion for drying nails quickly? I’d love to hear from you!
The Cured Nail Poll
Samantha on March 25, 2020:
The dryers in the links above are no longer available
Helen on July 08, 2019:
nice post. the nails are beautiful I love them
Sarah (author) from Canada on October 03, 2016:
lana - no, the thermal spa pro dryer will dry regular polish, but the gel and shellac polishes need to be cured with an LED or UV dryer made for that purpose. I wrote a hub about that type of dryer so if you're curious about dryers for gel or Shellac, be sure to check out my other articles and you'll find lots of info!
lana on July 27, 2016:
does the thermal spa professional nail dryer works on gel and Shellac nail polishes too?
Erica on June 05, 2016:
Thanks!! That was super helpful
Sarah (author) from Canada on February 28, 2016:
Hi sparkleyfinger! It's kind of nice to have both kinds of polish on hand, and I agree with you about avoiding waste. Plus, I don't know about you but I have certain colours of regular polish that are my favourite go-to colours - and I would hate to say goodbye to them entirely. The nail dryer machines really make a difference and make regular manicures so much more enjoyable. Thanks so much for your comment!
Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on December 13, 2015:
Great hub. I have a collection of regular polishes and I hate the drying time for them, hence my recent switch to gel polish. However, I hate being wasteful, so think I will invest in a nail dryer for faster results with regular polish! Thanks
Sarah (author) from Canada on October 14, 2015:
I don't know much about the pencils, but I can tell you that the base coat you're using doesn't need UV to set. If it did, it would never cure without the UV light. And it would be clearly marked that it required UV light to cure. It's a gel effect which gives the look of gel nail polish, and some of the durability, without needing UV to cure.
If you were to use a gel nail polish that did require UV, you would want to cure it using the lights (as per the instructions) and then apply decorative stickers after the fact. I can't say what would happen with the stickers under a UV light but I can't imagine it harming them in any way. But you wouldn't need to use UV for them, if they were going overtop of a properly cured UV polish. Does that make sense?
Basically, if you're using any product that says it needs UV, then you definitely need to use UV for that particular step of the manicure. Otherwise a regular dryer is fine.
Hope that helps! :)
Samaramon on October 14, 2015:
Thank you for the quick reply! Very helpful indeed!
I don't really know much about nailpolishes, things were a it simpler when I was a teen :D I've been also looking into ordering pencils for nail art, and many of them seem to require UV light to set in. That's why I was curious mainly. The coat I currently use is this one:
It seems to do the job fine, but it doesn't say if it's gel or just gel-like effect. I'd want the art to be long-lasting, at least a week without any damaging, otherwise it wouldn't be worth it :)
A question I also have, is if I start using decorations, like for example decorative stickers, etc., will it be safe to UV them?
Sorry for all the questions, it just seems you really know what you're doing!
Sarah (author) from Canada on October 14, 2015:
Hi Samaramon! Thanks for your comment. UV dryers will not be harmful for normal nail polish, no; but they also will not affect the drying time of normal nail polish. It depends on the content of the gel-effect polish. If the polish you're using doesn't clearly state that it needs UV to dry, then using a UV dryer will not give any advantage over a regular dryer. And, though the UV exposure is extremely low, you might find some clients prefer to avoid using UV if it isn't absolutely necessary to cure the polish.
In the case of what you're describing, I personally would recommend investing in a good quality nail dryer like the Thermal Spa listed above. Alternately you could try a smaller one (like the Belson or similar) to see how you like it. Either way, using a dryer will definitely make the nail art you're doing cure faster and more thoroughly. And much lower maintenance than using a hair dryer, not to mention more efficient! Does that help? Best of luck with your nail art!
Samaramon on October 14, 2015:
Hey there, love this post!
I was wondering, would UV dryers be harmful for just normal nail-polishes? I run a small makeup studio and was planning on doing nail art, but don't want to do the gel false nails girls seem to do nowadays, just art on their nails :) So, I wasn't sure if the UV lamp will be harmful for quick drying just normal polish with a gel-effect coat?
I've been using normal drugstore nail polishes with a gel-effect coating, and they seem to last a long time, but drying is a bit inefficient so I was looking for a good dryer, and came across your blog (which is amazing). So, would UV work just as well as a fan one? I sometimes use a hairdryer for my own nails, but I doubt that would look elegant in a salon :)
Thanks in advance!
Sarah (author) from Canada on August 05, 2014:
I'll have to check out that China Glaze. Thanks for your comment!
Jasmeet Kaur from India on August 04, 2014:
I used to polish my nails frequently because I love to do nail art and I am nail art blogger. I used to apply quick dry top coats. I use First & Last top coat by China Glaze. It dries my manicure in 2-3 minutes. I never used nail polish drier, but yeah.. I am looking for a good drier with a best price tag. Thanks for listing some good options!!