Why Does My Nail Polish Never Dry? (Here’s Why)

why does my nail polish never dry

Have you ever found that your nail polish smudges long after it should have dried? If so, you might be wondering what is going on and what you can do to stop this from happening.

There are a few reasons that nail polish can be slow to dry. You may be putting the polish on too thickly or applying too many coats, or you might be rushing it. Sometimes, old nail polish won’t dry very well, as the chemicals in it have changed. Exposing the nails to heat can also be a problem in some cases.

In this article, we’re going to cover what stops your nail polish from drying properly, what you should do if the nail polish won’t dry, and why nail polish can smudge even hours after it should be dry.

Why Does My Nail Polish Never Dry?

If it seems like your nail polish never dries, there are quite a few different things that could be causing the problem. For example, if you are putting the nail polish on quite thickly, you should be aware that this can have a cumulative effect that will keep your nails wet for hours longer.

This is because the lowest layer will dry very slowly when you have applied another layer on top of it. It won’t have enough airflow. The more layers you add, the worse this problem will get. Multiple layers make it harder and harder for the base coats to dry.

Even if you do let the base coats dry a bit before applying another coat, you should be aware that they won’t be completely dry for a long time. They may feel touch dry, but there is still plenty of moisture that needs to evaporate, and this will be the case for hours after you have applied the coat.

Alternatively, you might simply not realize how long nail polish takes to dry, and your expectations might be off. Make sure you check the manufacturer’s guidelines about drying times before you determine how long you think it should take.

Another possibility is that your nail polish is too old to dry as it should. Polish does change as it ages, and you may find that some of the chemicals have altered their state. This will prevent them from drying correctly. If you think this has happened, you should throw the nail polish away.

What To Do If Your Nail Polish Won’t Dry

If your nail polish won’t dry, there are multiple solutions you can opt for. One involves buying a specific quick-drying polish. There are many brands available that advertise faster drying times, and these may help you out if you are struggling with smudges.

Another option you can try involves dipping your nails in cold water about 60 seconds after you have painted them. The water should be icy if possible, and you should let the nails get touch dry before you plunge them in. Once they are, hold your fingers in the water for a couple of minutes, and you should find that the polish sticks and dries much better.

You should also opt for thin coats at all times. Thick coats will take a lot longer to dry, which puts you at far more risk of smudging the paint. Thin coats will dry faster, allowing you to apply multiple layers with far less risk of smudges.

Why Does My Nail Polish Smudges Hours Later?

If your nail polish smudges many hours after you have applied it, this is a good indication that you have put too much polish on – either too thickly or in too many layers. Remember that if moisture remains in the lower layers, the upper layers are much more likely to smudge.

If you are sure that you haven’t put too much nail polish on, you should check whether your nail polish has gone off. The older it is, the more likely this is. See whether the texture of the polish has changed and whether it has turned thick. If it has, consider discarding it and buying some new polish to minimize the risk of smudging in the future.

You are more likely to see smudging if you get your nails warm and wet – which means that showers should be avoided if possible. The warmth and the moisture will make the polish far more likely to smear across your fingers.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid washing your hands, but opt for cool water where possible, and don’t scrub at your nails. The polish is very likely to come off if you put it under pressure before it has completely dried – which can take a surprisingly long time.

How Long Does Nail Polish Take To Dry Completely?

A lot of people think nail polish is dry as soon as it feels dry to the touch. If you can brush it with one finger without getting color on your hand, it is touch dry – but that’s not actually dry. There is still a lot of moisture in the polish, and it will take a considerable amount of time for this to evaporate.

Nail polish can take as long as 24 hours to dry completely. The fast drying polishes will of course be a lot quicker than this, but for standard polish, you often need a full day to dry it properly.

You should bear this in mind when deciding what activities to do after painting your nails. If you are going to be gardening, doing dishes, or otherwise treating your nails roughly, you might want to consider wearing gloves or painting your nails on a different day.


Nail polish can take a long time to dry for a whole myriad of reasons. If you are having problems with smudging, check whether your polish is too old or whether you are applying too much of it. However, bear in mind that nail polish really can take a full 24 hours to completely dry, and that you should treat it gently until this period has passed.

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