ASK ANA: Does an Ice Bath Dry Nail Polish Fast?


How To Dry Nail Polish Fast


Image Will and Ice Bath Dry Polish Fast How to dry nail polish fast


“What do you think of the “trick” to harden polish…it involves dipping the painted nails into ice cold water.

Something tells me it may not work and could ruin a fresh manicure.” ~Kelli



I love how your brain thinks Kellie.

The Nail Scientist Speaks

I actually asked Doug on this one and his short answer was:

“It is true, but dumb. The water doesn’t have to be cold and this won’t properly dry the nails.” ~Doug Schoon, Nail Structure and Product Chemistry

Harden vs. Dry



The key word here is “harden” not dry.

The water helps harden the top layer of the polish. But when you take them out, the rest of the polish is soft and waiting to be dented.

The Nail Luxxe actually tested this myth and you can see the results of her painful test in the photo to the right.

The key is also to understand how polish “dries”—by evaporation of the solvents. This is impossible when immersed in water.

So if you have a hardened top layer from the water dip, it’s more difficult for the solvents to evaporate underneath.

The Solution

The best solution to getting polish to dry quicker is to paint each layer thinly. Finger #1 should be dry by the time you paint finger #10. If it’s not, you’re painting too thickly.

Some polish brands may require 3 layers when painting to achieve full opacity.

You will be far happier with the extra time it took to polish your nails 3 times and have each layer dry properly, than painting two thicker coats, and be frustrated with dents and smudges.

What’s Your Pleasure? Lick or Smell?

Although many prefer to lick the polish to see if it’s dry, I prefer the smell test . . . smell the polish on your nail right after you polish it. This is the aroma of the solvent that needs to evaporate.

After you have polished all 10 nails, go back and smell nail number one.

If you still smell the solvent, wait a few minutes before starting the second coat. Repeat the smell test before applying the third coat or topcoat.

Never touch two polished nails together to see if the polish is dry.

This is just asking for dents.

Role Reversal

NOW, topcoat over nail art, is the only time where my advice FLIPS.

You must paint topcoat over nail art very thickly so you are able to smooth out the topcoat WITHOUT letting the brush touch the polish underneath.

Since topcoat “re-wets” the nail art underneath, the brush can not touch it.

This is where “quick-dry topcoats” become important. You want that polish to dry quickly since you have to paint it on so thickly.

Otherwise you might be sitting around for 20 minutes waiting for it to dry. Who has time for that?

Hope that helps! Huggs, ~Ana

What Do You Think?

Did this article change your thoughts in any way? Comment below

If you liked this article . . . please share!


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14 Responses to ASK ANA: Does an Ice Bath Dry Nail Polish Fast?

  1. Nail Luxxe November 9, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    It’s great to see this topic being discussed in detail. I find that this ‘theory’, ‘myth’, ‘rumour’ has spread far and wide and yet there’s no real evidence to support the claim. That’s why I had to do the experiment. Hopefully we’ll discover some more successful methods to drying nails quickly.

    • Ana November 9, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by Nail Luxxe! And thank you for doing the experiment! You saved me from the ice bath torture test! ~Ana

  2. Galaxia @ Nail Care Enthusiast November 10, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Ain’t nobody got time for that! haha Thank you so much for these tips on drying nails quickly. I, too, noticed that my nail polish would harden, but still dent :/ Now I understand why. I never heard of anybody licking their nails to test dryness, though LOL I will paint thinly and sniff. ♥

    • Ana November 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      Galaxia, thank you so much for stopping by. I’m glad you found this article helpful! ~Ana

    • Lindsey Garber December 4, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

      Haha! I am a licker!! I also lick to smooth out smudges. Works every time! Ya learn something new every day, huh? Maybe I will try sniffing now!!

      • Ana December 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

        Lindsey, I lick out smudges too. I’ll have to do an article about it. ~Ana

  3. Shelby Lou Nails November 13, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    I love scientific explanations. I found that when I paint thin and then do a nice thick quick-dry topcoat it works the best for me–now I know why!
    I agree with Galaxia though–who licks their nails? I’m sure I have enough acetone absorbed into my body without licking it, too 😉

    • Ana December 7, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      Shelby Lou,
      Actually, licking works great when you need to smooth out a smudge in fresh polish. It tastes horrible, but it works! ~Ana

  4. Prajakta December 17, 2013 at 10:54 pm #


    Very informative article. Your articles always makes me realize, “why didn’t I think of that? ”

    I normally,very very very very……. lightly touch my two nails to check whether polish is completely hardened or not?

    Sometimes we feel polish is dry, but not hardened. That time this trick works, provided you do it lightly, otherwise expect dents.

    If you do this even if you feel polish is not dry, then say bye bye to yours efforts. I know, Anna & lot of other people won’t agree with me, but this trick works for me.

  5. January 22, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    when waiting for nail polish to dry, I’m always reminded of that scene on the boat in Overboard, where Goldie Hawn’s character has just had her nails painted by the butler, and he asks if she wants to put her jewelry back on, and she says, “No, I’m still tacky.” Which is hysterical, because her character IS tacky… but she’s gently touching the tips of her nails to a her thumb, testing the “tack” of the polish. I find that this works well for me too (and I’m NEVER “tacky” lol), and IF a dent appears, the “lick and smooth” is the ONLY way to go. Can’t wait to read your post on that technique!

  6. Mikki December 9, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    I never knew you could lick to smooth! Love that tip! Since I was a little girl, my way to test for dry nails is to lightly touch the nail to my lip. It’s more sensitive than your finger so you can do it so gently without leaving a mark. I’ll have to try the sniff method. Thanks Ana.

  7. Shauna February 4, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    Hi Ana,

    What are your thoughts on drying sprays? Such as the OPI RapiDry Spray? I find it dries my nail polish very quickly but I have this feeling it isn’t healthy for my nails. What do you think?

    Thank-you. 🙂

    • Ana February 14, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

      Shauna, I haven’t tried any of them and since I’m not a chemist or a doctor, I don’t understand their ingredient list. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dangerous…. unless you were drinking it. It’s important to remember that nails are about 50 layers of dead keratin cells. The only chemicals that can pass through them are water and very fine oils like body oil, jojoba wax ester, avocado and a few other select oils. If you are finding the spray to be helpful, then you should be fine.

  8. Joanne April 2, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    Face it girlies! Nothing completely dries nail polish except time! Make sure that you have at least 30 minutes after the ice bath and or all other methods. Just sit in a comfortable chair and relax. I’ve tried everything under the sun, and time to dry properly is the only way.

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