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Do UV Lamps Work On Regular Nail Polish? [Should You Try?]

If you’re applying regular nail polish, and are not a fan of having to sit around waiting for it to dry, you may be thinking of ways to speed the process up. But what about using a UV lamp? Can you do this; does it fasten the drying process? Here is what you need to know.

So, do UV lamps work on regular nail polish? UV lamps do not generally work on regular nail polish. This is because regular nail polish will only dry through exposure to air, and with time, as the chemical solvents in the polish evaporate. Instead, it is Gel Polish that requires a UV light – to produce the polymerization reaction needed for the polish to harden.

The truth is, while nail polishes may appear all the same. They are actually drastically different in terms of what compounds are present and how they work.

Besides, there must be a reason why gel polish lasts considerably longer and is not as susceptible to chipping as your standard polish.

Let us now take a closer look at why a UV light will not work on regular polish, before looking at some practical and easy ways to fasten the drying process without one!

Why UV Light Does Not Work On Regular Nail Polish

A UV lamp, or even an LED lamp for that matter, will not work on regular nail polish due to the nature and chemical disposition of the nail polish itself.

Regular nail polish is mostly comprised of three different compounds: film-forming polymers, solvents and plasticisers and pigments.

Now you are not hear for a chemistry lesson so I will just jump straight to the point of all this.

It is the solvent component of a nail polish that needs to dry.

These solvents, which commonly include ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, and alcohol, need to evaporate.

And time and exposure to air is what allows them to do so.

So, adding UV light will not contribute to this evaporation.

There is of course the argument of heat.

Now, if a specific UV lamp did produce a lot of heat, then it could theoretically speed up the rate of evaporation somewhat.

But, this is not an advised approach.

Besides, exposure to UV when it is not necessary does not come advised. In fact, it can be dangerous.

Generally, the less you can expose yourself to UV; the better.

So, only use a UV lamp where it is going to be particularly effective; with gel nails. And limit it elsewhere.

Ways To Get Regular Nail Polish To Dry Faster

So, if you cannot use a UV light to dry your regular nail polish faster, what can you do?

Besides, time is of the essence.

Below, I will walk you through some of the best approaches – both free and at a cost, to give you back that valuable resource of time.

And of course, well-dried nails!

Apply Less Polish

This may seem like an overly obvious tip, but its something I see time and time again.

Applying too much nail polish is a fundamental mistake and surefire way to increase the drying process!

So, opt for thin coats of polish.

If you need to add another coat later, that’s fine. You can always touch up.

This tip is great in the sense that it should save polish too, and some money in the process!

Use Hairspray

Another excellent and somewhat bizarre tip is to use hairspray!

All you need to do with this approach is paint your nails with your (hopefully thin) coat of regular polish.

Let them dry for a few minutes, just so that they can begin to set.

Then, spray a small amount of hairspray (from a safe distance – at least 10 inches away).

From there, wait for an extra couple of minutes and then wash your hands with cold water.

This will remove the sticky residue from the hairspray, and leave you with a great dry coat of nails!

For more on this approach, read my guide here!

Ice Water

Using ice is another great approach – as counter-intuitive as it may seem.

To do this, you simply need to dip your nails into a bowl filled with cold water and several ice cubes.

Leave your fingers in the bowl for 2-3 minutes.

When you take them out, your polish should be set and hard!

But your fingers may be a little cold, the only downside of course.

Air Assisted Fan or Hairdryer

Perhaps the best way, and my recommended approach, is to use an appliance that gives you air and heat.

Fans designed specifically for regular nail polish, like this Amazon best-seller, are fantastic.

Just look at the wealth of positive reviews!

Its a real-time saver, and a good investment if you can afford it.

Failing this and if you do not have the budget, you can always use a standard hairdryer.

Just be sure to keep it on a cooler, slower setting and hold it at least 10 inches away from your nails. It will generally take around a minute for nail polish to dry under a hairdryer


There are certainly ways to speed up the drying time invovled with regular nail polish.

Using a UV light is not one of them.

Well at least, it shouldn’t be.

Its not generally a safe or advisable approach long term.

Using a UV light more sparingly, only when you truly need it (as is the case for gel nails), comes strongly recommended.

At least, according to the research.

But remember, health should always come first.