8 Instant-Drying Nail Polishes For When You Just Don’t Have Time To Wait

Photo by Getty Images/Klaus Vedfelt.
There are only 24 hours in a day, and what we do with that time matters. And while painting your nails is an A+ self-care practice that gives you the chance to exercise your artistic side while staying present to make sure you don’t mess up your manicure, when your polish takes an hour to dry and still gets smudged, you might feel less inclined to incorporate a mani into your daily schedule. But thanks to instant drying nail polishes, you can reap all of the above benefits and be ready to go in 20 minutes—without having to worry about smudging.

In terms of formulation, what makes instant-drying polishes different than their traditional counterparts is that “the liquids in fast-dry polishes evaporate much quicker, setting the polish in a minute,” says manicurist and Essie global lead educator Rita Remark. This makes instant-drying nail polishes a great staple to your self-care routine, especially considering it slashes the drying time by more than half.

Experts In This Article
  • Rita Remark, editorial manicurist and educator in New York; lead nail artist of Essie Canada and Essie’s global lead educator
  • Silva Nahabedian, celebrity manicurist and director of education at Dazzle Dry

One thing to note? “It’s important to know that fast-dry polishes are not long-wear...quick-dry means quick-wear," says Remark. "Ingredients that make a lacquer long-wearing tend to take longer to dry, so they cannot be included in a fast dry formula." Typically, you'll be able to wear your instant-drying lacquer for about a week—or slightly less if you spend a lot of time in water, because water tends to expand and chip the polish. That said, because instant-drying lacquers dry, well, almost instantly, they can be a great way to stop putting off your DIY manicures due to time crunches.

Read on for eight instant-drying lacquers you can use when you’re strapped for time.

8 instant-drying nail polishes

Sally Hansen Insta-Dry Nail Color, Just in Wine — $5.00

Reds are always in season, but this wine-colored lacquer is perfect for fall and winter. The Sally Hansen Insta-Dri collection comes in almost 70 colors and has four-star reviews on Sally Hansen’s website as well as Target, where 10,000 people have reviewed it. One promising piece of feedback from a fan? “I love this nail polish. It is such a time saver and goes on so easily. It also lasts pretty well.”

Essie Expressie, Busy Beeline — $9.00

This yellow is basically sunshine in a bottle without being too yellow, and looks great on all skin tones. The Essie Expressie line is fast-drying and it’s an “all-in-one.” Each bottle gives you a base coat, a color, and a topcoat, which means that not only will it cut down your drying time, but it will also limit your mani to a single step.

Dazzle Dry, High Velocity Red — $20.00

Dazzle Dry’s High Velocity Red is a classic red shade with a subtle magenta shimmer for when you want your nails to be a bit more glam. The brand’s products took chemist Vivian Valenty, PhD, 10 years to perfect and its base coat is formulated with flexible, crack-preventing polymers—which means that Dazzle Dry polishes have more staying power than regular quick-drying lacquers. In order for the polish to last up to its full 10 days, though, you’ll have to use Dazzle Dry’s entire kit, but we deem the system well worth the investment.

Sally Hansen Insta-Dry Nail Color Glow-in-the-Dark Nail Color, Hallo-Green — $5.00

It might no longer be spooky season, but this green is so gorgeous that I’m not convinced that truly matters. Plus, its glow-in-the-dark status makes it a neat party trick for when you don’t feel like coming up with a topic of conversation.

Essie Expressie, Bolt and Be Bold

Dare I say that this is the perfect fall color? I dare! Though it’s bright orange, this polish has brown undertones—and it truly doesn’t get more autumnal than brown and orange.

Dazzle Dry, Lotion Please! — $20.00

This powder-blue instant-drying polish has got gray undertones, making it a nice staple for winter nail colors. Use it along with the rest of the Dazzle Dry kit, and you’ll have a ready-to-go manicure in five minutes flat.

Sally Hansen Insta-Dry Nail Color, Make it Snappy! — $5.00

This light pink shade has the most glorious glittery undertones, but it’s not too dramatic. I applied it earlier this week and, fun fact, it inspired me to write this article. Word to the wise: apply two coats to make it less sheer.

Essie Expressie, Loose the Snooze — $9.00

If reds and lights aren’t your color, this is a great—and a little understated—option that also complements a range of skin tones.

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