Home Nails Can Gel Polish Air Dry?

Can Gel Polish Air Dry?

by Gabbi

Fresh manicures can help you feel put together or express your personality. However, how long are you willing to wait for the polish to dry? Regular polish can take a while to dry, which puts you on stand-by until they do, which is why most people opt for gel when it comes to at-home manicures.

Gel polish is convenient, durable, long-lasting, and dries fast under a nail lamp. However, if you plan to apply gel polish at home, you will have difficulty setting the polish without a nail lamp.

Can gel polish air dry? Unfortunately, you can’t let gel polish airy dry and expect the same results you would get at the salon. Gel polish has a unique formula of oligomers and monomers that can’t bind or harden without a nail lamp. 

Attempting to let gel polish dry on its own will only involve a goopy mess. The oxygen will not be able to harden gel like it would regular nail polish. So, the best way you can set gel nail polish is by investing in a UV/LED nail lamp. 

These lamps are essential for setting and hardening gel polish. Also, the wavelengths that nail lamps emit will cure your gel nails quickly, so they can last for a few weeks. What else should you know about curing gel polish?

What Is Gel Polish?

Gel polish is a popular nail enhancement thanks to its convenience and gel texture. Most people choose to apply gel polish because it lasts longer than regular nail polish, and it’s not as potentially damaging to the nails as acrylic.

Gel polish is made of oligomers and acrylic monomers, creating its thick and gel consistency. These ingredients are essential to hardening gel because they combine together when placed under a UV/LED nail lamp.

Once the gel is cured, you can enjoy shiny, durable, and long-lasting nails. Also, gel polish can stay on the nails for about two weeks. 

Benefits Of Gel Polish 

What benefits does gel polish provide? 

A huge reason most people choose gel is that it’s dry within minutes. So you won’t have to carefully strain your fingers to avoid smudging your color like regular nail lacquer.

Instead, as soon as your hand leaves the light, you won’t have to fret about the color getting ruined. 

Gel can be easily removed with a nail drill, or if you have a soak-off formula, with acetone. It can also be used to create extensions and new shapes for your nails. Gel polish is also very resistant to external environmental factors. 

What Is Curing?

You’ll often hear the term “Curing” in the world of gel polish. Curing describes the process your nails go through when the gel goes under the nail lamp. These lamps are essential for curing because they allow the gel to harden and dry thoroughly.

We’ve mentioned that gel polish is made of acrylic monomers and oligomers. These ingredients need to bind together during the curing process in order to reveal the shiny and durable finish of the gel. 

Cured nails refer to the gel hardening, drying, and setting into place after spending time in the nail lamp. Unfortunately, gel nails can’t cure while air drying. 

Why Can’t Gel Polish Air Dry?

Gel polish has an entirely different formula than regular nail polish. This can explain why normal polish can air dry and gel can’t. The only way that gel polish can cure is with a nail lamp to bind the acrylic monomers and oligomers. 

You’ll be waiting an eternity to air dry gel, and it will be virtually impossible to let the air cure your gel. You’ll be left with a goopy mess, and it will be challenging to carry on with your daily tasks.

Can You Dry Gel Polish Without A Nail Lamp?

Most people often wonder if it’s possible to cure gel without a lamp. 

So, a quick internet search may lead you to bizarre hacks like spraying your gel with cooking spray. Unfortunately, while it may potentially work for regular polish, it won’t do the same for gel.

Many popular nail polish brands offer a no-cure gel polish line. However, these products cannot be classified as gel polish because real gel can only cure under a lamp. 

So, using any of these alternative methods may temporarily work, but they won’t offer the same effect or results as a nail lamp. 

How Does A Nail Lamp Work?

Gel polish and nail lamps work hand in hand. However, what makes a nail lamp powerful enough to cure gel? The most popular types of nail lamps are those with an LED or UV source, which are essential components for curing gel.

Traditional nail lamps often use UV wavelengths, but most nail lamps today combine the technology of LED and UV. These UV wavelengths and LED lights will cause a chemical reaction and provide energy to the gel so it can harden completely. 

Within a minute or two, you’ll notice that gel polish can transform from a liquid-gel consistency to a hard, plastic-like finish. 

UV Vs. LED Nail Lamps

What are the main differences between a UV and LED nail lamp? 

Both of these sources have their advantages, which is why most brands include both features in their nail lamps. They both provide wavelengths, just at varying degrees.

UV wavelengths are more potent, but a UV lamp may require more time to cure than an LED lamp. Also, LED lights will emit smaller wavelengths and use a bulb to cure the polish. LEDs are said to be quicker and safer than UV nail lamps.

However, many factors, like a brand of polish/nail lamp, desired effect, and personal preference, will play a role when deciding between UV and LED.

Thankfully, most nail lamps include both UV and LED sources. 

Best Gel Polish Nail Lamps

If you’re wondering wether or not you can air dry your gel nails because you don’t have a nail lamp a home, take a look at our article for the best nail lamps for gel polish or peek at a few of our favorites below!

1. Young Nails UV/LED Curing Light

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Young Nails created a professional-grade nail lamp that you can use at home.

Young Nails provides every tool required to achieve salon-quality nails so your gel can last. This UV/LED Curing Light will harden gel polish in a flash.

Young Nails claims their lamp can cure polish in under a minute, including hard gels and gel polishes.

It’s also easy to use! Place your gel polished nails into the light, wait for the timer to go off, and your nails should be set!

Other features of this nail lamp include UV/LED sources, easy-to-read timer, and simple controls. It also has a sleek, modern design to fit anywhere in your home.

2. Gelish Harmony Pro LED Polish Curing Lamp

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Gelish is a leading brand in the soak-off gel polish category.

Soak-off formulas are ideal for at-home use to avoid damaging your natural nail plates. The Harmony Pro LED Gel Nail Soak Off Polish Curing Lamp is quick and efficient. 

Gelish claims you can cure all five nails at once in under a minute, 45 seconds to be exact. The LED light is lightweight, and you won’t have to worry about replacing the bulbs. 

It features one power button that will turn on the nail lamp, so it’s ready to use.This 18W nail lamp features LED lights, and it’s beginner-friendly. 

3. SUNUV UV LED Nail Lamp

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SUNUV offers an affordable and accessible option for applying gel nails at home.

The UV LED Nail Lamp will effortlessly cure gel polish and hard gels in a minute. It will cure all five nails simultaneously for an even and smooth finish.

This lamp features LED beads and UV light that’s easy to use.

SUNUV crafted this nail lamp with only one power button that can also be used to adjust the timer between 30-60 second intervals. It also has an automatic sensor.

The SUNUV UV LED Nail Lamp is portable and has a sleek design that can be used anywhere. Also, it’s a backless nail lamp that provides space even if you plan to do a pedicure. 


Gel nail polish is a fantastic nail enhancement for those who want longevity and durability. They’re not as damaging as acrylic but not as vulnerable as regular polish. Gel polish can last anywhere between 2-4 weeks.

However, gel polish can’t air dry. The chemical makeup of gel polish makes it impossible to set or harden into place without the help of a nail lamp. These nail lamps can feature UV light, LED light, or a combination of the two. 

Both UV and LED lamps have their pros and cons. However, most brands choose to incorporate both sources in their nail lamps. If you try to air dry gel polish, you’ll be left with a goopy, runny mess on your fingers that hinder you from completing your other daily tasks. 

Therefore, it’s essential to cure gel under a nail lamp if you’re looking to achieve a shiny, durable, and hard-plastic finish.

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