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How To Dry Gel Nail Polish Without UV Light

We all know the benefits of a gel polish manicure, but what if you don’t have access to a UV light or an LED light? Is there anything you can do?

I am going to share how to dry gel nail polish without UV light, so you can dry your gel polish, without smudged painted nails. Keep on reading to find out how to dry gel polish without UV light.

Woman soaking her wet gel nail polish in an ice bath within a glass bowl of ice water

What Are The Benefits Of Using Gel Polish Over Standard Nail Polish?

Gel nail polish is a popular option for those looking to keep their manicures looking pristine for longer.

Not only do gel nails last up to two weeks or more, but they also have several other benefits that make them a great choice for anyone who is looking for a long lasting manicure.

Gel nail polishes are created differently than traditional polishes, allowing for more vivid colors and more durability.

It is harder than regular polish and forms a protective shield over your nails. This helps protect your natural nails from everyday wear and tear, which can cause chips and breakage of your regular polishes.

The unique texture of the gel polish not only helps it last longer, but also gives the manicure a smooth and glossy finish, especially with a gel top coat layered over the top to seal in your manicure.

Another great benefit of gel nail polish is that it’s relatively easy to apply. Unlike traditional polish, gel nails have a quicker drying time, as you use UV light to cure the formula, rather than waiting around for your nails to air dry.

Plus, gel polish is more resistant to smudges and dents than regular polish, making touch-ups easier, thanks to gel polish lamps helping to lock our polish in place.

Thanks to gel manicures, you’ll be able to enjoy several different colors of gel polish without having to worry about your nails becoming stained due to the pigments.

Why Do We Have To Cure Gel Nail Polish To Make It Dry?

Curing gel polish is a necessary step in the process of applying gel nails. The purpose of curing gel nails is to harden and dry your nail polish so that it will last longer than regular nail polish.

This is done with a UV or LED lamp, which emits ultraviolet light that helps cure and set the ingredients used in the formula of the gel nail polishes.

By using this kind of nail lamp, you can harden the solvents in the formula, ensuring your nails stay smooth for weeks at a time.

When using a UV lamp to cure your gel nails, it requires exposure from both sides – from underneath and from above.

Without proper use of a UV or LED lamp during this step, you won’t achieve good results when curing your gels.

Curing gels ensures that all ingredients used in their formulas are thoroughly dried and hardened without causing harsh damage to your natural nails beneath them. 

Woman drying her gel nail polish with a cooking spray to set the gel nail polish

Is LED Light Or UV Light Better For Curing Gel Polish?

 LED light is the most common type of curing light used in nail salons because it requires less energy and emits no heat.

This allows your nails to dry faster during your salon appointment without worrying about damaging your skin with too much exposure to heat.

LED light is known to last up to 30,000 hours, which makes it a great long-term investment for nail salons. 

Whereas, UV light requires more energy but works faster than LED light.

Although it gives off more heat than LED light, it only takes seconds to cure gels, so if you’re in a rush or prefer using UV light then this could be a suitable option for you as well.

What Happens If You Don’t Use UV Light To Dry Your Gel Nail Polish?

Technically, it’s possible to get a gel manicure without a UV light. However, the main reason for using a UV light is to cure the gel polish to attach it to your nail plate, without this important step, your gel manicure is not going to last as long.

Not to mention, uncured gel polish can be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus.

Without a UV light, your nails will take much longer to dry and are more likely to be damaged or smeared.

Since the gel polish won’t have cured under the UV light, it will be softer and more prone to chip and crack.

So if you do try to do your own gel nails without a UV light, be prepared for the polish to not last as long and for the risks of bacteria growth.

Woman drying her gel nail polish manicure using an ice bath

How To Dry Gel Nail Polish Without UV Light

If you don’t have access to a UV or LED light, drying your gel nail polish can be tricky without one.

But with some patience and the right knowledge, you can still achieve beautiful nails with your favorite gel nail paint.

It’s good to understand the different types of gels so that you know which one requires a lamp and which one doesn’t.

A soak-off UV/LED gel will always require a lamp for curing to harden after application on your nails, whether it’s a LED nail lamp or a more traditional UV light.

However, if you’re using regular builder gels (also known as ‘sculpting gels’), these do not need any lamps to be cured and can simply air dry on their own instead! 

To begin the drying process without any lamps, start off by making sure your nails are clean and well prepped before applying the layer of gel nail polish onto them,

Make sure each layer is applied thin enough, as thicker layers take longer to dry.

It could take anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes for each layer of polish to fully dry, depending on how thickly it was applied – keep this in mind when planning out your manicure time.

To speed up the process, use a fan or cool air blower at low speeds directly on top of your nail beds, as this helps push hot air away from them, allowing them quicker drying times than usual.

Don’t worry too much about overdoing it, though, since most brands of gel polishes come with added heat-resistant technologies embedded, so they won’t end up cracking or bubbling over due to being exposed too long to high levels of airflow. 

Woman laying on a bed applying gel nail polish to her natural nails

Opt For Non-UV Gel Nail Polishes

Non-UV gel nail polishes are available that can help you achieve a long-lasting and dazzling look without needing to use gel nail polish UV lamps.

Most of these polishes are applied just like traditional Gel polish – with base coats and top coats – but instead of needing to put your nails under a UV light, these polishes simply set when exposed to air.

This allows your nails to dry naturally, thanks to the non-UV gel polish formula. They don’t require UV light or UV rays, but will still give you the glossy shine of a gel polish manicure.

Use An Ice Bath

Believe it or not, an Ice Bath is a surprisingly effective way to properly dry your gel nails, so you can flaunt your new manicure with confidence. 

All you need to do is fill up a bowl or sink with cold water and a few handfuls of ice, then submerge your recently polished nails in it for a few minutes.

The cold temperature in the ice bath helps the nails harden and dry faster than they would without the cold temperatures, and an ice bath works as a way to cure gel polish, without LED or UV light.

Use A Fan

If you don’t have a UV light to cure your gel nails, you can try using a fan to completely dry them. Make sure the fan is several inches away from your nails so that they do not blow off before they are fully cured.

The speed at which the airflow hits the nail will determine how long it takes for them to dry and set.

It could be anywhere from six minutes up to twenty minutes, depending on how close the fan is and how quickly it is blowing across your nails.

If you don’t feel like they’ve dried after two or three minutes, move further away from the fan and allow more time for drying.

Once your nails appear shiny and have hardened in place, then you know they are ready for some top coat polish or any design of choice.

Close-up image of a gel nail polish manicure

Use A Quick-Drying Nail Polish Spray

Using a quick-drying nail polish spray is one option that can be used to expedite the drying process.

This type of product is designed specifically for this purpose and applies evenly over the entire area of your nails. 

To use it, simply shake the bottle, hold it an inch away from the nails and lightly mist them with one or two sprays per nail. 

Once applied, most products take anywhere from thirty seconds up to three minutes to completely dry — after which you will be able to walk out the door without any smudging or ruining your fresh manicure.

Although, a nail polish drying spray does not provide as long-lasting results as traditional methods, like using a UV light or lamp. But they’re perfect for when you need to dry your gel polish, but you don’t have access to a LED nail lamp.

Use Cooking Oil Spray

If you don’t have a UV light to dry your gel nails, use a quick-drying nail polish spray. This is basically a fast-drying topcoat that can help harden and seal in your gel manicure. 

To use this method, you’ll need to apply an extra layer of topcoat over the gel color and then spray each finger with the spraying solution from about 8 inches away for 10 seconds per finger. 

This should help speed up the drying process without having to expose your fingers to harsh UV rays. 

Many professional nail salons recommend using this technique when needed because it helps prevent smudging or running colors during application or removal.

Can Gel Polish Air Dry?

Although you may use gel nail polish without a UV light, the curing process takes much longer by air drying.

It is not recommended to completely rely on air-drying because it will take days for your manicure to completely set if you do not have access to a UV nail lamp.

To achieve the desired result, users must apply a thin layer of gel nail polish that may take months to dry and cure properly without using heating mechanisms and other UV drying methods.

Therefore, it’s best practice to use a good quality LED or ultraviolet light machine to quicken the curing process of your gel polish effectively.

Otherwise, you can expect that your nails won’t last as long as if they were cured with a lamp or faster drying technique and be more prone to smudging and premature chipping. 

Close-up image of a beautiful gel manicure, with pink nails, silver glitter nails and black nails

Does The Sun Cure Gel Nail Polish?

The short answer to this question is no, the sun cannot be used to cure all varieties of gel polishes.

Since the technology used in curing these polishes relies on the UV spectrum and sunlight contains varying levels of UV radiation, it’s never consistent enough to reliably set and harden the polished surface effectively.

Most people don’t know how strong their particular brand of polish needs to be cured at, attempting to use sunlight can lead not only uneven curing but also potential damage from too much exposure–which could include discoloration or peeling over time. 

However, some brands may offer a “sun activated” top coat that will dry when exposed to natural sunlight without any curing needed.

If you’re using such products, it’s important not to leave your hands out in direct sunlight for too long as overheating can cause environmental stress and cracking on your nails, which defeats the purpose of having gel polish applied at all.

When in doubt, it’s best just stick to using traditional lamp methods when drying your nails instead of relying on variations in outdoor lighting conditions and intensity, which are unpredictable erratically and lack consistency – even if you live in sunny climates.


Gel polishes are a great way to achieve flawless nails for up to two weeks at a time, as long as you follow proper steps to cure your gel polish.

Unfortunately, access to UV lamps or LED nail lamps isn’t always available depending on your location or budget.

But thankfully, there are ways to cure gel nails without UV light, by air drying the polish in an ice bath, spraying with a quick-drying nail polish spray, using a fan or hairdryer, or even sitting in the sun.

These methods should speed up the process if used successfully and let you enjoy your new nails ASAP.

Gel nails will stick dry quicker with UV light, but there are some options to dry to ensure your gel polish is cured.