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Confession: I've completely given up on in-salon manicures. Be it from long-lost keys in the deep, dark depths of my purse or pre-made salad with packaging that simply won't open, I've wasted more precious dollars on quickly-ruined paint jobs than I have on overpriced almond milk lattes.
So in the spirit of more saving, less smudging, I decided to get back to my DIY roots utilizing the best quick-dry polishes available on the market. Surprisingly, the results haven't been disappointing. Not only do these polishes boast a variety of flattering shades and other perks, they also dry super fast, getting me polished, sealed, and delivered out the door in about 10 minutes flat. You may be wondering: How the hell can a polish dry that quick? Well, according to cosmetic chemist Ginger King these products contain a higher amount of solvent like ethyl acetate or butyl acetate.
What is quick-dry nail polish?
Quick-dry nail polish is a family of formulas that contain a greater amount of solvents (liquids that mix together to make the product a uniform consistency). The solvents evaporating are what cause the nail polish to dry, so the more the polish has, the quicker it can set.
Keep scrolling for the best quick-dry nail polishes that might replace your monthly mani habit with tips from industry experts.
Best Overall: Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color
Sally Hansen's Insta-Dri formula is already legendary, boasting both an impressive color range and easy accessibility (just pop into any drugstore). It has a built-in base and topcoat, which is excellent for manis in a rush. "If you are concerned about time, there are some 3-in-1 formulas that work well," says Kelly Hanna Thompson, a freelance nail artist, and former manager of Paintbox in New York City. Tack on a mere 60-second dry time, and there's no reason there shouldn't be one bottle (or five) in every nail enthusiast's lineup.
Best Budget: China Glaze Nail Lacquer with Hardeners
Specifically formulated to rival professional-level enamels, this quick-dry polish from China Glaze boasts a strategic blend of polymers and resins for a worry-free result that won't chip, fade, or dull. This formula will never get thick or gloopy in the bottle, which will speed up dry time. "When polishing with a quick-dry polish, avoid applying too many coats. It’s actually quicker to remove too thick of an application and start over with a thinner coat," says Michelle Saunders James, owner and founder of Saunders and James Nail Care and the brand's salon in Oakland, CA.
Best Drugstore: Essie Expressie Quick-Dry Nail Polish
Another long-time drugstore staple, Essie is beloved the world over—the shade "Ballet Slippers" is the only color the Queen of England will wear. Expressie, their quick-dry line, introduces a uniquely shaped, angled brush to make painting faster and easier, even when you're using your non-dominant hand. "A wide, flat brush will give you an even application with fewer strokes, but a round brush is better if your nail plate is smaller," says Rebecca Isa, Creative Director at Zoya Nail Polish. Get the best of both worlds with this product.
Best 10-Free: Suite Eleven Nail Lacquer
The founder of Suite Eleven started the line after having to toss almost all her beauty products after she discovered she had several chemical allergies. The result is a fast-drying formula that's "10-free"—it contains none of the harmful chemicals that exist in more old-school polish formulas. If the smell of nail polish is quick to give you a headache, this purist option might be for you.
Best Treatment: Orly Breathable Treatment + Color
The only thing better than a no-fuss formula is a polish that makes your nails better while you wear it. Orly's Breathable Treatment+Color line contains Argan oil and vitamins B5 and C meant to add nutrition and hydration to brittle tips, and advanced oxygen technology keeps application quick but wearability long, according to the brand. Plus, we dare you to name a place or time this beautiful rose gold shade wouldn't work.
Best Under 60 Seconds: Nails, Inc. 45 Second Speedy Gloss
Okay, so you're running late. Really late. Like only-45-seconds-to-do-your-nails late. Impossible? Not anymore. Nails, Inc.'s Speedy Gloss line will get you out the door, fast. The color range is a tightly edited selection of versatile shades that can work everywhere.
Price isn't always an indicator of quality, but when it comes to quick-dry polishes, it can be an indicator of how good the formula is. "Price can give you an idea of how quality the pigment and plasticizers (for flexibility) are since they cost more," says Thompson. These are other components of quick-dry polish to take into consideration.
Best Long-Lasting: JINSoon Nail Polish
JINsoon polishes only need two coats for total color saturation, and the formula includes a built-in UV filter to prevent the pigment from fading or turning yellow. It's excellent news for on-the-go manicures and choosing a color. "Sometimes it helps, when choosing a color, to wear dark opaques or light sheers for the best coverage and fastest drying times," says Saunders James.
Best Splurge: Butter London Patent Shine 10X Nail Lacquer
Yes, this is a mouthful of a name, but hold on. Although this fast-drying option from Butter London is one of the list's spendier options, it's also one of the most covetable. Its shock-resistant polymers fight chipping; it has diamond powder for the most brilliant shine and bamboo extract meant to strengthen the nail. Your nails certainly won't look rushed with this formula.
Best Nudes: Zoya Naked Manicure Perfectors
One of the best methods for a polished mani, when you're pressed for time, is to go for the slightest whisper of color instead of a bright, bold hue. The Zoya Naked Manicure Perfectors are for just that purpose. They offer a sheer wash of color: enough to hide any discoloration or texture, but not so much that your cuticles are suddenly purple with no time for clean up.
Best Non-Toxic: Taupe Coat Nail Polish
The color selection in nail polish products is dominated by reds and pinks. Enter Taupe Coat, a small-batch boutique nail polish line with burnt orange, mint green, and slate blue shades for anyone tired of their tips looking like everyone else's. "A good quality solvent-based polish will dry dent-free in under five minutes," says Isa. So, have faith that even the most independent of brands will still meet your time-crunch standards.
If buying yet another nail polish will make your vanity burst open, you can opt for a modifier for your existing bottles. Drying spray, like OPI's RapiDry Spray Nail Polish Dryer ($11), or Drip Dry Lacquer Drying Drops ($14) also from OPI, will help absorb the solvents in nail polish more quickly than they would evaporate on their own. They basically turn any bottle of nail polish into a quick-dry formula.