The perfect manicure has never been quicker.

By Hana Hong
February 24, 2021
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A good friend once told me that a woman is most vulnerable when her nails are drying. Imagine you just spent 45 minutes grooming your cuticles and painting your nails (two coats at that) to perfection—only to prematurely move and accidentally brush your hand against the coffee table. Just like that, your formerly polished ring finger is a smudged eyesore. We'd do almost anything to avoid that nail-mare from happening, even if it renders us completely immobile.

But what if I told you that didn't have to be the case? Most regular nail polishes take at least one or two hours to dry completely, and all-natural, formaldehyde-free formulas can take up to five hours. Nobody has the time or patience for that. While there are some hacks that work to accelerate dry time (mine is flapping my hands in the air like a madwoman), opting for a quick-dry formula is the easiest route. So in the spirit of more time-saving, less nail-smudging, here are my go-to nail polish formulas for when I have to do my nails in a pinch. 

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best-quick-dry-nail-polish-essie-expressie

1 Expressie by Essie

$9, ulta.com

It’s almost supernatural how quickly this polish dries. With over 40 colors for the choosing, the vegan formula sets with no smudges in only a minute. And we’d be remiss not to mention the cleverly angled brush, which helps create mess-free manis even with your non-dominant hand.

best-quick-dry-nail-polish0Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color

2 Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color

$6, ulta.com

There's a reason why there’s a Sally Hansen bottle (or 10) in every nail enthusiast's lineup. Not only does this legendary drugstore formula boast a variety of flattering shades, it also dries super duper fast (no supplementary tools required), thanks to the built-in base and topcoat.

best-quick-dry-nail-polish-Nails, Inc. 45 Second Speedy Gloss

3 Nails, Inc. 45 Second Speedy Gloss

$9, sallybeauty.com

To really give it some perspective, the drying time of Nails, Inc.'s Speedy Gloss line is about the same length as a TikTok video: 45 seconds, flat. In addition to the quick-dry factor, the formula is infused with hexanal, which is rich in calcium and magnesium to strengthen nails over time.

best-quick-dry-nail-polish-BONTIME Organic Water Based Nail Polish

4 BONTIME Organic Water Based Nail Polish 

$18 for 6, amazon.com

Want a clean nail polish that doesn’t reek of chemicals? If the smell of nail polish is quick to give you a headache, the purist option might be for you. This non-hazardous, eco-friendly nail polish is water-based, meaning there is no pungent smell or nail-damaging ingredients. In addition to the effortless application, it’s also easy to remove–simply peel it off whenever you change your mind.

best-quick-dry-nail-polish-JINsoon HyperDry

5 JINsoon HyperDry

$24, amazon.com

As with all top coats, JINsoon’s Hyperdry doesn’t need to top anything. If you can’t commit to a color, squeeze a couple drops on each bare nail to get a high-gloss glaze; the dropper application makes it quicker than ever to apply. You can also use it over a slow-dry nail polish to create a chip-resistant barrier.