Don’t have a UV lamp at home or did your nail tech forget to cure your gel top coat? What if you could dry your gel polish in natural sunlight instead? After all, the sun does emit UV rays, right?
Gel polish can eventually dry naturally on its own if exposed to the sun. When the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light comes to contact with the gel polish, it will “cure” through a process called “polymerization”, which is a chemical reaction that causes the molecules in the gel to link up with one another making it harden.
This is the reason why gel polish bottles are never transparent or see-through like traditional regular polish. Gel polish bottles are usually fully covered so that the inside is always dark, which protects the gel from inadvertently drying from the sun.
Since sunlight has to penetrate through the atmosphere and clouds to reach you, a decent amount of sun is needed in order to properly cure the gel polish. The UV light from the sun is not directly focused on your nails like a nail salon UV lamp, so it will likely take 10 to 30 minutes or more depending on the weather. Of course, on a very bright, sunny day it will dry much faster. It is probably a good idea to polish in the shade to make sure you don’t get any gel on your skin before putting your nails out in the sun to dry.
If your gel polish isn’t drying then it’s likely not sunny enough outside. If the sun is bright enough to give you a sunburn, then it’ll probably be enough to cure your gel polish as well – just make sure you put on some sunscreen.
Unlike traditional nail polish, gel polish does not air dry naturally by itself. It requires a UV light source to initiate a chemical reaction in the gel molecule for it to cure. This is why a UV lamp is needed to immediately cure the gel polish. After 30 seconds to a minute under a UV lamp, the gel will be fully cured and can be touched without messing it up. Using a hair dryer will not work either, so don’t even think about it.
Gel polish requires several coats in order to be applied properly. The first is the base coat which will provide a foundational layer for the color coat to adhere to. After the base coat follows at least two coats of color to achieve a richly colored finish. Finally, it is sealed off with a top coat for a glossy look. All of these steps can be reliably accomplished by a UV lamp in less than 15 minutes. If you were to try and do all of these steps by simply drying your nails in the sun, it could take you an hour or longer.
Sunlight also varies by the weather and season so you will have to wait until it is sunny enough outside to be able to polish your nails. It could take days or weeks depending on where you are from until you can cure your nails in the sun. So yes, a UV lamp is worth it and you should probably invest in one to save yourself valuable time.
To top it off, yes gel polish can indeed dry in the sun. It’ll just take longer than it normally would from a nail salon UV lamp. You’ll also have no “timer” to notify you when the coat is dried like a UV lamp. In the end, it’s much more time-consuming so you’re better off just going to a nail salon. But, if you’re on the go, using the sun is a great natural method to cure your gel polish.