Does Shellac Nail Polish Dry On Its Own? (We Find Out)

Does Shellac Nail Polish Dry On Its Own

If there’s one thing I love about a visit to the nail salon, it’s the feeling I get from a spanking new dose of polish on my plain fingernails. If you prefer having on some shellac nail polish though, you might be wondering about the risks of UV exposure during the drying process. So, I will take the time to answer whether shellac nail polish dries on its own.

Shellac nail polish does not dry on its own. UV light is used to activate photoinitiators in the gel which starts the chemical bonding process. The gel mixture then hardens and emits a sheen much like the resin from its varnish counterpart, a result you will not get from simply drying the polish.

I will explain what shellac nail polish is and discuss whether it can be dried without using UV light. I will also explore an alternative to the light and provide tips on how you can keep your nails hydrated.

What Is Shellac Nail Polish?

Shellac is a patented mixture of semi-permanent nail polish. It combines gel with regular nail polish to form a mixture that protects nails, provides durability yet gives nails a beautiful, natural color. The owner of the product, Creative Nail Design offers over 100 shades.

It is a more practical option for those like me who are prone to handling items clumsily so much so that I’m almost assured to have chipped nail polish by the end of the day. However, although the gel nail polish is long-lasting, I have often thought it to be too thick on my nails and they are quite difficult to remove. So, I fully accept an option where I can get the best of both worlds.

The formula takes effect when the mixture is exposed to LED lighting, which hardens the polish into a sort of varnish which is why it is called shellac. The term shellac is generally defined as a resin that is cultivated from forest trees in India and Thailand. It is often harvested and used to create varnishing for wood as it helps to protect the wood and give it a glossy color.

This is why shellac nail polish is suitably named as it is the perfect combination of protection and gloss.

Can Shellac Dry Without UV Light?

It is understandable why you would want to opt out of having to dry your nails in UV light. There are certain risks that one undertakes when being exposed to them. There are risks of cancer and suppression of the immune system that makes you wonder if having perfectly cured shellac nails are really worth the risk.

Shellac nails won’t dry without UV light, however. It will only dry halfway. Also, when it does eventually “dry” you will not get the flawless gloss look that the polish is famous for. The UV rays from the light are what are used to cure the polish quickly.

It is necessary because of its gel component.

If you have ever painted your nails yourself you know how frustrating it is having to wait for them to dry, while constantly having to blow on them, fan them in the air, or place them under a fan to try and speed the process. And of course, the moment you think they’re dry, they lightly brush against a surface and smudge.

If you know that experience, then imagine having to dry shellac polish without the light? You will be spending hours blowing on your nails, only to have them semi-dry.

The result? A runny, smudgy mess of a nail polish experience.

How Long Do Shellac Nails Take To Dry?

Using UV light, your shellac nails can be dried in a little less than 2 minutes.

If you attempt to dry your shellac nails without UV light, then you will find that it takes hours and the finish will not be great because the polish wasn’t actually cured. A component in the gel, which we will talk about later, needs light for the gel inside the shellac to harden. Therefore, being exposed to natural light not specifically directed at the nails will take a longer time.

How Do You Dry Gel Nail Polish Without UV Light?

Gel nail polish contains a substance called photoinitiators. They are the reason that gel nail polishes require UV Lights as the photoinitiators (PIs) are sensitive to light. When exposed to light, the PIs absorb it which causes them to decompose into free radicals.

This starts the bonding of chemicals inside the gel liquid. The bonding process hardens the gel and provides a smooth finish.

So the problem is not really whether your nails “dry” per se. It is more about whether those bonds harden. I’m sorry to say, it won’t dry without the use of UV lights in some form.

As mentioned before, UV light is required to start the curing process. Therefore, the best alternative is to use another light that causes less harm. The LED lamp is the best alternative to UV.

While LED lamps still use UV rays, the bulbs emit a different type of radiation. The wavelengths from the LED lamp are narrower than the UV lights which speed up the curing process. With an LED lamp, curing takes 5-10 seconds.

I personally don’t think it is worth the hassle trying to find alternatives outside of the LED Lamp. The issue with the gel is not as simple as getting them dry. As mentioned before, it is a chemical reaction.

How Do You Rehydrate Your Nails After Shellac?

As the gel in nail polish is quite drying, you have to ensure that you take steps to keep them hydrated. I will share a few with you.

Moisturize your cuticles often. You can use cuticle oil frequently to keep the area around the nails adequately hydrated. I would recommend using the oil every night.

This is to both maintain the longevity of your shellac and the health of your skin and nails. Using moisturizers is also beneficial. Ensure to moisturize after every bath or whenever you wash your hands.

Most importantly, drink water. The most natural way to hydrate your body is to drink water so that these topical remedies I provided have something to work with. No amount of topical oils and serums are going to solve your body’s thirst on the inside.

Try for at least five glasses of water per day then see how much more you can have over time.


Shellac is truly the product that will give you the best of both worlds. However, the facts hold true, Shellac will not “dry” on its own. The chemical process which causes it to harden needs UV light for it to begin, however, LED lamps reduce your exposure to harmful rays and significantly lessens the time needed for your nails to cure.



My name is Sophia, and I'm a makeup artist that loves to try different makeup, nail polish, and other beauty products.

Recent Posts