Last month, the cover stories in NAILS Magazine reviewed various problems that can cause your polish application to be rejected the wrong base coat, bubbles, streaks, discoloration, the application itself.

Having analyzed these factors and corrected your technique accordingly, you may still discover yet another source of trouble . . . the drying process, which we now consider this month. In Part II of our polish presentation.

First, clarification of the term “to dry.” Technically, polish doesn’t dry. It cures or hardens. Strictly speaking, objects do not dry when placed in water, but freshly polished nails will cure/harden even when submerged in water. For convenience, however, we will use the term “to dry” because it is generally understood, albeit a misnomer.

Understanding the nature of polish can be useful when considering the hardening process. Polish consists primarily of three components: the shiny film former (nitrocellulose), the adherent resin and the volatiles (solvents). The nitrocellulose and resin are dissolved into the volatiles to create the polish; when applied, the volatiles (solvents) evaporate and leave a shiny film and sticky resin behind.

The various solvents that can be used in a polish formulation (toluene, butyl acetate, isopropyl alcohol and ethyl acetate) all have different evaporation rates. Switching them around alters the speed and uniformity of the evaporation, thus changing the drying time of any given polish.

Varying the formulations also will affect viscosity of polishes, another important consideration. Thin polish dries faster than thick, but if too thin, will require too many coats for proper coverage, which in turn will affect drying time.

This process of evaporation and hardening is critical for polish drying on the nails, but it is not beneficial for the polish remaining in the bottle. Once opened and exposed to the air, evaporation begins. As it continues, the drying time increases and the polish becomes unusable.

To avoid this, always wipe off the cap and bottle necks to ensure an air-tight seal, and replace the cap soon after use. Storing opened bottles in a refrigerator helps because cool air hinders evaporation. However, the lower temperature also thickens polish, so bring it back to room temperature to restore it to the proper consistency before using.

Finding a polish of the right consistency, with a drying time you can work with, is one of the first steps toward perfect polish. Taking proper care of the polish is another aspect, and developing proper application methods is the following step. Having got this far, the last consideration centers on the drying process and anything the manicurist may do to accelerate that progress.

Quite often, a manicurist’s motivation for using nail polish dryers is economic. Such drying agents speed up the surface drying of polish, allowing the manicurist to finish in less time and to be able to schedule more clients in a day.

The disadvantage, however, is that the polish, in most cases, is only surface dried. There is still wet polish under the hardened surface film, which may cause a dimpled orange peel effect or even larger bubbles. You risk giving up great film for the sake of speed, unless you are familiar with the various types of drying agents and their advantages and disadvantages.

Briefly, here’s the lineup of current choices:

Brush –on oils were the earliest polish drying agents on the market. They don’t actually dry polish; instead they act to protect it from scratching until the hardening process can occur naturally.

Consisting primarily of mineral oil, these brush-on products help keep cuticles from drying out and also lend a wet, shiny look to the polish.

Brush-on oils are designed to be used only after;polish application is complete. Since the oil then remains on the nails for a period of time, remember to advise clients to use care when handling leather gloves, purse and clothing.

Aerosol spray dryers, the next to be introduced, were an improvement in terms of speeding up drying time. They also condition cuticles as a result of their oil content cuticles as a result of their oil content (usually mink oil), but these oils require that the spray be used only after complete polish application.

Care should be taken to prevent the force of the spray from causing polish to bubble. Aerosol cans are also prone to clogging.

Non-aerosol pump sprays were first marketed in 1984. They are generally oil-free, which allows manicurists to use the spray between polish coats if desired, speeding up the drying process by another 25 to 75 percent.

If sprayed too close to the nails, bubbling may result. The simple solution: Hold the spray further away. Also, depending on the quality of the pump itself, coverage of the spray may be inconsistent, resulting in spotty drying.

When compared with aerosol sprays, non-aerosol sprays have the advantage of being refillable and have no aerosol fumes (although some users object to the “chemical” smell of these products).

A mousse-like foam dispensed from a can is the newest product in the nail drying category. When used as directed, this type of product helps nails dry in approximately five minutes, conditions cuticles and can be massaged into the hands to counteract dryness.

Electric or battery operated fans circulate air around the nails, which dries the top coat of polish, but not necessarily the underlying coats.

Low-temperature heat dryers are generally designed to “bake” on the polish. Be sure the heat is low and gentle enough to prevent bubbling as it accomplishes this process of curing the polish.

Prices for these latter types of dryers range from $10 for a basic fan to $40-$60 for a highly-quality. The trick here is to determine salon needs and budget for a unit at each station or a couple units located at a shared drying station.

A cold-water dip is perhaps the least expensive method of encouraging nail polish to set faster. It’s also the least professional approach, can cause discomfort to the client, and runs the risk of nicking nails against the container if not careful. But it serves its purpose in a pinch.

The all-time best dryer for polish is time. Simply allow polish to dry by itself, letting the solvent evaporate naturally.

But then again, we live in an era where time is valuable and everyone seems to be constantly rushed and on the go. And, as long as modern technology provides the means for accelerating the polish-curing process, why not take advantage of it?

By all means, do avail yourself of the method that suits you best, but don’t rely on it entirely. We suggest that for just one good reason: The entire nail service is supposed to be a relaxing, pampering experience; an opportunity for clients to take time out of their hectic schedules. So, whenever possible, encourage customers to book appointments with time to spare so they can relax in the salon just a little longer before risking nails in the car, back at the office or in a store.

Go ahead and use the polish dryer you prefer, but remind clients that the polish still requires time before it is gouge-safe and worry-free. A few extra minutes will benefit both the client and the polish you worked so carefully to apply.

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