In the two years leading up to 2020, I rarely painted my nails — or even got them done. Years of at-home manicures had taught me one thing: The smudging and smearing of wet or almost-dry polish (even after waiting the allotted two hours that’s said for it to dry completely, even after using drying drops or fast-drying formulas) is inevitable. It could be an imprint of fabric, a nick at the corner, or an inexplicably random streak sliced right through what had been an impeccably lacquered nail — whatever it was, I would be stuck with my ruined nail (or nails), lamenting it until my manicure became so grossly chipped and I was forced to remove it altogether. It’s far, far worse when this happens after going to a salon — the tragedy of chipping a nail minutes after paying for a professional manicure is enough to make an adult woman cry tears of frustration (don’t judge, okay).
So: I left my nails bare and unpolished to save myself the hassle. But a global pandemic happened, and a lockdown that lasted months — during which I did everything I could to distract myself from the unrelenting sound of sirens outside and the climbing death toll on the news. I cooked, I participated in virtual happy hours, I did jigsaw puzzles, I read, I knitted, I painted, I expanded my gallery wall, I baked banana bread, I grew scallions from my window sill.
And then I rediscovered manicures. I found that it forced me to slow down, that it allowed me to wield some form of control, that it curbed my anxiety (I painted my nails on election night, too). Of course, all of my old gripes were still there — but I dealt with it, because what else was I going to do? And I had nowhere else to be. For months, I worked my way through my collection of old polishes, swinging from a cheery yellow to a somber navy to fit whatever mood I was in. For a while, I committed to daisies and marveled at the little flowers that formed with strategically placed dots.
But what really changed everything was when OPI sent its RapidDry Spray Nail Polish Dryer for me to try. It was part of an at-home manicure & hand-care press mailing but out of all the luxe goods included, this is the one that stood out for me. It’s a spray that cuts down drying time from two hours to a few minutes, which, to me, an eternal skeptic, doesn’t even sound real. You have to wait at least 45 seconds after the last coat, otherwise, according to reviews, bubbles will form. But 45 seconds is nothing compared to hours.
The bottle is small, which makes it impossible to grip without smudging wet polish (I had to wrangle my husband for help). After he sprayed every nail, I waited five minutes before I tentatively clinked them together — and found no stickiness. They were unbelievably dry, and it had hardened down to a shiny, glossy shell — the same effect that’s only ever achieved in salons.
To be clear, it doesn’t instantly make wet polish dry fully, but it does on the surface, which means you can read a book and flip a page without ruining your manicure or type on a keyboard or wash your hands or go to bed. You’re not immobilized for two hours. All of this is to say, this polish dryer is a lifesaver for anyone who’s impatient like me, and for anyone who hates a ruined manicure. And maybe, with this spray, I’ll keep up at-home manicures long after the pandemic is over.
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