I Have How Many Top Coats: Top Coat Challenge

I finally decided to do it, a top coat challenge. After months of being on a search for a Seche Vite replacement, I realized I had 8 top coats and one arriving any day in the mail. It was definitely time to find out how they performed against each other.

I won’t lie, I love Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat. I love that I can put it on, and my nails will be dry in a matter of minutes with a glassy shine. I’ve always joke that it’s cancer in a bottle. That’s even before I read the warning on the bottle. The warning says it contains ingredients known by the state of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. My husband and I called it quits in the baby department 3 years ago when our youngest was born, so I’m not worried about the “birth defects” part, but I suppose just knowing it’s got bad stuff in it makes me wary.

I started this top coat challenge 4 days ago on Thursday, January 17, 2013. I wanted to make sure I didn’t give any of the top coats any unfair advantage, so I didn’t use a base coat or color by any of the nail companies featured in my challenge. I assumed top coats would work better with color and base coats from the same line. For a base coat, I used Orly’s Bonder.

My main goal was to see who had the best wear, and overall shine and texture. I realized after the fact that I should have picked a cream color for this post. I was thinking about which polish I could manage to wear for 4 or 5 days straight instead of which polish would photograph the best for my purposes. For selfish purposes, I chose OPI’s The World Is Not Enough from the Skyfall Collection.

Base Coat - Orly BonderOPI - The World Is Not Enough

Base Coat – Orly Bonder
OPI – The World Is Not Enough

On my left hand starting on my thumb to my pinkie:

Top coat-11

CND  Air Dry Fast Set Top Coat
China Glaze Fast Forward Top Coat
Zoya Armor Top Coat UV Block
Qtica Extending Top Coat
Essie Good Top Go

On my Right hand starting on my thumb to my pinkie:

Top coat-12

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat
Sally Hansen Mega Shine Extended Wear Top Coat
Sally Hansen Nail Shine Miracle Top Coat
Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat
no cop coat just the OPI color

I polished my fingers starting with the Orly Bonder base coat, then three thin coats of OPI’s The World Is Not Enough, and each finger got one coat of the appointed top coat. I started at 8 pm, and was done by 8:50 pm. I started checking to see how fast the nails dried. Here’s the order they dried.

  • 9pm – Seche Vite
  • 9:05 CND Air Dry
  • 9:06 China Glaze Fast Forward
  • 9:08 Sally Hansen Insta-Dri
  • 9:08 Essie Good to Go
  • 9:09 Qtica Extending Top Coat
  • 9:35 Zoya Armor
  • 9:45 Sally Hansen Mega Shine
  • Went to bed at 11:45 and Sally Hansen Nail Shine Miracle was still tacky. I woke up with sheet prints and fuzz stuck to it

I found that Seche Vite and Sally Hansen (SH) Insta-Dri had the thickest formulas. The thinnest formulas were China Glaze, SH Nail Shine Miracle and Qtica.  It was hard to evaluate shine because of the micro glitter in this OPI polish, but I liked Seche Vite, CND, Qtica and SH Insta-Dri the best for shine.

I found that I had the least tip wear with Qtica, Essie, SH Insta-Dri.

All my pictures were taken at the end of a 24 hour period. These were 24 hours after I first painted my nails.

After the first 24 hours

Day 1 – After the first 24 hours

Tip wear, and chip - index finger, left hand  - China Glaze Fast Forward

Day 1 – Tip wear, and chip – index finger, left hand – China Glaze Fast Forward

Day 2 – 48 hours after application

CND on the left VS Seche Vite on the right. More tip wear visible on right.

CND on the left verses Seche Vite on the right. More tip wear visible on right.

Day 3 – 72 hours after application. I was losing large sections of polish. The first section to come off was from the left hand’s index finger. The one coated in China Glaze’s Fast Forward. A few hours later, SH’s Mega Shine also had a huge chip taken out of it. By the end of the day, I was also sporting a noticeable chip out of my right Seche Vite thumb.

Major chipping along with tip wear. Day 3

Major chipping along with tip wear. Day 3

Day 4 – 96 hours later.

Losing large chunks of polish. I was aiming for 5 or more days, but I can't stand it anymore.

Losing large chunks of polish. I was aiming for 5 or more days, but I can’t stand it anymore.

I was intending to go for at least 5 days with this top coat challenge, but I just couldn’t. Finding both my index fingers in such a terrible state was heart driving me crazy. I also lost significant parts of my right thumb and middle finger. Both pinkie fingers had small chips on them, but something I could have over looked for a few more days. Six of my ten fingers chipped.

The top coats that didn’t chip were:

  • CND Air Dry
  • Zoya Armor
  • Qtica Extending Top coat
  • SH Insta-Dri

I had more visible tip wear with Zoya and CND. I was surprised that SH Insta-Dri performed so well. I wasn’t expecting something so great from a drug store brand, I’ll definitely be getting more of this. I was amazed at Qtica Extending Top Coat. It was my first time using it, so I’ll have to use it again before passing judgement, but so far so good. It had the least visible tip wear of any of the top coats, and had lots of shine. I didn’t see any shrinkage, and it didn’t take forever to dry.

If I had to rank these 9 top coats here’s best to worst based on the last 4 days.

  1. Qtica Extending Top Coat
  2. SH Insta-Dri
  3. CND Air Dry
  4. Zoya Armor
  5. Essie Good To Go
  6. Seche Vite
  7. China Glaze Fast Forward
  8. SH Mega Shine

I won’t even score the SH Nail Shine Miracle because it never really dried. That stuff is going straight in the trash. If it won’t dry 3 hours after the fact, it doesn’t deserve to stick around! Do I still love my Seche Vite? YES! I just picked up another bottle while this top coat challenge was going on. It’s for the nights I do a 10:45 manicure and still want to get to bed before 11:30. Seche Vite saves me from sheet prints.

Since I also change my polish every other day, I rarely run into the problem of them chipping. I don’t go for long wear, I go for fast drying and shine.

Do you have a favorite Top Coat? How long do you wear your polish in between changes? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Just let me know in the comments below.

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10 thoughts on “I Have How Many Top Coats: Top Coat Challenge

  1. luchessa says:

    Thats a rreally good post dear. Always nice to know what i should be looking for when it comes to top coats since no one really like sheet prints!!

  2. Genevieve says:

    Wow, Mega Shine really deserves to meet the trash can. I’m cheap, so there is no way I’d buy all those top coats, so thanks for doing it for me! I’ve been using Orly Sec n Dry. It dries fast, and protects pretty well. I find that I have the best luck when I match it with Orly Bonder. I’m on day 4 of my Zoya manicure, and not a chip in sight!

  3. craftynail says:

    YUP- SH Nail Shine Miracle takes forever to dry! I went to bed 8 hrs after my mani…. 8 full hours! and still got sheet marks! Unbelievable! I actually wrote to SH about it and they sent me a bottle of Diamond Flash LOL

    • It never occurred to me to write them. I tossed it already. I’ve only used it twice. What a shame. It’s a waste if money. I could have had another bottle of SH Insta-Dri. That’s what I get for being curious. Thanks for reading!

  4. loveart10 says:

    My sally hansen instadri always bubbles, even though i barely touch the bottle before application! How can i get the bubbles out of the bottle and off my nails?

    • I’m not sure. I don’t have that problem. How long have you had the bottle? If you’ve had the bottle a long time, I would thin it out with a few drops of nail polish thinner. I use OPI and Orly’s lacquer thinners. They both do a great job. I get them at Sally’s Beauty Supply.

      If that’s not the problem, I find that the more I move the brush around in the bottle as I’m applying the top coat, the more likely I am to get bubbles. (if the bottle is half empty, and I tip it to get the top coat on the brush, this happens more often. If I’m in a hurry, and slam the brush back into the bottle, I realize that I get more air in the polish. It happens more to thicker polishes than to thinner ones.)

      Just a few suggestions. I hope it helps.

  5. Eli's Vanity says:

    Have you ever tried Poshé fast-drying top coat? I love it so much. I have to replace it because I don’t have acess to it, I don’t live in the US. I am thinking on getting the SH Insta-dri, I found it on a website that ships to my country. Hope it is as good as Poshé.

  6. Mónica S. says:

    You can get rid of nail polish / top coat bubbles if you keep your hands cold. So you can put them on to running water, a bowl of water with some ice or put your hands on to the freezer for some minutes right after aplying polish. It really works cause I was having this problem and it increased on summer, and it stoped completely since I started doing that.

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