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The 5 Best Top Coats To Try Now

Favorite Top Coat for Nail Polish

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If there’s one product question I get more than any other, it’s about what Top Coat I use. As a blogger, I’m constantly testing new products so, my answer can change on a daily basis. However, I do have certain go-tos that I reach for over and over again and these five are the best top coats in my current rotation.

For Nail Art

HK Girl Top Coat by Glisten & Glow ($6.95, GlistenandGlow.bigcartel.com and NailPolishCanada.com)

There is nothing worse than spending time and effort on a nail art look, only to have it smeared by your top coat. I know, it happened to me recently. That’s what I get for not using the newest addition to my top coat arsenal, HK Girl.

Seriously, you guys, it’s what I wished Seche Vite would be. I know it’s like sacrilege to not be on #TeamSecheVite but I just can’t with it. The thickening halfway through, the need for thinner, the shrinkage. It shouldn’t be that hard, people. HK Girl has the amazing application, gloss and wear of Seche Vite without the struggle.

HK Girl Top Coat by Glisten & Glow

HK Girl Top Coat by Glisten & Glow

For Long-Lasting Wear

Rock Top Coat by European Secrets ($7.99, SallyBeauty.com)

I’ve recommended this top coat to friends more than any other since I first tried it over a year ago. And every single person has loved it as much as I do. I discovered Rock Top Coat thanks to a Facebook comment and it’s seriously amazing. If you want your polish to last and remain super glossy, buy this!

What’s unique about Rock is that, like the CND VINYLUX Top Coat, it’s UV activated. So, while you don’t need a UV lamp to dry it, daily UV exposure (through natural or artificial light) will harden the top coat over time. This results in nails that don’t dull and an impressive wear. It is a thin formula with a stiff brush so it’s not the best for use over nail art but, for everything else, it wins!!

Rock Top Coat by European Secrets

Rock Top Coat by European Secrets

When You Are In A Rush

Seche Ultra-V UV Top Coat ($8.99, SallyBeauty.com) + Seche Ultra-V Lamp ($24.99, SallyBeauty.com), if you don’t already have one

This is one of my fave “ain’t nobody got time for that!” cheater methods. When I’m rushing out the door, more than usual, I pull out the Seche Ultra-V. 3 minutes per hand in a UV lamp with this top coat and I’m good to reach in my purse and click on my seat belt without the boyfriend’s assistance.

For use over regular nail polish, Seche Ultra-V is activated by UV to penetrate the layers and completely dry your polish in no time flat. Yes, it requires the purchase of a UV lamp, which I had prior, but the mini Seche one is relatively affordable, compared to salon versions. If you’re concerned about UV exposure, apply sunscreen to your hands.

Seche Ultra-V UV Top Coat

Seche Ultra-V UV Top Coat

If You Don’t Own a UV/LED Lamp

Nails Inc Kensignton Caviar Top Coat ($11, Sephora.com)

I first raved about this top coat when I tried it at Cosmoprof, before it was even carried in the US. And even though I’m a huge fan, I filed it away during an office cleanup and kind of forgot about it. Recently, I’ve been purging my Helmers which led me to re-discovering this quick drying gem.

The product claims a 45-second dry time and it’s no joke. The thin formula glides easily on the nail and you really can rub your nail polish in under a minute without leaving a smudge or dent.

Nails Inc Kensington Caviar Top Coat

Nails Inc Kensington Caviar Top Coat

For Swatching and a High Gloss Finish

Sally Hansen Big Shiny Top Coat ($5.99, Drugstore.com and ULTA.com)

A recent addition to the Sally Hansen lineup, Big Shiny Top Coat is part of a whole new “Big” collection of top coats and effects. They even make one (Big Smoky) that mimics the Dior Rock Coat.

The bottle has a flat, wide brush that makes it easy to float top coat over the nail. I love the thin consistency and high gloss sheen. It doesn’t dry as fast as other quick dry polishes but I like that. When I have the time, I always opt for a thin, slower drying top coat as I feel that thinner layers result in less chipping and tip wear.

Sally Hansen Big Shiny Top Coat

Sally Hansen Big Shiny Top Coat

What top coats are you currently loving? Have you tried any of my favorites?

Disclosure: Product samples were provided by reps for Nails Inc and Sally Hansen. I purchased the rest on my own. Affiliate links appear in this post. When you purchase through an affiliate link, you help support this site. For more info view my Disclosure Policy
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There Are 34 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Terri Lynn says:

    Thanks so much for the recommendations. It’s so helpful for those of just starting to get in to polishing our nails more frequently! What about Base Coats? Do you have any recommendations there! Thanks again. :)

  2. I haven’t tried any of your favorites yet, but they all look awesome. Rite now I’m loving China Glaze First & Last

  3. Jessika says:

    I’m liking the HK girl Top Coat because it doesn’t smear or melt my polish at the tips like Seche Vite does, especially over my Zoyas. It doesn’t dry as fast or hard as SV does, but I still like it. I hate the Rock top coat because I don’t have a UV lamp and even after spending 10 minutes in direct sunlight after one mani, the top coat never really fully dried the way I needed it to and left my mani vulnerable to dents. I’m a fan of Sally Hansen’s Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat as well. I haven’t tried the SH Big Shiny Top Coat because I thought it was just a regular-drying top coat; it doesn’t claim to be fast drying, right? I’m interested in trying Cult Nails Wicked Fast (Speed Dry Top Coat); have you tried it? I think I’m going to place an order for it today.

    • Wow, I’m sorry to hear that Rock didn’t work well for you. I don’t dry it under UV, natural or artifical. I let it dry on its own and it works great for me. And Insta-Dri is a classic. I just haven’t bought a new one since my bottle ran out and I have a drawer full to get through. Cult Nails and KBShimmer are two I’m looking to try in the near future.

      • Chelsea says:

        New to your blog. Love it! Same with me, Rock Top never fully dries. I’ve tried it numerous ways, different polishes, super thin layers (both polish and rock top), base coat, uv light etc. I follow all of the manicure routines for clean nails and prepped nails. It dries very quickly so that it doesn’t smudge but will dent forever. I actually have this problem with many clear top coats or all in one polishes, but the colors dry rock hard without a top coat. This happens at salons too, so it’s not just me. Gels work great though.

        • Wow, that’s an odd phenomenon that I haven’t heard before. I wonder if your environment has anything to do with it. Are you in an area with extreme temps, humidity or dryness? I’m glad you found something that works but I have no clue why that would happen.

  4. Viktoria says:

    Thank you, that’s a great post! I’ll try to find Rock Top Coat – longevity of my manicures is a major issue for me. I guess it is not quite fast drying?

  5. Lisa N. says:

    Great top coat recommendations! I’m going to try out the HK Girl and Sally Hansen one!

  6. danielle says:

    I now, officially, need all of these!

  7. lisenden says:

    Thanks so much for this! For Canadians, the H&K Girl topcoat recommended is available at Nail Polish Canada, which is awesome because out-of-country shipping can be very pricey and NPC ships free within Canada.

  8. Starkat15 says:

    I use the seche-V without a special uv lamp, and it still dries fast and beautiful!!!!

  9. nailpolishcolor says:

    I tried Nails Inc Caviar top coat recently and I was VERY IMPRESSED — and I’m usually ride or die for Seche Vite! This is now my favorite top coat!

  10. Lindsay says:

    What about a top coat that doesn’t turn colors in sun

    • Hi Lindsay! There is one called Yellow Out, sold at Sally Beauty that protects lighter colors from yellowing due to UV exposure. I’ve seen it at CVS and Harmon/Bed Bath & Beyond as well.

  11. Holly Nelson says:

    Great post – I don’t have a top coat at the minute, I will have a google and search out one of these!

  12. Marissa Lee says:

    I like the Sally Hanson one as well. Thinner layers really do make a big difference to wear time.

  13. Cayden says:

    I really want to try the Nails Inc one, but it’s expensive for me.. :( Jen from Polishaholic recommended Cult Nails Wicked Fast and CND Air Dry. Have you tried those?

  14. Thank you for the awesome tips. I purchased SH and Rock Hard. I love SH – great shine and no shrinkage. I haven’t used Rock Hard yet but I’m looking forward to equally as good results.

  15. Dani says:

    I recently discovered that the “Smooth Me Over” topcoat from Gothic Gala Lacquers, which is designed as a thicker glitter-smoothing topcoat, is amazing for regular use too! It dries fast and SUPER-shiny. And it’s been great for helping prevent chipping.

    I’ve also heard people becoming totally obsessed with Glossy Glam topcoat (from justricarda on Etsy). It’s all that the blogger at Chit Chat Nails uses anymore. I might try that next, if I can bring myself to stop using this one!

    Maybe you should do an all-indie topcoat review ;)

  16. Amy Cusimano says:

    Do the Rock and the Seche UV remove like normal polish after curing in a UV lamp or do they have to soak off?

    • They remove like normal nail polish. The UV exposure hardens it but not in the same way as a soak-off gel. I have heard that if you wear a UV-activated top coat or polish, like VINYLUX for an extended period of time, like on your toes, it does take extra time with remover to get off. But not to the extent of gel polish.

  17. I haven’t tried any of the mentioned top coats but have been looking for a new strong one, thanks for the blog.

  18. Suely says:

    I still love seche vite. It never failed me! hahahah

  19. AL says:

    Glad to find another lover of the Nails Inc. top coat. I LOVE it. Seche Vite is a waste of money for me…gets thick halfway through the bottle and then you have to start over. Had the Nails Inc for well over a year with no issues.

  20. helen says:

    I have bought the rock topcoat after reading your post. I haven’t tried it yet, as I live in the uk and rarely see the sun! i have a LED lamp but not a UV one. Would this help it dry? Gl

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