The first nail-focused beauty blog

The 5 Best Top Coats To Try Now

Favorite Top Coat for Nail Polish

Affiliate Link|Press Sample

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, and

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,

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, + Seche Ultra-V Lamp ($24.99,, 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,

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, and

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
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

There Are 52 Brilliant Comments

Trackback URL

  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.

      • rach says:

        Wicked Fast is great. It doesn’t wear quite as well for me as my personal fave, butter London PD Quick, but I still get really good results with it. :)

      • 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!!!!

    • Really? I’ve never tried that. I thought the Ultra-V required a UV lamp to dry. Interesting.

      • Starkat15 says:

        Yeah, it works just fine. I had the Julep Freedom top coat first, and theirs is UV but doesn’t need the special lamp, so when I bought the Seche-V the package didn’t say to use the lamp, so I assumed you didn’t need it, just the normal UV rays around us do it. It’s one of my favs. My other favorite being the HK Girl :)

  9. Abbi says:

    (In a New York Color Minute)
    “Grand Central Station” does not cause shrinkage and lasts a good while!

  10. Jessica says:

    I love your recommendations. I’ve been wanting to try HK Girl for a while now. The others are all new to me. I have really been enjoying KBShimmer’s top coat. From what I hear it is a bit like HK Girl… and it’s also everything we wish Seche Vite was. :)

  11. Holly says:

    I haven’t used any of these products before but i am always looking for some great ideas for future use.
    I love OPI I haven’t used anything else in years.
    xo Holly xo

  12. Tricia says:

    Thanks for the recommendations! I have various top coats, including Seche Vite. I haven’t found ANYTHING that will help my nail polish last more than 24 hours. I doubt that I ever will, because I think it’s just my nails. I know my technique is good. I definitely want to try some of these, though! I especially want to try Rock and HK Girl!

  13. Sanne says:

    Please make a post like this with your favourite basecoats. :)

  14. Kate K says:

    I am one of the few for whom HK Girl Top Coat by Glisten & Glow
    doesn’t work. I get awful chipping so quickly (even with their equally awful-on-me base coat), and since it also smells SO badly this one got a pass from me. I’m all about the base/top coats from A-England, though I’m curious about the Nails Inc one.

  15. Karen says:

    Hi – wonder if you know of a UV Protective topcoat ?

    Find that when I wear pastel and light polishes, my top coat tends to yellow over time.

    I have ordered non-yellowing topcoat from Sephora, Ulta, etc only to find that they show them on their website but do not actually have them in stock !?!

    Thanks, Karen
    p.s. love your blog !

  16. Heather says:

    My favorite has become Orly’s Polishield. It dries fast, shiny, and works with any regular polish that I’ve used it with. I’ve tried several others (including Rock’s Top Coat and their Rock Hard) and have never been happy. Out the Door is another favorite but it gets goopy quickly and I have no idea how or if it can be thinned down so I stick with the Orly.

    I have considered buying a cheap uv/led light though and seeing if I had better luck with the UV activated ones, mostly because the lighting in my house is crappy and sitting outside in the sun isn’t always an option. Oh, and because I am impatient. ;)

  17. Mmm says:

    Hey Michelle, thanks for the awesome post! Shrinkage and dry-time are my major concerns – which of these would you recommend?

  18. Jen says:

    My favorites are Seche Vite and KBShimmer Clearly on Top and, like you, I have a drawer full of top coats I’ve tested out and not used up. Second favorites are NYC GCS and Pure ICE Girl On The Run, both are quick drying but not as fast as the SV or KBS, both provide a nice glossy coat!

  19. butterdaisy says:

    I really like Sally Hansen Big Shiny Top Coat, but I’m in love with Dazzle Dry Top Coat. I have the Rock Base and Top Coat and it just was not giving me the strength it claimed. My nails were breaking if I looked at them. I sat them aside for the Sally Hansen top coat and the Dazzle Dry base and top coat and have been enjoying the results. I have three Honorable Mentions that I like too: NYC Grand Central Station, Pure Ice Girl on the Run and the last one is Revlon Quick Dry Top Coat.

  20. Since i started with nailarts , i have always used seche. But recently i have tried Nail Pattern Boldness’ Digital Flash. Its like seche without the shrinkage! Opi base and top i used for a while too, but it didnt do magic for me. I want to try hk girl, but shipping is really expensive to sweden.

    Thanks for this post, loved to read it!

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. Marissa Lee says:

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

  25. 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?

  26. 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.

  27. 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 ;)

  28. 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.

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

  30. Suely says:

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

  31. 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.

  32. 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

  33. D Heredia says:

    I just started using Sally Hansen Diamond Flash. Super shinny and drys fast and hard.
    Thanks for all these helpful posts.

  34. Elizabeth says:

    I recently used Sally Hansen save the nail as a base coat followed by Gel Effect by Nina ultra pro polish and topped with Seche vite top coat. After only 1 to 2 days the polish came off in one piece looking like a false nail. The girl in the shop told me Gel Effect by Nina went on like ordinary polish. What did I do wrong? Was it the base coat?