Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Nail Art Basics: Top Coat

At the nail girl meet up, Bree had the brilliant suggestion of blogging about top coats for those new to the nail art (or nail polish world, in general) about the difference between clear nail polish and actual top coat. I loved the idea so much I decided to start a mini-series of posts on nail art basics for beginners!

There are a ton of brands so I'll review some of the big names as well! There are many more I haven't tried, so I will stick to the ones I've personally used. 

So - top coat. Why should you invest in a proper top coat instead of using whatever clear coat you happen to have kicking around? Well, your choice of top coat can make or break your mani! "Clear coat" (a regular nail polish formula without any pigment) takes just as long to dry as your nail colour. So, while it might add some gloss to your manicure, it can take forever to thoroughly dry, and often you will bump your nails before the clear coat has properly set- resulting in annoying chips, smudges and sometimes bed sheet marks while you sleep!

However, by choosing a good fast dry top coat, you can pretty much eliminate these annoyances from occurring! The faster drying of the bunch are dry to the touch within a few minutes, and rock hard and ready to roll way sooner than regular polish. You can even slick a layer on over still tacky polish and it will save you from smudges! 

Fast dry top coats are especially great for detailed nail art. If your manicure has layer of polish that needs to be dry before you move onto the next step (think, stamping or striping tape), a fast-dry coat can literally save you hours of dry time! If you're a night owl like me, you can do your nails right before bed and know you'll be ok in the morning! 

There is a technique for applying top coat to nail art, as well. You want to "float" the polish onto the nail - basically, to avoid having the brush actually touch the polish so it doesn't drag. If your brush is too dry, or you're using too much pressure, the brush will drag the polish underneath and cause those unsightly smears of your nail art. If you plan to use a mattifying or scented top coat, I would recommend using the fast dry TC first and then slicking those over top. 

I think that about covers it. If it doesn't convince you, I don't know what will ;) Onto some reviews!

When searching for a good top coat, nail artists usually are looking for 3 main qualities: quick dry time, gloss, and lasting power. It can sometimes be hard to find one that has all three! I will admit I always get tip wear and nail polish doesn't last all that long on me since I'm in gloves all the time at work, so I won't comment too much as to the length of wear. 

Essie (good to go) and China Glaze (fast forward) are both pretty accessible (I've scored them both from Winners at a discounted price) and boast pretty decent scores in all 3 categories. The dry time is relatively quick and decent gloss! At Winners, they're about $6-7 and closer to $10 elsewhere. 

HK girl top coat is hugely popular in the nail art world. It's sold at nailpolishcanada.com in Canada ($9.75 CDN)  or directly from the stockist, Glisten and Glow. I've tried this one and can definitely attest to it's rapid drying time and super glossiness. Also, no shrinkage! This is probably my #1 choice of all the TCs in this post, however I usually go for the convenience of being able to purchase my topcoats in a bricks and mortar store which is why I didn't re-buy!

Seche Vite is also really popular and a little easier to find in retail stores (as opposed to just online). It retails about $10 a bottle, but Sally's often has sales. You can pick it up at Sally's Beauty Supply (P.S. - get yourself a Sally Card!). I personally don't love Seche, I notice the shrinkage (it makes the polish lift at the sides of my nails) and I find it gets thick in the bottle quite quickly. However, it is SUPER shiny and fast-drying. Some people absolutely rave about it, so I think it's one you'd need to test it out for yourself to decide!

INM Out the Door is my newest addition. (I purchased it at Sally's in the states for $5). This is probably the slowest drying in the bunch, however still much faster than a non-fast dry top coat. It's not as glossy as the others, which isn't always a bad thing (especially if you plan to mattify your mani). I did like the lasting power of this top coat though - I rocked my Sand and Stilettos glitter nails for 5 days (which is practically a record for me, I think) and there was nothing beyond minimal tip wear. I have to admit I was impressed! 

So - everything you ever wanted (or maybe didn't want to) know about top coats! I hope this was informative. Let me know in the comments if there are any other topics you would like me to cover that you think would be helpful for nail art newbies!

xo Shawna

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