By Melanie Parker
I love color. Painting is always relaxing to me and I love to see the subtle differences in paint colors when they are viewed in different lighting conditions. I often get my fix by painting my nails, since it is much simplier than painting a room or a piece of furniture. But like any type of painting you may do, you never want to skimp on the preparation. And like any refinishing project, you always want to seal your work to protect from damage. That's where base and top coats come into play on your nails.
If you have access to one specific brand of polish, it is reccomended that you stick with the base and top coat made by the same manufacturer. This especially seems to be true for Zoya and Creative Nail Design (CND). I have no alliance to a certain brand, and all of my reccomendations have been tested with drug store to high end polish brands.
It is important that your fingers be clean of lotions or oils before you apply the base coat. Some technicians reccomend swiping the nail with alcohol before applying a base coat, but I find just washing my hands after removing the previous color is fine. I have found the best base coats for natural nails to be OPI Natural Nail Base Coat, Barielle Nail Camouflage, but my favorite is the Orly Ridgefiller. I don't actually have ridges on my nails, but the ridgefiller and nail camouflage seem to provide more of a sealant against stains. Whereas, I do get yellow stains if I use the OPI base with darker colors. None of these base coats leave my nails dried out or peeling, even though I change colors frequently.
I have experimented with many top coats, and have found that they are a temperamental lot. All of my reccomendations are on the thicker side and will bubble if you use them in a room that is too cold or you are near a strong breeze or under a ceiling fan.
That said, I love a thick, fast-drying product. Back in the day, I used to put my freshly painted nails in a bowl of ice water to set the polish or paint them with cuticle oil. Once the polish is no longer exposed to air, it dries quickly.
However, the benefit of these fast-drying polishes are that they are like adding a layer of glass over your nails to protect the color. These top coats cut my drying time to less than 5 minutes and provide a thick layer of protection against scratches and chipping.
My holy grail of top coats is Poshe Super-Fast Drying Topcoat. It provides a high gloss finish and does not yellow. I have found the only problem with this otherwise perfect sealant is that it gets thick and stringy the more you keep dipping into it. To combat this, I have purchased a 2 fl. oz. refill bottle from head2toebeauty.com. I keep this in a dark cabinet and only open it to pour into an exisitng bottle of top coat that is getting stringy. The bigger bottle does not have a brush and I have used up 2 large bottles without it changing consistency toward the end of the bottle. The smaller bottles with the application brush are also available at Sally's Beauty Supply, Ulta, and even some drug stores that offer a selection of salon brands. They come in a cardboard canister.
The Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat works just as well as the Poshe in terms of drying time and glossy sheen. It's a little bit thinner than the Poshe, so I feel it may not protect the color as well. If you change your color frequently, this may not be an issue for you. This product comes in a red bottle and is packaged in a box, and is readily available at drug stores where other Sally Hansen products are sold.
I hope these reccomendations help you to preserve your paint jobs, too.
Disclosure: All products mentioned in this post were purchased by the reviewer.