Monday, 20 February 2012

Battle of the Topcoats

Inspired by a post over at /r/RedditLaqueristas.

Going through my box of polish implements yesterday, I realised that I had a number of different topcoats. Looking at them, I couldn't think of which one I'd call "the best", so I figured it was time for a challenge!

If you're impatient, you can skip to the end for the summary.

The contenders:

Seche Vite: By far the most popular topcoat on beauty blogs. It retails for ~$8.

Poshe: a bit of an underdog. Loved by some, but I hadn't heard of it til I saw it at my local Sally Beauty. Retails for ~$7

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri: This is the most accessible of the polishes, available at drug stores all over the place. It's also the cheapest of the bunch at ~$6, cheaper on sale.

OPI Rapidry Topcoat:  the Salon alternative. Easy enough to find as OPI products are stocked in a lot of beauty salons and places like Trade Secrets. At full retail price, this is the most expensive of the bunch at $10.

Control: No topcoat.

The polish:

I decided to use something with a bit less shine so I could evaluate on the shine of the topcoat as well as longevity. I also wanted something that I could handle looking at for as long as this experiment lasted! I normally change my polish every 1 - 2 days, so this was tough! I ended up picking YSL Matte Black from the Duo Terriblement Noir. Plain black tends to be one of my favourite colours, goes with everything, will show every single chip, and the matte finish should put the shine factor of these topcoats to the test!


Cleaned and buffed nails, swiped with polish remover. Applied one thin coat of Deborah Lippmann Rehydrating Basecoat, wrapped the tips, and let sit for one minute. Then applied one coat of YSL Matte Black, again wrapping the tips, and did some initial clean up. This is the result:

This is a beautiful black, with a finish that reminds me of fine leather. The actual polish is beautiful, but the angle brush that it comes with makes me crazy. Here it is next to a brush from the China Glaze Electropop collection:

It's extremely short and wide, on top of being angled in a strange way. All that to say, applying this polish took a fair bit of work and clean up!

I then applied one coat of topcoat to each nail, mirroring on both hands. OPI Rapidry on my pinky finger, Sally Hansen Instadri on my ring finger, Seche Vite on my middle finger, and Poshe on my index finger. I left the thumb bare as a control.

Left hand:

Right hand:

I'm so not used to taking pictures of my right hand! This was incredibly awkward!

Top coat application: 

OPI: Definitely the thinnest of the bunch. This applied easily with no visible bubbling, and self-levelled nicely.

Sally Hansen: Slightly thicker, this was also very easy to apply. It self-levelled and had no bubbling.

Seche Vite: The thickest of the bunch, I ended up having to redo these nails due to bubbling in my initial application. Luckily I have two bottles of SV, so I re-did it with my new bottle. The older bottle will get a bit of thinner tonight! Application of this was trickier, and it tends to have a learning curve, but it does level nicely! It also has the strongest smell of the lot, which may be an issue for some.

Poshe: leaning towards the thinner side, this was also very easy to apply and self-levelling. Smell wasn't as strong as Seche Vite.

Dry time:

All topcoats were dry to the touch in minutes.

Shine level:

The OPI Rapidry is the least glass-like of the four, with Sally Hansen coming in next. Seche Vite and Poshe are, for all intents and purposes, identical when it comes to shine level. All four are pretty shiny and I doubt anyone would notice much of a difference unless they were obsessing over it.

Summary of Initial Application, Day 0:


1) OPI, 4 points
2) Poshe, 3 points
3) Sally Hansen, 2 points
4) Seche Vite, 1 point

Seche Vite loses due to its strong odour and tricky application.

Dry time:

no clear winner. All topcoats dried quickly, so each gets 4 points.


1) Poshe & Seche Vite (seriously, these were pretty much identical), 4 points
2) Sally Hansen, 3 points
3) OPI, 2 points


Poshe: 11 points
OPI: 10 points
Sally Hansen: 9 points
Seche Vite: 9 points

After initial application, Poshe is the leader by 1 point.

Tomorrow, I'll evaluate shrinkage levels, shine after fully curing, and if there are any chips!


  1. Oh I cannot wait for the results. Don't mess with them!!

  2. I really like your kinda scientific approach here! Instead of claiming: I like this or that top coat rather then that other, you test it out!

    Looking forward to the results!

    Much love, Sophie