Sunday, February 6, 2011

Quick Dry Top Coats = Conditional Love

Love, Hate, and Frustration.

These words correctly describe my relationship with quick drying top coats. For many, fast dry topcoats are a game/life changer. However, for me, the constant battle with their faults has soured my love for them; hence my love for them is unconditional. In particular, let's concentrate on Seche Vite because it is by far the most well known and used.


1. One word: Fast. Who could not love a mani that dries to the touch in 2-5 minutes and then fully in 20-40 min. Taking into consideration that a regular mani takes ~3 hours to dry fully after the last coat of topcoat, which does not even include well dried coats of base and color in between, this is tremendous.

2. The shininess that one can achieve is just plain silly.  Simply gorgeous.

This is Essie - Masquerade Ball with Seche Vite.

That pic on the bottom right gives me convulsions.

3. Due to it's thick formulation it provides a nice layer of protection.
Here is a before and after picture using Seche Vite.

Before on the left.
After on the right.
Clearly the one on the right is much thicker.

4. The formula of quick dry top coats sets to a much harder finish. This is a pro from a strength aspect, but also a con because at some point too hard = brittle and chipping can become a problem. I'm not saying Seche Vite alone causes chipping or that it can't be prevented.

Hate and Frustration

The many complaints of fast dry topcoats include:

1. Shrinkage at the tip - Granted this problem can be prevented, here is an example:

I don't normally have this problem because I either wrap the tips or swipe the brush down right at the tip. However, this gets tricky with short nails. Another solution I have seen mentioned on the MUA nail boards is using a traditional top coat underneath the quick dry one. I can't attest to this, but it sounds reasonable.

Anyone have a personal experience with using this technique?

2. Shrinkage at the cuticle - this is one of my biggest pet peeves.

Here is a picture of the franken I showed in an earlier post right after I put on Seche Vite (SV). HELLO Gorgeous!
 EXCEPT, the very next day this happen. wtf.

This is another example with a different franken (another blue one). This is the day of application with SV.
First, excuse the rando fuzzy, but this is the day after. The problem occurs when you don't encapsulate the polish as a whole.  Had I left a larger gap between the cuticle and polish, I could have avoided both shrinkage at the cuticle and touching my cuticle with Seche Vite. However, I got so close with the actually polish color it was impossible to "encapsulate" the polish without flooding the cuticle.

So of course you're probably saying to yourself "hey dummy, leave a larger gap." To be even more difficult ... another pet peeve of mine is a large (and growing) gap between the cuticle and color. Sometimes performance tests will be ended short due to this annoying gap from regrowth. So, what I am saying is I struggle with this problem.

Perhaps a regular top coat under Seche Vite would help solve this. Any advice from others? 

3. Dulling after a day or two. Sometimes this dulling is only visible with camera flash, but otherwise since I apply a coat of clear every two days or so to make mani's last longer this is not such a big deal.

4. More chipping than a regular top coat.

Quick dry top coat formulations may

a.) be incompatible with certain polishes (or with your own nail chemistry) OR

b.) dry to a much harder finish in comparison to the flexibility of the nail or polish underneath.

Thus in both cases the polish is much more likely to chip because there is not as much "give" as in the natural nail.

The top coat I have pictured is Seche Vite Ultra-V. It's suppose to be Seche's version of a UV curable top coat. It is absolute crap. Not only does it chip like crazy, but it's a fake UV activated top coat. None of the ingredients listed require UV to cure, so what up wit dat?

5. Thickening of the formula.

About half way down Seche Vite can get a little thick, but that's not something a little nail thinner can't cure. 

6. Incompatibility with some base coats/colors.
Some people report Seche Vite (and only SV) peeling off in layers with certain polishes. I have not had this happen to me often enough to make any comments, nor have I studied the ingredients to judge it fairly from a scientific point of view ... so that is very unhelpful of me on both accounts. However, from a very simple point of view, obviously the formulas don't want to play nice.

What base/color/SV combos do not work for you?

At the very least now we can all unconditionally love Seche Vite together. Yay! What other quick dry top coats do you love?


  1. Thanks for a very informative post! Sometimes I get the tip pull and just chalked it up to wear. That always made me wonder because I hadn't done anything other than watch TV, be on the computer and go to bed.

    Don't you wish Vite would just come in a bottle half its size?

    1. i was just thinking that!! A smaller bottle, a longer brush..

    2. i never ever EVER EVER get shrinkage with seche vite. it has ALWAYS worked perfect for me with any polish, i use orly bonder basecoat...i dont know if that makes a difference. I just bought seche ultra V and used it for the first time. so far so good

  2. I hate SV with the passion of 1,000 fiery suns. I get horrible shrinkage no matter what I do, AND I'm one of those people that has had my SV + all layers of color pop off in one piece like a fake nail. It just doesn't work with my body chemistry, I guess.

    I moved on to the Sally Hansen Insta-Dri in the red bottle long ago and never looked back. It dries plenty fast enough to suit me with none of the annoyances of SV. ♥

  3. Thanks for the great post. I love SV, but need to branch out. China Glaze fast dry smells so bad, but orly's is not bad. By the way your nails are gorgeous!

  4. A couple of days ago I discovered shrinkage at the cuticle. Reading your post I realised it was the stupid SV again :S (I never use SV actually, but at that moment I needed a quickdrying one really bad).

    I'm a big fan of INM Out the Door topcoat, drying takes a bit longer, but other than that it's awesome!

  5. Thanks for this post. I've never tried Seche Vite because I'm allergic to toluene. I use Out the Door or Poshe topcoat, and I love them both!

  6. I despise SV with a burning passion. I swear by CND Air Dry and if you can handle a stronger smell, Deborah Lippmann Addicted to Speed. Neither give me the myriad of problems that SV comes with

  7. Shrinkage is really frustrating! Not only SV has this problem...

  8. I love you. I was just about to buy the Seche UV topcoat and a lamp and everything :P Wtf is up with that? Fake UV topcoat? Get out, Seche.

    That cuticle shrinkage was astonishing. Personally, I'd rather it was at the cuticle than at the tip, but I see your point.

    The one thing that annoys me about quick dry top coats is the fact that they get thick and nasty down the bottle. I know you can fix it with nail polish thinner, but I don't want to have to purchase a seperate product because the first doesn't do it's job correctly...

    Great post, as always.

  9. I feel the same, but specifically with regard to SV, rather than 'fast dry top coats' as a whole.

    I adored SV when I first discovered it, it was pretty much a godsend because of the incredible drytime. I mean, I'm always doing something (like most people) and can't really sit around for three hours just waiting for polish to dry. Then after a while I noticed the problems creeping in, with tip shrinkage, etc. Having to use thinner doesn't bother me, because when you're using a volatile product like nail polish, of course it's going to become dry with use. That's a natural and obvious consequence of opening the bottle to use it. But the funny thing with SV is that when it has thickened past a certain point it doesn't seem matter how much Restore you then add to it, it NEVER goes back to the way it was (not remotely). And that, for me, was the dealbreaker.

    Then I discovered Out The Door! That was 2 years ago, and I'm still in love with it. No shrinkage, thins perfectly with any old thinner, and less problems with polish peeling. More flexible too, imo.

    Loving the blog, btw! :)

  10. @Kimberly - A smaller bottle would definitely solve that problem, but then we would all be complaining how fast the top coat runs out, lol.

    @Noelie - LOL! As much as I love Sally I never tried her quick dry, I will work on that.

    @Polish Pauper - Thanks! :)

    @AmyGrace, Ebz and Kathryn - I seriously contemplated buying out the door last time I was at a nail supply store. Next time I'm running low I will give it a try!

    @Scandoulous - I have been using CND's Air Dry for about a month. I have to say, I have no complaints so far. Since my nostrils are thoroughly burned from decades of nail polish huffing, ha! , I'll have to give Ms. Lippmann a look see.

    Fantastic comments PEOPLE! <3

  11. I can't use SV, it shrinks terribly on me. I had some problems with shrinkage with Poshé as well, but when I started wrapping the tips, that went away. I'm using a regular, non-QD topcoat under Poshé, it makes my mani last longer and it gives more shinyness.

  12. Thanks for this awesome post. I loved Seche when I first discovered it, but then I realized it gave me horrible shrinkage. I've heard good things about INM Out the Door, but I currently use Essie Out the Door (which still gives me shrinkage with thick jelly polishes).

  13. I haven't been able to find a pattern of why SV or Poshe gives me shrinkage sometimes and not others. I have to chalk it up to the different formulations of the polishes and maybe how many coats/how thick the polish went on. I'm also a scientist, and these kind of problems annoy me to no end because I just know there has to be a specific reason, thus a solution. But until I find one, I have been using various non-quick-dry top coats under SV or Poshe and so far, so good. I also wrap the tips, which is fine when my nails are longer, but when I take down length, gets messy. I've tried other quick-dry top coats such as CG Fast Forward and Olan Quick and Slick. Neither are close to as fast as SV or Poshe. I think I'm going to pick up Out the Door on my next Sally's trip. We'll see what happens.

  14. Hi Anonymous and fellow science nerd :D !!

    Sometimes SV annoys me so much I'd rather not use it period. Seriously, if I have the time I skip it all together.

    INM's Out the door seems like a good one even if I have to wait slightly longer vs. SV, but at least it's quicker then a regular top coat. Besides, patience is a virtue right!?

    Let me know how it works for you!

  15. I don't use SV anymore because the smell bothers me, so not much experience there.
    I absolutely love your frankens though. Love, love, love! Do you have recipes or approximate color proportions for these that you wouldn't mind sharing?

  16. Oh, and I used INM Out the door for a while, but dropped it when I found Beauty Secrets Fast Finish at Sally Beauty Supply. It's the perfect tc for me, dries quickly, not as fast as SV, but faster than Out the Door, and it stays shiny for days after (which I find Out the Door doesn't do). I buy it in the 2.5oz bottles!

  17. ABOP Good to know about the Saly one :).

    I will work on a frankening post, but I'm so bad at keeping measures :-/ of these things though. The short version is ... L.A. Colors "Static Electricity" (LOVE THIS ON IT'S OWN THO) + Maybelline Wet Shine "Ballet on Ice" (any sheer pink white would work) and clear if necessary. If you want it less sheer skip the clear.

  18. Thanks for the response! Good enough for me - I have Static Electricity so I'll definitely start with that.

  19. I love this site, and refer people to it often.

    Thanks for the heads-up on Seche UV! I've been thinking about that one. You've said everything I love and hate about fast-drys so at least I know it's not me.
    Cassie (othermother on MUA)

  20. You have just solved a dilemma I have had for MONTHS!! I could not for the life of me figure out why my tips would show after just a few hours of doing NOTHING. Thank you so much for this blog post! I am going to try out some of the other fast dry top coats others have recommended. I know, I also use the Orly Sec n Dry and it does the same... Just in case others were thinking about trying it.

  21. Thanks Sweet as Candy! The list she is a growing! :p

  22. I never tried Seche Vite (in decades of being a polish lover; I started at 14).
    Thus I never heard of a shrinkage problem with fast dry top coats (until I started reading the blogs)!
    My fast dry top coats of choice are Sally Hansen - I used Sally Hansen Diamond SHine (in a shiny silver bottle), at the moment I am using Sally Hansen Insta-Dry (in a red bottle). They never caused shrinking for me.

  23. yea, I hear ya! I never heard of it until I started watching YouTube a couple of years ago, but even then I didn't buy it until I started reading blogs because I changed my mani less frequently, had more patience, and only used topcoat to extend mani's though out the week. Back in the day if I wanted my mani to dry fast I either didn't use a top coat or I had UV topcoats I used to buy that didn't have those problems.

  24. I know this post is quite old now, but I'm still reading through your old ones lol. I still like Seche Vite, although I do sometimes get shrinkage. I read about Hongkong Girl fast dry topcoat on a couple of nail blogs and have now bought a BIG bottle of that. Seems to dry just as fast, no shrinkage and wears as well as Seche. If I'm at work, nothing lasts very long without chipping, unfortunately, but so far I'm happy with HK Girl :)

    1. Maria, where do you get a big bottle of HK Girl? I would love to have one! Thanks! :D

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Hiya, here is the link to where I got mine from:
    The first bottle arrived broken but was replaced immediately when I phoned and emailed the owner photos. I'm still happy with it... :) xx

    1. Hi Maria, I just tried to place an order with them, but they won't send it to the US. Would you be up for helping me out? I could PayPal you the money. My email is Just email me if you're interested!

  27. Hey Gurl! I was asking about the Seche UV Top Coat and someone said Loodie mentioned it in a review. I should have known that. LOL! SensatioNail is sending me a sample to review so I started researching other Gel products. I would like to find something with which I could still use my regular polishes. Any suggestions? BTW, how are you doing? Take care. Lois

  28. I am trying to figure out what top coat to use for vegan polishes. I heard OTD is good for 3-5 free but now I am hearing poshe?

    1. The Lantier - Have you heard of the Nubar brand of polishes? They say all of their products are vegan and cruelty free. Their quick dry topcoat is called "Nubar Diamont Seal & Shine." I really like all of the Nubar polishes I tried! I've never seen them at a retail store, but you can find them on Amazon and their site

      Hope this helps!