Remember the days when topcoat was just topcoat and served the single purpose of sealing in your beautiful, hard-earned manicure? Now you’ve got options for high-shine, anti-fade, chip-resistant, quick-dry, gel… and the list goes on. Being the fickle beauty lover that I am, I wonder why one topcoat can’t do it all, but perhaps that’s a discussion for another time. The topic at hand is a topcoat’s number one job priority—first and foremost it should help extend the life of your manicure. As someone whose manicures rarely make it through a weekend, I gladly volunteered to see if one topcoat outshines and outlasts all the rest.
Scroll through to see photos of the experiment and find out which product came out on top!
The experiment was simple. I painted my nails as usual (base coat and two thin layers of lacquer) and then I used a different topcoat on each finger. To be fair, when I painted my second hand, I kept track of which topcoat went on which finger and made sure that no two topcoats went on the same finger. All nails had ample drying time and were treated equally after the manicure. (I’m no scientist, but I think I did a pretty good job of keeping the controls just right.) I took note in my handy-dandy field notebook of which nails chipped when, and documented the results of my eight-day experiment with photos.
After eight days (and seven nights) sans touch-ups, my manicure was pretty much shot to hell (sadly). A few small nicks showed up the morning of day two—nothing major or all that noticeable—but by the end of day four, every topcoat and almost every individual nail had chipped. As a refresher, I’m wearing Butter London’s Hardwear P.D. Quick Topcoat ($19) on my pinky, Essie’s Good to Go ($10) on my ring finger, Jessica’s Phenom Finale Shine Topcoat ($11) on my middle finger, Dior’s Gel Coat ($27) on my index finger, and Julep’s Oxygen Performance Top Coat ($18) on my thumb.
I will say all five topcoats passed the unofficial shine test with flying colors—each one looked just as glossy on day eight as it did on day one.
I admit I am a tough test subject for any nail-related experiment because I am a picker—not by choice (it’s more of a compulsion, really). I don’t and did not pick off any nail polish during the experiment, but I do and did pick at my cuticles and under my nails (it’s a terrible habit—yes, I know). However, it means if you’re not a picker like me, you will have even better results with the winning topcoat.