Whether you plan to celebrate with a bae or bestie, Valentine’s Day presents the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to a manicure. If you’re someone who doesn’t frequent the salon too often, we highly recommend going all out with nail art worthy of a mani-gram later. And the one thing you’ll need to ensure that it doesn’t chip away by day’s end is a seriously strong top coat.
According to pro nail artist Arlene Hinckson, the best ones “boast long-lasting high shine and easy application with a great brush.” As for drying time between your color and top coat, she says most colors require at least a minute.
“I like for the color to still be a bit tacky. So, when I apply the top coat, they stick together and create a tight cap at the tip of the free edge,” she says. “With satin/pearlized colors, it’s best to wait until they’re dry. Adding a top while still wet will cause streaks.”
There’s a bevy of options out there, and while it would be easy to blindly choose one, we’d rather spend our pretty pennies on something the experts swear by. Ahead, Hinckson shares the top coat formulas she uses in the salon and behind the runway.
Essie Speed Setter Top Coat
“The fluidity is maintained throughout the entire usage of the product. You can drag the brush on the bottom of the bottle and still have the same product you started with. Dries super, super fast and can be paired with any base coat. Love the thin brush!”
Available on Amazon
Lauren B. Beauty Gel Like Top Coat
“This is one of the few perfect formulas I know of. It’s not gooey at all! The brush is super easy to use. It allows you to do long strokes that bring the product all the way to the edge for a cap to seal your polish in. It takes a bit longer to dry, but once it does, it locks in your manicure for days and days of high shine. And it’s so freakin’ clear! It does not change the hue of your color choice. Not even after days of wearing it. Plus, I love this packaging! I always use the nail perfector base paired with it, but you can put any other product between.”
$28 at Lauren B. Beauty
Nails Inc. 45 Second Top Coat with Kensington Caviar
“I like this top coat because it really dries in 45 seconds. I love the brush! It’s great for any level of polisher. It maintains the shine for about five days straight! It can get a bit thick about 3/4 way through usage, but the brush is so user-friendly that you can do both hands in a minute! It also has a slight tint that you can barely see when applied. So I don’t use it with white and fluorescents.”
Sally Hansen Ultimate Shield Top Coat
“Super clutch. You can find it anywhere! Maintains fluidity and works with any other formula!”
Zoya Armor Top Coat
“The fluidity is maintained for most of the usage of the product. The shine is wonderful. Apply with the armor base coat, and any one of the five-free colors they offer and you will definitely have a manicure for seven-plus days. No chipping. No cracking. Just perfect! Just like a gel manicure, but with regular polish.”