Quick-Dry Top Coats Comparison

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I’ve got a (hopefully) informative post for you today! (And while you’re here, did you enter my blogversary giveaway yet? There are 30 prize packs, what are you waiting for?) Awhile ago I did a review on Glisten & Glow HK Girl that was very well received. I’ve been meaning to introduce another top coat into the mix and do something similar, and for today’s post I’ll be comparing Seche Vite, Out The Door, Glisten & Glow HK Girl and KBShimmer Clearly On Top.

Originally I did want to include a more budget-friendly option as well but I haven’t had the time to go purchase the ones I was looking at. Okay, let’s be real, it was more like it’s 100 damn degrees outside and I did not feel like making a run to the store. Sorry, reader. I have failed you. I will more than likely do another of these posts sometime in the future though!

As far as the style of some of the way things are done and laid out here, I’ll be drawing inspiration from this post by Battle Of The Top Coats (how the smearing is tested) as well as this post by Betty’s Beauty Bombs (pros & cons layout & dry time testing method).

One of the big things usually mentioned when it comes to top coats is individual body chemistry. What type of nails you have can play a big difference in your experience, so let’s talk about mine. My nails are fairly strong but extremely dry, ridged (I have psoriasis) and occasionally peely.

First, we’ll take a look at what is commonly said about each top coat:


SECHE VITE (SV) -Index finger-
Pros– dries very quickly, very shiny, fairly thick consistency, can be purchased locally
Cons– gets goopy partway through the bottle, causes shrinkage with a lot of polishes, not 3-free (contains Toluene), strong scent

INM OUT THE DOOR (OTD) -Ring finger
Pros– 3-free, dries quickly, shiny, no shrinkage, can be purchased locally
Cons– thin & liquidy consistency, can sometimes smear nail art

Pros– dries quickly, doesn’t smear stamping/nail art, very shiny
Cons– not 3-free (contains DPB), thin, strong scent, can only be purchased online, can sometimes get goopy partway through the bottle

Pros– dries quickly, very shiny
Cons– not 3-free (contains DPB), can only be purchased online, may goop up partway through bottle (I have not personally experienced this but I haven’t gotten far enough into the bottle)

Test #1: DRY TIME


I began with two sloppy coats of KBShimmer Life Rose On on all fingers. After each time interval, I lightly pressed on the polish very lightly with the end of an orange stick.

5 minutes
All nails dented but it felt like the OTD nail dented a little bit deeper/more easily than the others.


10 minutes
All nails still dented but again, the nail with OTD feels like it dented a bit more. No noticeable difference among the others.


15 minutes
Same as above. At this point I was also regretting using such a nice, shiny cream as a base, as it was hard to show you the dents in the photos, haha!


20 minutes
OTD still denting the easiest, SV & HKG are pretty much neck and neck but COT dented a little less easily than the rest!


30 minutes
Rather than adding another dent to the top, I added two to each side of the very first dent. In the end, OTD still dented the most, SV & HKG were about the same and COT was just over-so-slightly more dry.


After 30 minutes I did also press on each nail to see if the polish would wrinkle and none of them did. So, I can safely say that as long as you’re not poking them directly, all of these should be dry enough to go about most of your business within 30 minutes.

WINNER:  KBShimmer Clearly On Top by a tiny margin!
LOSER: INM Out The Door.


I began with two sloppy coats of OPI Alpine Snow (ugh, whites are the woooorst!) on all fingers, and used a dotting tool to make a design using China Glaze Liquid Leather.  I allowed all nails to dry for at least 2 minutes prior to applying topcoat.

Before top coat

I used the floating method when applying each of these- I wiped off one side of the brush and using the other side, I ‘floated’ the topcoat on so that there would be minimal contact with the ‘nail art’. This is the method that I always use for stamping or other nail art.

After top coat

Surprisingly, they all performed very similarly! Each smeared just the tiniest bit, barely visible in person and honestly probably wouldn’t even be visible if it wasn’t black on white.

WINNER: Everyone! Yay! Gold stars all around!
LOSER: Everyone. You all suck. Boooo. 


This one would be harder to show in photos, so you’re just going to have to trust me! On all nails, I applied a chunky glitter (Two coats of KBShimmer She Twerks Out, technically billed as a texture polish) and then applied one coat of each top coat, waited until it was dry enough to touch, and then applied a second if needed.

Consistency-wise when applying, OTD and HKG were about the same, SV was the thickest and COT was between OTD/HKG & SV.

SV- Mostly smooth on first coat, completely smooth by the second
OTD- Not completely smooth on first coat,
HKG- Not completely smooth on first coat,
COT- Mostly smooth on first coat, completely smooth by the second


Test #4: WEAR & SHINE

I used the same base coat on all fingers (Philly Loves Lacquer Penndot Sticky Base Coat) and applied two coats of A England Sleeping Palace. When I wear polish normally, I find that my thumbs always chip first and then like clockwork, the rest start, usually at the corner/edges. My nails break easily and I tend to baby them, so I don’t find that any one nail chips more than the others, they all tend to get bad at the same time (other than the thumb, as mentioned).

Freshly applied

Day 1

Everything looking good!

Day 2

Minor tipwear on all nails on my right hand. On my cinderella hand, tipwear on all but lots of wear on the SV and HKG nails, a bit less on the OTD nail and almost none on the COT nail.

Day 3

By the end of day 3, it was as long as I could stand to wear the polish without taking it off to get back to stuff that had to be swatched. Unfortunately my swatch hand still did not have any major chips!! Just some minor tipwear, every nail was pretty equal although the COT nail had maybe just a tiny bit less.

Different angle to see the tipwear a bit better.

Please excuse the state of my cinderella hand, as you can see, I slack on moisturizing and shaping these ones….what?? Don’t look at me like that, most bloggers do. Right? Maybe. Anyways, since this is the hand I use more frequently, you can see a larger difference here.

Cindy-rella hand

SV- Super chipped
HKG- Chipped, just a bit less than SV
OTD- Chipped a bit less than SV & HKG
COT- Still mostly just tip wear

I honestly did not notice a difference on any of the nails in shine after a few days of wear.


Overall, in every test, KBShimmer Clearly On Top outperformed the rest. However, other than the wear test, the difference between the top coats was honestly very minimal for me. So, if I needed to get long wear out of a mani or I was really pressed for dry time, I would use COT in the future.

But if I was only going to wear it a few days and had the time? I’d probably stick with OTD just due to it being 3-free. I’m not totally against using a non 3-free top coat (obviously) but I do try to limit it to the times it would really be beneficial.

Otherwise, SV did not perform nearly well enough to justify me using it for anything, especially with the shrinkage I get with it with some polishes. And HKG performed roughly the same/a bit less than OTD, so due to it not being 3-free I would always use OTD over it.

I hope this post was informative to you guys, let me know your thoughts in the comments! Is your experience the same as mine, or have these worked differently for you? I want to know!

Mugen is…freshly groomed!
  • http://www.frompolishwithlove.blogspot.com/ Dani FromPolishwithLove

    This is an awesome review!! I have all of those except for OTD and I’ve also been finding myself using Sally Hansen InstaDri a lot so that might be another one for you to try if you do another comparison!! I don’t care for SV at all. The shrinkage is the defining factor there. I do love HK Girl but feel like it doesn’t prolong the wear as well as it should. I love Clearly on Top though. I find myself using that and Pretty & Polished’s Swift Sparkle the most lately!! I was sent Ellagee’s Glass top coat to try out, I’m anxious to see how that one does!!

  • http://www.tunaynamahal.com/ Sarah Lynn Bernardo

    I’m still a Seche Vite whore, but my curiosity is peaked…next time I put a KB Shimmer order in I’ll have to try the topcoat.

  • http://fixintofaff.blogspot.co.uk/ Fixin To Faff

    This was a really good comparison post. Through my own usage I have found very similar results to yours on 3 of the 4 polishes (I don’t have COT) but I have to wonder about the last test (chipping). In my experience, my index finger on my right hand ALWAYS has more chipping because I use it much more than my other fingers, regardless of which topcoat I use (or don’t use, for that matter). Conversely, I rarely get any chipping on my pinky finger because I use it so rarely for anything (insert mental image of a splayed pinky while demurely sipping a cup of tea).

    Granted, there are a lot of reasons both for and against using SV and as always, YMMV. I also don’t experience much SV shrinkage at all for some reason, but I “clearly” need to look into getting a bottle of COT! Thanks for the enabling! :)

  • http://fixintofaff.blogspot.co.uk/ Fixin To Faff

    I can’t wait to hear your results on the Ellagee Glass. So excited about that one! Gonna have to wait til I get back to the states before I can get a bottle for myself.

  • Michelle G

    Great review. I have all except for OTD. I’ve pretty much stopped using SV on my nails completely. I just think it shrinks my indie polishes way too much. Lately, I have to say I have been grabbing my COT more than my HKG. I like that COT is a little cheaper too. My COT bottle is about half full & it hasn’t thickened up yet. They both work well for stamping. I have never had any smearing using either but I usually do wait 5 minutes before I top coat my design. I will have to try OTD to see how it works for me.

  • Zeithos

    I bought CoT a few months ago and just last week emptied my first bottle (thank god I’d just bought two more). CoT did start to get ‘thick’ in that famous SV way — with about 1/4 left in the bottle, when I was already doing the ’tilt the bottle’ dance to get a nice blorp on the brush. The problem was laughable compared to SV, which I’ve had become completely unusable with over 2/3rds still left. CoT was awesome to use from the first time I opened it until I finished the bottle. I wish it were 3-free, though!

  • Jaclyn

    Awesome review! I have psorasis too!

  • http://fixintofaff.blogspot.co.uk/ Fixin To Faff

    Totally understand. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I didn’t mean to be negative nancy… honest it was my Sheldon-esque brain kicking in about controls and variables and the effect on test results. :) You did a really thorough comparison and review – thank you!

  • Iris

    I love COT since I first tried it. Have HK Girl too but have to test it jet. Thank you for the great review!

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    You’re welcome! :)

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    I totally agree with you, if it thickens up once I can barely get it out due to it being so low anyways, that is totally fine with me! I do wish it were 3-free too :( but it probably wouldn’t be as good, sadly.

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    Thanks Jaclyn! Ugh, isn’t it the worst? :( I have to keep my nails polished at all times or feeling my bare nails just bothers me.

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    Thanks for reading!! I’m definitely going to be using COT more often for sure!

  • Jaclyn

    It is terrible! My nails are strong but break easily if I don’t at least keep a clear coat on.

  • Tabitha

    I really appreciate the unbiased reviews! I had the same experiences with these products.
    My COT does get thick when there’s about 1/4 left… but so does HK!

  • http://injeebwetrust.blogspot.ca/ Gio (injeebwetrust)

    Great post! The people must know the truth!!
    Damn, I wish they sold COT in a giant bottle. I’d be all over that shit.
    Can’t wait to see the next edition of Top Coat tests :) I’d love to see how Poshe compares.

  • kraftygurldesigns

    If you ever do another comparison we’d love to be included to see how we fair against the rest. Ours is Gloss It Top Coat from Krafty Gurl and it’s 5 free. :)

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    Same here!! :(

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    That’s quite true!! Plus, at that point you’re having to tip the bottle to try to get the rest out anyway…so for me I usually start a new bottle then.

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    Haha! 😉 Yeah, it would be nice to be able to buy a refill bottle!! I definitely need to try Poshe at some point…

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    Thank you, Lisa! :)

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    I don’t currently have another one planned but if I do I will definitely get in contact with you! :)

  • http://mamaheartspolish.blogspot.com/ Nadia @ mamaheartspolish

    Great review! You’ve convinced me to try Out the Door. I have severe shrinkage with Seche Vite even when I wrap the tips, it’s so annoying.

  • Lori Ballard Duncan

    Oh my gosh Kirby you brave girl! What an awesome comparison review! That was a lot of work, thank you! In comparison to SV and OTD, I have to give props to Philly Loves Lacquer’s quick dry top coat. So far, that tiny bottle is going down fast because I love it that much! I wish I had a bigger bottle!

  • http://auttyw.com/ Auttyw

    I love this! I definitely would NOT have the patience to do a post like this. I would have gotten extremely bored probably halfway through. No joke… I love how detailed you got!!

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    Thanks! And yeah, I used to love Seche Vite, and still love the dry time, but the shrinkage was out of control.

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    Thanks, Lori! I’m already getting blasted on facebook from die-hard fans of a certain top coat….lol! I do like the PLL top coat that I have but isn’t she thinking of changing it before she sells it?

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    Girl, I WAS so bored, haha!! But I figured I had to finish or it’d all just go to waste 😛

  • Lori Ballard Duncan

    Yes, because it was a great test! I never get too hooked on one top coat over another because I go through so much of it.

  • http://nailpolishsociety.blogspot.com/ Nail Polish Society

    Wow! This was seriously in depth! A really great reference for anyone. :) I want to do posts like this… and then I get lazy 😛

  • tina

    Great post I need to try KB shimmer cot

  • whitelace

    This is a super topic! Very helpful comparison – thanks for all the hard work!

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    Lol, I was very tempted to quit partway through 😛

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    You do!

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    Thank you for reading! :)

  • Susan Forest-Rode

    Been looking for something like this. Is it true that certain top coats work better with certain polishes? Should one always use the same top coat brand as the polish? Thanks.

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    I think for the most part it doesn’t matter but shrinkage seems to be what factors in for a couple brands. I actually started using OTD in the first place because SV caused it so bad with Zoya brand polishes. But that’s the one I hear most often as far as brands go.

  • Raechel

    I just happened upon your blog and I just wanted to say thanks for such an unbiased review of these topcoats! I’m in search of my holy grail topcoat since Seche is letting me down with its thick goopy consistency after using the first half. So frustrating!

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    You’re welcome, and welcome to the blog! :) I made excuses for Seche for so long when I first got into polish but I’m glad I finally stopped living in denial and tried some new ones!

  • Meggie Price

    Just linked this wonderful review to one of my groups- thank you ! They love cats and doggies too- so come for the review and stay for the blog AND the Mugen :-)

  • Rotem Gorodeisky

    Does the KBS play nice with zoya?

    My Qtica top coat got goopy at half point and my OPI rapid dry have bubbles in it and I used less than a 1/4 bottles
    Help me Obi van Kirby

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    Haha! I haven’t used it with Zoya, actually. Most top coats play badly with Zoya- the only one that I use on Zoya is Out The Door which never shrinks it!

  • http://www.polish-hound.com/ Cait

    Wow, I LOVE my OtD, but clearly I need to give Clearly On Top a chance. This is an interesting and comprehensive comparison! If you ever do a drugstore version, you should include/ try the NYC In A New York Minute one. It’s pretty nice!

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    I actually had wanted to include it in this one and specifically went to a few places looking for it beforehand and it was always sold out, lol!

  • Shaily C

    Great review, thank you! SV and Poshe cause shrinkage for me so I’m happy to see some alternatives.. will be buying OTD :)

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    OTD is great! I am totally willing to put up with slightly slower dry time in exchange for no shrinkage!

  • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

    I wish I did! I have a pile of base coats that I cycle through but haven’t really taken the time yet to note which ones work best for me as far as chipping and weartime. Right now I’m using the Cirque Colors and the KBShimmer one most often.

  • Jackie Bodick

    I have found nails inc. caviar topcoat is wonderful dries to the touch in 1 minute and is solid in 10 minutes or so. the shine is amazing.

    • http://www.themercurialmagpie.com/ The Mercurial Magpie

      Oooh! I will have to check that one out! 😀