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Love it or leave it: Which nail products really work?

When it comes to looking polished, not all products are created equally. Putting aside all debates about nail polishes and how "green" their ingredients are, I tested several dozen quick dry polishes to see how they measured up. Here's the tale of the talon ...

Love it! China Glaze's Fast Forward Top Coat was a favorite, quickly drying to a glossy shine that protected the color underneath. While some of the fast-drying top coats I tested insisted that all layers of polish be fully dried before applying (what's quick about that?), Fast Forward Top Coat penetrated all layers of lacquer to dry nails in about a minute. Get it for $5 at Sally Beauty Supply stores.

Leave it: The Out the Door Top Coat For Nails bottle claims that the product inside "dries in seconds." And while that could mean almost anything — I suppose seconds do add up to minutes — I assumed that meant it would dry very fast, say a minute or less. In fact, the product ran long in drying time, about five minutes, and was short on quality, chipping quickly.

Love it! The Dazzle Dry System from VB Cosmetics promises to air dry "amazingly fast," and I truly was amazed at how quickly and thoroughly these polishes dried to a firm, high-gloss finish. It bears mentioning that the top coat also happens to be free of formaldehyde, toluene and other nasty chemicals, and it features oh-so-Florida friendly UV protection. Not cheap, but well worth it, the six-piece kit sells for $54 at and includes Nail Prep, Base Coat, Quick Drying Top Coat and three nail lacquers of your choice. (Those that don't want to spend this much dough on nail care should opt for another one of my recommended products. As the name implies, this system only works in concert.)

Leave it: Sally Hansen's Mega Shine Top Coat perfectly illustrates what seemed to be the problem with several less-expensive quick-drying top coats I tried. The product dries quickly as promised, but the nail polish color applied beneath begins to chip almost immediately as well. Leave this one on the shelves of your local drugstore and put the five bucks you'll save toward buying one of the pricier polishes on my "Love it" list. It will save you — and your manicure — in the long run.

Love it! Zoya's Anchor Basecoat, Armor TopCoat and Hurry Up Speed Dry Drops combine to create the ideal quick-dry system for those in search of polishes that are free of harmful chemicals such as toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). The system has stood up to tons of field testing by yours truly and, true to its promise, the polish dries fast and stays freshly manicured for days and days. Zoya's Hurry Up Speed Dry Drops are the crowning jewel of the system – simply apply drops to just-lacquered nails and they dry in record time, prevent polish bubbles, condition cuticles, and provide UV protection while enhancing polish color ($16 at local salons). Log on to to shop online or locate a salon near you that carries the collection.

— Carolyn Brundage is the founder of, a guide to all that is hip and happening in local beauty. Need beauty advice? E-mail her at

Love it or leave it: Which nail products really work? 05/28/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:58pm]
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