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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Top Coat Wars: Seche Vite v.s Sally Hansen Insta-Dri

Hi guys! Before I leave for the Czech Republic tomorrow, I wanted to leave you with one last post (albeit a short one) that compares two well-known topcoats. I have bought both products twice and have used them on top of various nail polish formulas, so I feel pretty educated about both. Anyway, let the topcoat wars begin! 

Left: Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat, Right: Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri
Approx. $6 USD at drugstores

 People all over the interwebs have been heralding this topcoat as the Seche Vite of the drugstore, which was what drew me to purchase it instead of the other fifty million brands of topcoat at my local Walgreen's. I can kind of see why this was hyped up as a Seche alternative, but there are definitely some key differences that I'll touch on in a minute.
First, though, let's start with what I like about this product:
1.) The price is right
2.) It's readily available at my local Target, CVS, Walgreen's, and grocery stores
3.) The finish it gives is nice and shiny
4.) The smell is not very strong
5.) The brush is nice and wide, but not too wide.
As you can see, there are lots of positives that Sally Hansen Insta-Dri brings to mind, but the few negatives that I have experienced with this product are sufficiently annoying. Let's start off with the fact that this topcoat is very likely to create air bubbles on the nails, especially towards the end of the bottle's lifespan:

If you look closely at the picture above, you'll notice lots of tiny clusters of air bubbles, especially on my pointer and middle finger nails. (By the way, this design is not my own- I followed a YouTube tutorial by the talented elleandish Anyway, I did not do anything that would effect the smoothness of the topcoat (i.e, vigorously shaking the bottle right before application or applying too much product), so I've concluded that the bubbles are purely the fault of the formula. So that's annoying.
Additionally (and most importantly), this topcoat will smear nail art designs like no other if you aren't super careful. When I use the Sally Hansen Insta-Dri, I wait 2-3 times as long for my designs to dry than I do if I use Seche Vite. I don't have any pictures of the smears that occur with this topcoat because in my frustration I never thought to collect evidence, but I'm sure that you can imagine what streaky black striper lines would look like.
Lastly, I'll address dry time. Basically, the Insta-Dri is not dry to the touch in 30 seconds as the bottle claims, which doesn't surprise me and is just a gimmick anyway. In 30 seconds you can lightly tap the nail and not smear your manicure, but you will ruin the smooth surface with an indentation of your fingerprint. In 5 minutes the topcoat is usually an acceptably dry, but still feels much tackier than Seche Vite does after the same amount of time.
Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat
$10 at Ulta and varying prices at

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the infamous Seche Vite. I realize that this isn't absolutely everyone's favorite topcoat, but it is definitely the most talked about and raved about topcoat on the internet. In my opinion, the hype is well-deserved, because this meets all of my most important topcoat needs:
1.) It's the glossiest topcoat I've found
2.) It dries the fastest (5-10 minutes and it's almost completely hardened, dry to the touch in under a minute)
3.) The price isn't hideous (although it certainly isn't the cheapest)
4.) It won't smear nail art
5.) It protects against chipping for the longest amount of time

The only negatives that I can think of are 1.) the smell, and 2.) the tendency of the formula to get extremely gloopy and difficult to use about halfway through the bottle.

In regards to the odor of this topcoat, it has a very strong chemical scent (paint thinner comes to mind) that tends to linger just a little bit. Although the smell is kind of overwhelming at first, I learned to accept it after I saw how amazing the topcoat wore on my nails. As far as the 1/2 bottle gloopyness, Seche Vite actually sells a companion product called Seche Restore, which does exactly what you think it would by de-glooping your bottle of topcoat. Just put in a few drops and your Seche Vite is good as new!

Lastly, I know that the thickness of this topcoat tends to throw people off at first (myself included). The best way to work with Seche Vite's consistency is to put one glob of topcoat close to the cuticle and then quickly spread upwards towards the tip of the nail. If you dip the brush back into the bottle halfway through topcoat application, you may get air bubbles and an uneven surface. Trust me though- after you get used to the formula, all other brands of topcoat are likely to pale in comparison!

In conclusion, the winner of topcoat wars is...

SECHE VITE (despite limited availability and a higher price point)
I still think that Sally Hansen Insta-Dri is an okay topcoat, and even a good one if you don't wear nail art on a regular basis.

Anyway, I hope this review has been helpful (sorry about the rambling, but there were lots of details to address!). Have a lovely day/evening, and I'll see everyone in two weeks!


  1. I have found that Seche Vite is the glossiest and protects polish. I have painted my nails for 35 years and never found another top coat like this

  2. I like both. The downfall of Seche Vite is the smell. Ugh. So strong!