Much unlike many a magazine editor who recommends you buy all sorts of crap that they most likely got for free, your Jezebel staff doesn't get jack shit (other than books, unsolicited). And that's how it should be. But on our own time, in our personal lives, we still buy stuff. So this is Worth It, our daily recommendation of random things that we've actually spent our own money on. These are the things we buy regularly or really like, things we'd actually tell our friends about. And now we're telling you.
I am not an expert on nails, by any means. But I do my own nails almost exclusively, and over the years I have tried a lot of top coats. Sally Hansen Insta-Dri in the little red bottle is, in my opinion, the best. Now, the name is misleading, because believe me this stuff is far from Insta in its Dri, but it extends the life of a manicure like nobody's business. Depending on the polish — and we all know your mileage may vary; the biggest variable in the long-lasting manicure equation is the age of your nail polish, since it's formulated with lots of volatile compounds that begin to evaporate as soon as you crack open the bottle — I've had manicures topped with Sally Hansen Insta-Dri go 12 days without chipping. (My moon manicure, for example, lasted that long.) I would say that, with Sally Hansen, on average I go 7-8 days between color changes with either no or few chips. Nail regrowth is a bigger problem than chipping with this stuff.
I know a lot of people are into Sèche Vite, but personally, while I like the fact that Sèche Vite's formula is a little thinner than Sally Hansen's, I have experienced some issues with polish shrinkage when I've used S.V. And I hate when I've taken the time to apply my color all the way around and onto the edge of the nail tip, only to see that polish shrink back as the top coat dries. Once I did a highly scientific study where I polished my nails and then did the pinkie, middle, and thumb of my left hand and the ring and index of my right with Sèche Vite, and the pinkie, middle, and thumb of my right hand and the ring and index of my left with Insta-Dri. And at the end of the week, I counted each chip and assigned it a rating. I was satisfied that the Insta-Dri had performed better. (Why yes, my nails are a focus of my OCD.)
I've tried other Sally Hansen top coats, and none of them even come close. I just love this stuff. You apply your color, and even if it goes on a little gummy or with some air bubbles, the Insta-Dri penetrates all the layers and turns them hard. This stuff transforms your polish into a manicure.
Sally Hansen Insta-Dri, $5.59, Amazon.com
Worth It only features things we paid for ourselves and actually like. Don't send us stuff.