Back when I started doing nail art, I was thrilled to discover INM Out The Door top coat. With a fast drying top coat I can slap on 2-3 coats of polish plus a layer of topcoat without letting every layer fully dry first. It quickly protects the surface from smudges, but also helps the layers below it dry quicker. And it even helps your manicures last longer without chipping. I wish I'd known about these years ago, because it makes polishing much quicker and easier.
INM Out the Door is one of the more popular top coats along with Seche Vite. Seche Vite is know for having an incredible shine, but is also bad about shrinking (pulling the polish away from the edges of your nail and cuticles). Because of that I chose INM, which is also cheaper and can be found at many drugstores.
But a recent post by The Nailasaurus had me questioning my loyalties! She compared 5 top coats and INM ended up at the bottom of her list, complaining that it smeared her nail art. Now, I learned early on that a top coat can smear your stamping or other art, and so you need to apply it lightly ('float' it over the nail) and try not to brush over the same areas again and again. Just brush once down each side and once down the center then leave it alone! Once I learned the floating technique I rarely had a smear, but I will admit that even the occasional streak is horrible after you've spent a lot of time on a design! I decided to take her recommendation and picked up her top choice, KBShimmer Clearly On Top.
Before using it on my nails, I wanted to do a little test to see if there was a noticeable difference. First I compared INM Out the Door and KBShimmer Clearly on Top. I painted two 'nails' on a nail wheel with with a base color, stamped over the top, then quickly coated one nail in each top coat. The result was identical. There was no streaking on either nail, but I realized that I was probably using my normal floating top coat technique and I needed to get a little rougher.
By the way, the picture above also shows the benefits of testing out a color combination on a nail wheel first! The copper polish looks great over the purple color but was lost on top of the green. That is not something you want to find out after you just painted all 10 of your real nails green!
For my 2nd test I grabbed a stamping polish that I know I've seen streak before (Pure Ice "Silver Mercedes") and added another top coat in the running ~ CND Air Dry. That polish was recommended by a friend who used to run a nail art blog, though she was not a fan of the brush in the small bottle & recommended getting the large one you see pictured above.
I coated each stamped nail with top coat again, this time applying it more like I would a normal polish and then brushing the surface over and over again, trying to make it streak. The results were clear! INM did get some minor streaks, KBS came out crisp, and CND smeared all over the place. KBShimmer really did come out "Clearly on Top"!
So will KBS be my new go-to top coat? For nail art, yes. Even though I rarely have a streak with the other two it's not worth the risk! But KBS did have a strong, unpleasant odor (like resin) and is not available in many stores, so for regular polish I would still recommend INM.