I have an on-again, off-again relationship with gel nails. On one hand, I love the long-lasting benefits of gel and how the thickness of the lacquer tends to protect my nails from breaking during my hands-on hobbies, which include crochet, metalworking, and ceramics. On the other hand, I hate going to the nail salon every few weeks for a new set, the cost can add up, and removing them can leave my nails feeling brittle and damaged. Not to mention, a recent study indicates that, while the risk is relatively low, UV lights used to cure gel nails can increase risk of skin cancer.
While I probably won’t swear them off forever (they do sometimes come in handy), I am increasingly more aware of these gel-induced woes, especially knowing that there is an excellent alternative sitting in my medicine cabinet. ORLY's Shining Armor Long Wear Topcoat ($10) is my go-to for gel-worthy nails, sans the gel. True to its name, it's like a layer of armor on my nails, keeping my polish from chipping and peeling longer.
The ORLY Shining Armor Long Wear Topcoat first came onto my radar a little less than a year ago, when the brand gifted me a bottle to try. At the time, I was on one of my many breaks from gel nails and decided to treat myself to a DIY manicure. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much as I’ve tried plenty of other long-wear topcoats and they’re all kind of the same. But, after one quick swipe across my nailbed, I was shocked by the outcome.
Albeit a bit liquidy, the topcoat appears to have a little more plumpness to it when applied to the nail, which creates a high-gloss finish that resembles the look of a gel manicure. And, while this was purely enough to get me hooked onto the product, it was the weeks that followed that truly convinced me of its staying power. I applied the topcoat before heading out on a week-long trip to New York City where I was surely going to chip my non-gel manicure, because that is just what happens you stomp all over the city for a week in regular polish. But, alas, they never chipped—not even a little bit. In fact, the topcoat kept my manicure intact for another two-and-a-half weeks (weeks I spent deep-diving into my art projects, might I mention) before the first chip appeared.
Since my inaugural mani with the ORLY topcoat, I have reached for my bottle dozens of times. In addition to its gel looks and staying power, I love this topcoat because it actually does a good job of hiding damage on top of my nail bed (so long as I also have a darker color polish underneath), too. After removing gels, my nailbeds look noticeably damaged; There are often ridges on them and you can see where they have been filed over. And, on the areas where I got impatient and peeled the gel polish off (trust me, don’t do this), there is a lot of uneven texture. But, the supple finish of the ORLY Shining Armor topcoat helps mask all of this and creates a smooth surface with the shiniest finish.
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