COMMENTS: I have a really simple nail routine as I don't go through many of the recommended manicure steps. The things I do always use though are base and topcoat. Here are my favorites:
1. Beauty Secrets moisturizing base coat is from Sally Beauty Supply (about $3 for .5oz, $6 for 2.5oz). I like that I can put this on in a thin or slightly thick coat. It's also the base for about 85% of my manicures..
2. Sally Hansen Hard as Nails - Hard as Wraps gel is a nice thick base coat with acrylic that was recommended to me by AllThingsNails when I asked her how she prevented staining. It worked! I used it as my sole base coat for about a month and all my new nail growth stayed unstained. I now use just 3-4 times a month, when my nails feel like they need a little extra thickness for protection, or if they start to look stained (which is rare now with the previous base coat). It's more expensive at about $6 at drugstores for .44oz. Because of the gel formula, it does get used up quickly and thickens as you approach the bottom.
I do use some other base coats from time to time so as not to waste previous purchases :).
My nails with one coat of Beauty Secrets moisturizing base coat:
My favorite topcoat - also from Sally's is Beauty Secrets fast finish. It dries quickly with long-lasting shine, can be applied relatively thick, and doesn't thicken up like Seche Vite (and even Out the Door). I'm already halfway through this large 2.5 oz bottle (which cost only $6 by the way). I have tried other topcoats since finding this (CND Air Dry for example), but this works best for me. Like the base coat from the same brand, it also comes in a smaller .5 oz size for $3.
For removal, I used to use a mixture of pure acetone and acetone-based remover, both from Beauty Secrets as well. I now just use the pure acetone with a bit of glycerin, and some grape seed oil mixed in to prevent it from drying my nails and cuticles out.
Just wanted to share!