1) Apply base coat, then your base color if you want one. I used one coat of white polish. In case you're extending a current manicure, here's a tip: don't put the crackle on top of quick-dry top coat, even if the top coat is long dry. It will make it peel up and flake off like nobody's business. You can, however, put a coat of clear polish on top of the previous top coat and then apply the crackle on top of that. See, look what happened when I applied the crackle over AA Butter, which I'd used quick-dry top coat on. This was without me touching my nail or bumping it on anything:
2) While the base color is still slightly tacky, apply one fairly thin coat of the crackle top coat. Let it dry.
3) Apply one coat of regular top coat, NOT quick dry. The quick-dry (and believe me, I tried every quick-dry top coat I own - Rush, SH Insta-Dri, and Orly In a Snap) won't keep it from falling off, which is what it will also do if you don't apply top coat at all.
4) NOW you can apply quick-dry top coat if you want. Once there's a layer between the crackle and the quick-dry, it doesn't make it flake.
Whew! I hope my instructions are clear and not too boring...I just wanted to make sure that any of you who might buy this don't have to go through all the experimentation I did. However, I will say that my trials were totally worth it! I love this look.
indoors, artificial light
It is a little streaky, but that's partly my fault, and I actually don't mind. I think it makes it look more interesting...am I crazy? Don't answer that. :) All in all, I would definitely recommend trying the crackle top coats out. I like the pattern these make much better than the pictures I've seen of the Barry M and OPI crackle top coats. The lines in this are thinner and look more parched desert-y to me, which I really like, and I also like that they come in colors other than just black. They're cheap at $3.67 a bottle, and they have free shipping to most countries, which is a ginormous plus for me. I'm planning on getting the rest of the crackle colors (they have black, blue, pink which they call red, green, purple, watermelon, and yellow) soon.
Also, if you're still reading, I decided to keep using my bottle of Nutra Nail Strengthener until I run out, so I can give a full report after the bottle's empty. I'll start using the Ulta base coat after that.
*This product was provided to me for an honest review.