Review: Probelle Hydrating Top Coat

S&M Probelle hydrating topcoat

Probelle sent me this Hydrating Base Coat to try about a month ago, and I’ve used it on myself and one client so far. I always test products on myself before using it on a client, as I can’t wholeheartedly sell a service or product to a client without having a good experience with it myself. As always, the opinions shared in this post are my own. (My reviews are based my honest assessment of the products, and this blog’s content is not pre-approved by any PR representatives or brands.)

I applied it to my nails twice after removing acrylic enhancements. My nails were a bit rough, and I didn’t have time to do much with them. It was quick and easy to put on a layer of this clear polish, and I actually applied it two days in a row. It’s a very thin, clear coat. You can’t feel it on the nail, and there is no unpleasant smell to this product. It leaves a nice, natural sheen on the nail. The only negative comment I have about the application is that the brush was small and the bristles spread out unevenly.  Some of the bristles were wonky and stuck out to the sides, which made it difficult to control the product.

The client on whom I used this product on was recovering from poor product application then removal done by another nail tech. She had deep rings of fire, and her nails were peeling and breaking.  At the time of booking, she requested gel removal and a manicure with a “moisturizing treatment”.  After removing old product and prepping her nails, I applied one coat of this Probelle Hydrating Base Coat before proceeding with a regular manicure. I advised the client to use plenty of cuticle oil and lotion over the coming days.

Bottom line: This product is OK, but I haven’t been impressed enough through my experiences with it to purchase more Probelle products.  If I had more clients who requested natural nail manicures or products, I might be more likely to test the entire Probelle line of products and compare them to other major brands in order to decide which line to use at the salon.

Remember that nails don’t breathe or absorb nutrients, so we need to encourage healthy nail growth from the inside out by eating right, exercising, drinking plenty of water, and taking a supplement (as advised by a doctor). But if a client requests a treatment like this after enhancement removal, there are various protective products that techs can apply while giving the nails time to grow out.

Most nail product companies market some type of recovery treatment and, although we know that these products do not put nutrients into the nail, the added vitamins typically won’t do any harm and may give the client peace of mind. Frankly, I think these products are mostly a marketing scheme, but most companies likely make the decision to create and sell them in order to remain competitive in our industry. In the end it is up to the individual nail tech and client on if and how they are used.


Do nails need to “breathe”?

There has been much discussion lately on the subject of nails “taking a break” or “breathing”.  Are we smothering our nails with enhancements and polish? ‘Natural nails’ are very popular right now, and that begs the question of whether or not natural is the best or healthiest way to go. To answer this question, let’s take a quick look at the anatomy of the nail and our biology at work!


Image Credit: AAPC

First, we need to know a bit about how nails grow. According to Doug Schoon -who is probably the foremost scientist and researcher of all things nails and nail enhancements, and nail-industry educator – they grow from the nail matrix. The matrix produces these nail plate cells in rows, front to back, and many of these rows lay side-by-side to form the nail plate.  ” Each row of newly made nail plate cells is slowly pushed upward and slightly forward by rows of even newer nail cells created from below, which are also being pushing upward as they are made by the matrix.” Therefore, the shape, curvature, width and thickness of the nail plate are all controlled by the matrix below.

It’s important to note that all the blood and nutrients are provided to the matrix from within, via the circulatory system of the body. The better your circulation, the more nutrients that will come from your blood, and the faster your nails grow. Efficient circulation explains why our nails grow faster in the summertime and when we are younger.

Second, fingernails and toenails, as well as hair and your top layer of skin, are made of layers of keratin.  As your fingernails grow upwards and forwards, the cells actually die. This, of course, is why it doesn’t hurt to get a haircut or to trim and file the free edge or your nail.

Finally, it is believed that only water and oils with smaller molecules will penetrate the layers of nail keratin. Similarly, there is debate about what or how much can be absorbed through the skin, though we do have some research showing that skin health might be enhanced by topical application of micronutrients to the skin.

By putting this all together – that 1) the nail grows upwards and forwards, 2) blood and nutrients are provided to the matrix by your circulating blood, and 3) the rows of keratin cells are dead – we can draw some conclusions:

  • You cannot “revive” dead nail cells by applying products.  However, if you apply a carrier oil with certain micronutrients to the nails and surrounding skin, some micronutrients may penetrate to the matrix and epidermis, thus improving general nail health. This is the idea behind cuticle oils. Additionally, some oils provide a protective layer that assists the epidermis in retaining moisture already in the skin.
  • Applying or manipulating products on the upper layers of keratin, which are simply dead cells, may break them down or wear them away over time. This is why your nails seem to be “damaged” by nail products.
    • Additionally, some chemicals, such as acetone, remove moisture from the top nail or skin layers, resulting in the dehydrated, “dry” nail or cuticle.
    • Properly applied and removed nail enhancements will not damage your nails.
  • Internal factors including aging, hormones, stress, and medications, and wear and tear on nails and the surrounding skin, external factors, can both affect your nails’ appearance. Therefore, proper nutrition is essential for maintaining healthy nails (and overall health!).

In short, nails do not need to breathe.  “One hundred percent of the oxygen needed by the nail matrix to create a new nail plate comes from the bloodstream, and zero percent comes from the outside world,” according to Doug Schoon. “Nothing is gained by removing artificial nail enhancements or coatings for a few months before reapplying them.”

However, taking a break from nail products will allow time for new nails cells to grow upwards and forwards and, therefore, they will appear healthier after a few weeks of going bare. This is especially true if you apply oils daily and wear gloves when cleaning, gardening, etc.

If you are not used to going bare for so long, and would like a thin coat of polish to create a shiny yet natural-looking nail, there are many products from companies like GelishOPI, Orly and Zoya that you can try. Just keep in mind that calling these polishes “breathable” is more of a marketing term than any health claim.

I have used Strength VitaGel by Gelish when taking a few days off from gel polish (usually because I just didn’t have time to do anything fancy).  For me it didn’t last as long as Gelish gel polish… only a couple days really. This should be considered a “treatment”, and I don’t recommend applying Gelish gel polish over it (though you can if you want).gelish_bottle_2013-shaded-vitagel-wreflection-both-crop-u17069

Image Credit: Nail Harmony Australia

In the end, if you like the product, I say go for it! Don’t stress over the marketing jargon if you love the look or application of a treatment. You are an informed consumer who knows that nails don’t actually breathe!


Some more information on nail art stamping

Lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on nail art stamping plate brands that are available for purchase in the U.S., and I wanted to share some of the information I have gathered with you, as well as some of my own tips for successful stamping. I am going to share links to a lot of other blogs’ posts because it would be unnecessary to duplicate the work that these lovely bloggers have already done.

If you are brand new to stamping, start with this informational video from The Nail Junkkie or this in-depth video from Chickettes before diving into the information below.

Stamping Plate brands and reviews:

  • Konad – This is the brand that started it all but, unfortunately, the plates are somewhat hard to find, and knock-offs abound.  Here’s a review of a single plate from Samarium’s Swatches and a review of a Konad kit from Swatch & Learn. You can buy authentic Konad plates and accessories at
  • Bundle Monster – This company has a few sets of plates, all priced very nicely.  I own all the sets and can highly recommend them myself, as they have high quality images that stamp crisply.  Here’s a review from ChitChatNails.
  • Pueen – These stamping plates generally get good reviews. Check out this one Colores De Carol or this one from ChitChatNails.  Ready to buy? You can find these on the Pueen website or on
  • MoYou London – This company is serious about their branding! Their stamping plates come in themed collections, which I thought was a great idea, even though most of the collections didn’t appeal to me.   Their newest plate collections take the themes a step further in that they have a lady’s name and her persona that dictates the theme of the collection, such as Amy the Rebel or Olive the Sailor.  I haven’t tried any of these plates yet myself but based on the good reviews, like this one from Lucy’s Stash, I plan to in the future. In the U.S. you can buy them on (search for the name of the collection plus the plate number).
  • Cheeky – This company offers jumbo plates (meaning the designs are bigger, for full nail coverage) which are great for people with wide or long nails, so that they don’t have to double stamp. No Nude Nails has a review of these plates for you here. The plates are available for purchase on or on
  • Winstonia – I haven’t tried these yet, but they got great reviews from nail art bloggers. Here’s a review from Nailed It, and you can buy these plates from or the Winstonia Store.
  • SHANY Cosmetics – over the past couple years I’ve seen reviews from quite a few bloggers on these, though I’ve never tried them myself. Here’s a review from Nail Crazy.  The SHANY Cosmetics website has these for you to buy, or you can get them from

Here are reviews for some lesser-known brands:

Note that there are other brands available from other countries.  If the brand isn’t readily available for purchase in the U.S., I haven’t included them in this list.

Stampers and Scrapers:

  • Konad – You can find a variety of scrapers plus stampers in multiple sizes at  This should be your go-to stamper if you are a beginner.
  • Salon Express – I haven’t used this “As Seen On TV” brand, but I’ve heard that you can buy at Sally Beauty, Rite Aid, and CVS.  Here’s a review from Vampy Varnish.
  • Winstonia – Lots of nail stamping enthusiasts prefer this stamper, which you can buy at the Winstonia Store.
  • Pueen – This company offers a super squishy stamper in addition to the regular stamper.  You can buy these sets on or from the Pueen website.
  • XL Stamper – made from soft silicon, this stamper allows for a more comfortable stamping experience especially if you’re stamping nails with a deep C-curve.  Here’s a review from The Nail Polish Project, and you can buy it at Ninja Polish.
  • Messy Mansion – This company has rectangular stampers in a couple different colors (so that you can see a contrasting color of polish on the stamp in order to line it up on your nail), in addition to the traditional round stampers.

Stamping polish:

You can use regular polish for stamping, with varying degrees of success based on the brand and viscosity of the polish.  If you want to buy special stamping polish to ensure success, here are some brands and reviews:

  • Konad Special Stamping Polish – these are worth it, especially for beginners. I own black and white, but there are many different colors available and in a couple different sizes, as well. I bought mine on, but you can also get them from Konad or
  • Born Pretty Nail Art Stamping Polish – I haven’t tried this brand myself.  It is available for purchase at the Born Pretty Store, of course.

Note that I’ve only listed two brands here because that’s all I know of, as I typically use regular nail polish (RNP).    Just remember that you’ll have to work faster when stamping with RNP, as these are less viscous polishes than the special stamping polishes and therefore dry faster.  Here are the kinds of RNP that work the best:

  • metallics
  • Old, thick RNP
  • chromes
  • special nail art polishes (the kind that come with the skinny brush in the bottle)


If you have wide and long nails it will often be necessary to “double stamp”.  See an example of how that’s done at My Simple Little Pleasures.

Use a credit card instead of a scraper. Many people prefer this over the scrapers with the metal edge, as using the plastic avoids metal-on-metal violence against your stamping plates.

Pinch a cotton ball with a clothespin and dip it in the acetone. Use that to clean the plate between stamps, instead of your fingers.  If you use your fingers, you may end up ruining some of the stamps you’ve already done on your nails.

Most seasoned stampers use and recommend Seche Vite regular top coat nail polish. You can apply stamps over gel polish. You just use the gel top coat rather than regular polish top coat.

Make sure your base polish is completely dry before beginning to stamp on it.  Also, allow the stamp plenty of time to dry before applying top coat.

Work as quickly as possible so that the polish isn’t drying on the stamper.

For healthy nails and skin, get plenty of vitamins A, B3, C, E, and K. I take this  Hair Skin and Nails multivitamin from and moisturize with Palmer’s lotion with vitamin E multiple times daily.  Also, drink plenty of filtered water!

Advanced stamping techniques:

  • Stamp with multiple colors – Simply apply multiple colors of polish to the stamp, then scrape.  Check out these examples from The Polished Mommy and Nail Polish Wars.
  • Reverse the image by picking up the stamp on a stamper, as usual, then immediately transferring it on to another stamper by pressing the two stampers together.  Then, quickly push the image onto your nail. Here’s a pictorial from Wacky Laki.
  • Make your own nail strips or decals using a plastic bag or parchment paper – simply apply one layer of top coat (in roughly a nail shape and size for decals, or a spot slightly larger than your stamp if you’re stamping a small graphic) then stamp on top of that, and color in the stamp using a small brush and RNP.  Allow it to dry for at least a couple hours before carefully removing it with tweezers from the bag and laying it into a freshly top-coated nail. This is a very versatile method for creating nail art easily.  Check out this tutorial from The Daily Varnish.
  • Create a decal directly on the stamper – simply pick up the image on the stamper, then paint it with other colors of RNP, as desired. After that dries, top coat and allow the decal to dry for at least a couple hours before peeling it off with tweezers and applying to a freshly top-coated nail.  Find more information on this and other techniques from Lucy’s Stash.