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The Best Top Coat Nail Polishes

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🕚 Updated April 2022

A good top coat can do wonders for your manicure and can be the difference between how much you need to change your polish. If you're ready to revamp your at-home manicure prowess, here are top coats we highly recommend.

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  Top Choice Vegan Choice Best Gel Top Coat Best for Quick-Dry For Nail Strengthening
 
  essie
All-In-One Base Coat + Top Coat + Strengthener Nail Polish
OPI
Nature Strong Vegan Nail Polish
CND
Gel Top Coat Nail Polish
Seche Vite
Dry Fast Top Nail Coat
Sally Hansen
Mega Strength Top Coat
 
Our SummaryAn efficient solution for quick at-home manis.A clean-beauty pick for manicure lovers.All the shine, none of the hassle.A top coat for those short on time.A polish that boosts nail health.
ProsMultifunctional top coat, incorporates argan oil, ideal to prep nails for color.Vegan, clean-beauty product free from harsh ingredients.Offers durability and shine of gel without UV/LED lights, easy to use.Easy to use, works quickly, mimics plumpness of gel polish.Prevents nails from chipping, peeling, or breaking, comes in 30+ colors and top coat.
ConsManicure may not last quite as long.Thicker formula may be difficult to work with, strong odor.May cause underlying layers to shrink. Small bottle size, may encourage yellowing.May cause yellowing, discoloration, and premature peeling.
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The Best Top Coat Nail Polishes

Beautiful manicure process.
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Buying Guide for Top Coat Nail Polishes

Female hand holding transparent nail Polish, blurred background, close-up.
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Why buy a top coat nail polish?

The simplest reason to buy a top coat nail polish is that it can extend the life of your manicure. While most nail polishes are designed to last for more than a few days, a good top coat can ensure that your 10-set lasts for a week or more—not even including more durable polish options like gels or shellac. Plus, many top coats are designed so that they can be used alone on your nails to strengthen your nails to prevent splitting and breaking. Better still, many nail polish top coats are infused with ingredients that protect your color nail polish from fading or changing color from sustained UV exposure to the sun.

What should you look for in a top coat nail polish?

  • Formula: To make sure that you buy the best top coat for your manicure, you need to consider your daily routine. For example, if you are usually too busy to give yourself a proper manicure, a fast-drying top coat will reduce the time it takes for a manicure to fully dry. Anti-chip formulas are designed to strengthen and protect your manicure, making them an excellent choice for those who work in harsh environments.
  • Ingredients: Equally important are the ingredients in your nail polish. As features like 10-free continue to rise in popularity, many people are more discerning about their beauty products and don’t want to use items that are full of harsh ingredients. If this is important, you’ll want to avoid common additives like formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, or toluene which are three of the harshest 10 dangerous additives.
  • Finish: Most top coats come with a glossy finish designed to prevent dullness and keep your manicure looking fresh. If you are looking to change your typical manicure design, you should consider investing in a matte top coat that’ll protect your nails while adding a fun twist to your favorite nail colors.

When do you know it’s time to replace your top coat nail polish?

If your top coat nail polish is starting to get thick, goopy, or tends to leave bubbles when you paint your nails, it’s time to replace it. These are all clear signs that your polish has seen better days and that it’s time to head to your favorite beauty store for some retail therapy.

Our Picks for the Best Top Coat Nail Polishes

Top Choice

essie All-In-One Base Coat + Top Coat + Strengthener Nail Polish

An efficient solution for quick at-home manis.

Pros: Whether you’re the type with limited space for your nail polish collection or you seriously dislike clutter, the essie All-In-One top and base coat is a great go-to. Along with pulling double duty for your manis, it also works to strengthen your nails. It helps to extend the life of your manicure by providing the best base for your color polish to adhere to.

Cons: This is not a 10-free product clean-beauty product. You may not get as long of a manicure with this multi-purpose essie product as with stand-alone top and base coats.

Bottom Line: Ditch the clutter with this all-in-one solution from essie that pulls triple-duty as a top and base coat and a nail strengthener.

 

Vegan Choice

OPI Nature Strong Vegan Nail Polish

A clean-beauty pick for manicure lovers.

Pros: Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you’re not into makeup and manicures. Thankfully, one of the leading brands in nail care—OPI—is looking out for vegan beauty fans with their Nature Strong Vegan Nail Polish. This nine-free polish is made from plant-based ingredients and is also cruelty-free.

Cons: This product creates a thicker polish that may stain your nails. Even for the top coat, the smell may be powerful for some.

Bottom Line: Don’t feel like you have to give up manicures because you support clean beauty. Thanks to its nine-free designation, OPI’s vegan nail lacquer is an excellent alternative to chemical-heavy options.

 

Best Gel Top Coat

CND Gel Top Coat Nail Polish

All the shine, none of the hassle.

Pros: Anyone familiar with manicures knows that gel polish tends to be the holy grail, but it has many strings attached. If you don’t want the fuss of UV lights and post-mani nail cleaning, the CND Gel Top Coat Nail Polish is a solid investment. It can be used on top of regular polish and promises to give you that plump shine usually reserved just for gel polish and extend the life of your manicure.

Cons: The top coat could cause their underlying polish layers to shrink, meaning it might look like your nails have grown out, or you’ve worn down the free edge of the polish.

Bottom Line: If you’re ready to turn regular polish into a gel dupe, the CND Gel Top Coat Nail Polish will do the trick. You’ll get a scratch-resistant shine and a longer-lasting manicure.

 

Best for Quick-Dry

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat

A top coat for those short on time.

Pros: Waiting for your nails to dry is far from the best use of your time. Thankfully the Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat can dry those claws in half the time. This alcohol-free top coat gives you not just a brilliant shine but can quickly dry your nails without the need for lights. Yet, you’ll still get that plumping effect normally associated with gel polish.

Cons: It’s a pretty small bottle at just a half-ounce of product. While this top coat did dry quickly, many people noted that it also tended to peel off equally fast.

Bottom Line: If you’re in a rush, the Seche Vite quick-dry top coat can be a lifesaver that gets you out the door in no time.

 

For Nail Strengthening

Sally Hansen Mega Strength Top Coat

A polish that boosts nail health.

Pros: There’s nothing worse than dealing with nails that chip, peel, or break. The Sally Hansen Mega Strength is a top coat that gives you an ultra-shiny brilliance and works to strengthen your nails, making it ideal to use by itself or over any of the 37 color shades in this collection.

Cons: This polish may cause discoloration and leave a yellowish tinge to your manicure. In some cases, you may experience premature peeling.

Bottom Line: Sally Hansen is a go-to for manicure products. Their large shade range plus durable top coat products make this a solid option, especially since it’s readily available in person or online.

Final Thoughts

If you want to make sure that your manicure lasts longer than a day or two, you’re going to need a worthy top coat that protects your color polish and boosts shine and durability. A good top coat product can do all of that, with many promising to give you the look and endurance of a gel polish minus the tedious application process.

Ellie Miller Ellie Miller
Ellie Miller is a full-time copy editor and occasional writer for LifeSavvy’s reviews articles. With years of experience in substantive and copy editing, proofreading, and publishing, she has edited thousands of online articles, as well as memoirs, scientific essays, book chapters, and workplace training documents. She hopes you’ll find some new favorite products here on LifeSavvy like she has. Read Full Bio »
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