Best Nail Top & Base Coats Reviewed and Tested
Nails coats or in other terms, top and base coats are two important manicure tools you should use. And seeing as both of them are complementary to each other, you can only boost effectiveness when you use both together (with no side effects). Because without the other, one can only last for so long. In fact, a perfect comparison for this is building a house.
You need a good foundation (base coats) after which you can then start the construction of a big fine house (top coats and others) on top of it. Doing this ensures longevity and a gorgeous glossy look/design for your manicure.
So, on that front, we’ve compiled a list of the best nail top and base coats that will give you the aforementioned results, yours is to choose which one you prefer.
Our Top 3 Picks
- Seche Vite Top Coat
- Fast Dry
- CND Vinylux Top Coat
- Long Lasting
- Essie to Go
- Easy Peel
10 Best Nail Top & Base Coats
On this list, the first 6 are going to be the best top coats we reviewed and the next six will be the best base tops.
1. Seche Vite Dry Fast
The device as we noticed secures your colour polish and offers chip-resistance which adds a little to the lifespan. Though, it doesn't mean the longevity couldn't have been better since it starts chipping after a few days.
A single durable coating
Does not stain (yellow)
Exceptional bang for buck. The product is easily the best in terms of functions and pricing since you're getting much more than you bargained for.
Regardless of the budget, the Seche Vite Top Nail Coat is a must-have for anyone with a want for a glossy and creamy look. Also, the product is highly powerful as it comfortably fulfills the most important part of its job - which is aesthetics.
Exceptional value for money
Lifespan could have been better
2. CND Vinylux
Fast drying time
If the CND Vinylux Weekly Top Coat had a mediocre lifespan, the price would have been good. But now as the lifespan is remarkable, the product has exceptional value for money.
If you're the type who doesn't like fussing about manicure because you simply lack the time, then you'll love the CND Vinylux Weekly Top Coat because of its incredible lifespan. And that's taking into consideration the fact that it lacks lustre on the level of other base coat products on this list.
Fast drying time
Remarkable value for money
It lacks lustre
3. Essie Good To Go
Drying time is short
Price for sheer usability makes excellent value for money in regards to the Essie Good To Go Top Coat. Though its value is not as good as the previous two. But for that kind of blended features, it's a win-win situation for anyone considering it.
This particular essie product has blended the most noticeable features of the previous two items on this list together. Short time for drying and sheer lifespan makes it one of the best top nail coat product money can buy.
Highly durable nails
Glossy and creamy
Good value for money
Slightly chips in some cases
4. CND Shellac Original
Now, history says durability and chip resistance leads to excellent lifespan. And this product itself is no exception as it has a remarkable lifespan of up to two weeks of classy glossy look.
The value for money could definitely be better, especially when you take into consideration the previous products. Though, do note that the product is highly functional for that price. But we'll mention it once again - it's not the best we've seen in terms of pricing and value.
Provided you have a flexible budget and you simply prefer the CND Shellac Original Top Coat to other nail top coats on this list, then you should certainly give it a buy. Its classy and creamy look will definitely make up for its somewhat hefty price.
Value for money is underwhelming
Short drying time
It has a good balance of value and price. Albeit when you consider it to the other products on this list, the value could be better. Consequently, users on a mildly strict budget might be turned off by this.
The OPI Top Coat Nail Polish is a product with big claims of great user experience, and after we tested it, they weren't bluffing. So, if you need effectiveness and beauty inside a bottle, pick this because you won't go wrong.
Short drying time
6. Sally Hansen
Just a minimal application of the liquid gives high durability and anti-chip capabilities that will comfortably last you a reasonable time. Also, you have to buy it to witness its fast drying time. Which comes at nil expense to any of the aforementioned benefits.
Dries super fast
High gloss finish
Increases colour quality
Reliability coupled with many functions gives a value that is a direct competitor with other more expensive top coats products. Or in other terms, we can say the Sally Hansen Big Kwik Dry Top Nail Coat has exceptional value for money.
Regardless if you're on a budget or not, the Sally Hansen Big Kwik Dry Top Nail Coat is a perfect fit for your needs. Upon application, it provides your nails with durability which ensures good lifespan and also a glossy aftereffect that is on par with other more expensive top coat products.
Super fast drying
Exceptional value for money
Makes colours more radiant
Chip-resistance is good but could be better
7. UNT Peelable
Hardening leads to your nails' longevity, filling ridges gives a smooth appearance and feel, and prevention of discolouration is simply for aesthetics. Also, after usage, you'll notice that it can be easily and completely peeled off together with a coloured nail polish and top coat.
Smoothens nail ridges
Enhances polish lifespan
Prevention of discolouration
Easily peeled off with polish
The value for money could be better but luckily its reliability/functions don't disappoint. As a result of that, it should perfectly fit into your repertoire of beauty products. Provided, of course, you're not on a strict budget.
The UNT Ready Peelable Base Coat is number one for a reason, and that's mostly due to its reliability. The product claims to be a nail strengthener which can be easily peeled off after a top coat and polish have been used. And it remarkably didn't fail us in that regard, and hence why we advise you to try it out too.
Ensures good lifespan for polish
Easily peeled off
Smoothens nail ridges
Drying time is very short
Value for money is ok but could be better
8. CND Base
Ensures longevity by maintaining polish and top coat
It is the most expensive base coat product on this list. So, it has excellent value but the money could have been lesser—which makes it unsuitable for individuals on a budget (though, this varies from one person to another). Luckily, its sheer effectiveness slightly makes up for its high price, so you're getting what you bargained for—but not more.
It's a runner-up for the first position and doesn't fail in proving that point. If you want a good base coat that can be easily peeled off (with the polish) whenever you want and is also very effective, then the CND Shellac Base Coat is definitely satisfactory. Though, it's not meant for individuals on a budget.
Nail strengthener due to its ingredients
Easily removed with the polish
Underwhelming value for money
Fast drying time
Long lasting nails
Price and value are definitely top-notch, which makes this product perfect for both individuals on a budget and those who are not.
It has good value for money and its capabilities as a base coat have been thoroughly tested. Fortunately, it passed most of our tests like chip-resistance, and discolouration. Unfortunately, the one test it doesn't pass is smoothening (nail ridges)—which for the sake of aesthetics and user experience is highly important. Regardless, it's still an excellent base coat that you can invest in.
Enhances manicure lifespan
Fast drying time
Weak ridge filling prowess
Also, for the sake of conveniency—easy removal of the polish/top coat is another feature you'll love about the item and when you combine it with the Seche Vite Top Nail Coat, the result is stunning.
All-in-one top and base coats
Polish durability (good lifespan)
Easy removal of polish and top coat
The product sacrifices none of its functions at that price. In fact, it's a perfect balance of value and cost which is better than the previous two items on this list.
The essie nail polish base coat is an excellent base coat for anyone looking for a mix of price and reliability. So, provided you have a slightly flexible budget (depends on the individual), you should buy this item (essie base coat).
Can be used as both a top and base coat
Good value for money
Ensures good lifespan by strengthening nails
Easy removal of polish/top coat
Long drying time
11. Seche Clear
Now, if you want the best results, you should combine it with its Serche top coat counterpart. The result is aesthetically appealing, to say the least. Nonetheless, do keep in mind that this doesn't mean it can't be used with other top coats.
Prepares nail for polish/top coats
Easily peeled off with polish
Enhanced manicure longevity
Buying the Seche Clear Base Coat is purchasing much more than you bargained for. Remarkable value for money as it has a repertoire of functions that if used with any of the top coats in the previous list will produce appealing results.
Regardless of your budget, this is a must-have in your beauty tools. Since its price sacrifices none of its powerful functions. In fact, you get more than you bargain for—if you consider the prices of the other base coats on this list.
Easy removal of the polish
Remarkable value for money
Strengthens nails for good lifespan
Doesn't fill nail ridges
The liquid is sticky and is used to prevent nail chipping which increases polish lifespan. In regard of this, it's actually the best product on this list that you can buy for that purpose (chipping). Though this for some reason doesn't translate into an exceptionally long lifespan. An excellent base coat for further application of top coat and coloured nail polish is what you get if you give this device a buy.
Easy top coat and polish removal
Ironical that this is the last item on this list while being the number one budget device. If you buy the CND Sticky Base Coat, you're getting much more than you bargained for.
If you want minimal cost and high functionality, then you'll love the CND Sticky Base Coat. Its consistency, price, chip-resistance, and others help in adding up as an incentive to try out its claims (which we did), and the results were worthwhile.
Chip resistance ensures polish lifespan
Easy removal of topcoat/polish
Bang for buck is exceptional
Alters certain nail polish colours
Benefits of Using Nail Top & Base Coats
The benefits of each coat (top and base) are individually appealing – but the cumulative factor at work which serves as a catalyst for boosting overall effectiveness is why you should use both of them. So, in this regard—we recommend the use of the items above (nail top and base coats), presuming you find any/all of the benefits below aesthetically appealing.
Nail Top Coat
Using a highly effective nail top coat (the ones above) seals the polish to your nails and also serve to protect the polish from chipping or wearing at the edges. Consequently, your coloured polish lasts longer which will be beneficial to individuals who are constantly in a hurry and can’t expend time on such tasks. Provided you use it correctly, there have been recorded cases of more than a week in some individuals.
Definitely, one of the most important uses of top coats is for aesthetics. A slight application of an excellent top coat product (especially the Serche top coat) results in nails with eye-catching sheen that you’ll love especially if you’re into nail art (professional). Now, combine this with any coloured polish (whether dull or not) and the aftereffect results in a gorgeous and clean look.
A professional or not, mistakes occur where your application of coloured polish will be uneven and the base coats (excluding the ones above) won’t be able to accommodate that error. Using a good top coat will smoothen everything (bumps) out until you’re left with a posh look and feel for your manicure.
Nail Base Coat
Base coats have ingredients like protein, vitamin E, moisturizers and calcium which are nutrients that your nails eagerly feast upon for growth and health purposes. These nutrients also strengthen the nails and help prevent them from breaking and splitting which is vital for nail art (regardless if you’re a professional or not).
On the occurrence of your nails’ contact with coloured polish (without base coats), a yellowish colour/tint will be the result of the application. In this regard, base coats are foundations that prevent coloured nail polish from touching your natural nails. But like always, this is only possible if the nail base coat you’re using is functional enough to pull this off.
A good base coat, if appropriately used will maintain the colour of any polish you choose. Also, they completely stick to your natural nails for easy removal of the polish and top coat which for the sake of convenience and maintenance (filling nail ridges) is important. In summary, using a nail base coat is another way that you can increase polish lifespan.
Now the cumulative effects are felt when both nail top and base coats work in tandem with each other to boost overall efficacy. This simply means that every benefit iterated above will be increased (in terms of effects), and the results, most of the time are remarkable.
You might have experience in using top and base nails coats or you’re simply new to all that it entails. Regardless of your reason, it is our job (and we take it seriously) to build informative recommendations on the correct manner of usage—irrespective of the type of product(s) that is being reviewed by us.
So, after perusing the two lists above and selecting one out of each, the following instructions are your guide to getting all the aforementioned benefits. Though do keep in mind that this information can also be found on the product itself, and we’re repeating it for the sake of consistency.
Top Coat for Nails
After using a base coat and a coloured polish, apply a single thick coat (any of the top coats mentioned above) on top of the nail in a consistent/even manner. The top coat (especially the ones above) will dry in a few minutes and you’re set for the day.
Base Coat for Nails
Prior to the application of any coloured polish to your nail, thickly apply one to two coats of base coat in an even manner. It will take a few minutes for the base coat to dry. After which you can apply the coloured polish.
Also, for coats like the essie nail polish base coat that can be used as both a top and base coat: you should first apply the coat as a base coat on your nail, followed by a coloured polish of your choice and then one to two applications of the essie base coat to produce a glossy finish.
To maximize the effects of any product, you must take a few steps to preserve/maintain the product lest it spoils, loses effectiveness or even causes complications. So, on that front, keep both the top and base coats in cool dry places. Keep away from flame and children so as to avoid any complication.
Also, avoid inhaling the coats and keep them away from the skin. Keep the coats tightly sealed and avoid any/all contact of theirs with sunlight. Lastly, avoid using the product if it starts feeling clumpy, too thick or the texture simply feels wrong—because at that point the ingredients might be counter-productive.
Criteria for Evaluation
Below are the conditions and methods that we implemented in our goal to find the best-tested top and base coats that will suit the needs/wants of various individuals regardless of their physiological differences.
Although they’re few, side effects due to nail top and base coats are still existent. And one thing they all have in common is the ingredients used in the production of the coats. As a result of the use of these questionable ingredients, side effects might be caused by the ingredients or the ingredients themselves will pose a risk.
OPI Envy Nail Strengthener for one is an excellent base coat which would have been the number one base coat on our list but unfortunately, it has formaldehyde as an ingredient and this itself can cause severe illnesses like cancer. To summarize, we take particular care to inspect all of our products and if one (like the OPI Nail Strengthener) has any ingredient that may pose a risk (allergy or not), we promptly eject them from our list.
Price and Value
As already known and very much discussed, a heavy price tag doesn’t always equal value. You could buy a product that’s expensive and its value will be a joke compared to a product half its price. To avoid this, we’ve tested each and every product on this list and we’ve thusly evaluated their value.
From there, with our system—we measured if their value is equal to their price tag and they were. In fact, there are some products above that their value beats their price – hands down. On that note, do keep in mind that the products above with “underwhelming value for money” is only so—when compared to the other products on this list.
We checked the feedback of each and every user of the products above in order to confirm whether or not our analysis is correct. Why do we do this you might ask. It’s simply to aid convenience and keep consistency. You can’t go through all the user reviews/feedbacks online because it’s inconvenient (tedious and time-consuming).
We, on the other hand, can and the results as you can see are above. Consistency, on the other hand, is like repetition. Where in the long run, it makes perfect our buying guides and reviews.
Top and base coats are used on nails, and other than the risks explained in the side effects section, they’re generally safe. Nonetheless, safety is the most vital part of any product, and should you be skeptical/hesitant in any way or form—you can consult your dermatologist to confirm whether or not any of the ingredients will pose a problem to you.
Also, due to the importance of safety, we will repeat this; keep all top and base coats away from children and flame in order to avoid complications. For more information on this, kindly visit our Maintenance Tips section.
Ingredients and Their Effectiveness
The ingredients used by the manufacturers are high-quality and also optimized for effectiveness. None of them are in any way or form harmful to users and can be used with other products with no side effects occurring. In fact, by using these ingredients in the production of the coats above, manufacturers have ensured satisfactory results on the part of users.
One of the reasons why top manufacturers are still in business is reputation. Even if they make a bad/defective product, users will still buy it and keep on using it until it spoils. Like so, we too only pick the best products made from reputable/credible companies so as to instill confidence in users since they trust them.
Nevertheless, we’re also the medium that their products pass through. And if their product regardless of their reputation is defective, we exclude it from our list. In that regard, this guide itself is made up of only the best top and base nail coats that you can invest in.
Every company boasts of one feature or the other. But that doesn’t mean it works. And that’s exactly why we test all products we come across. We test their claims which include side effects, reliability, speed, power etcetera. Where the ones that make it through our rigorous tests will afterward still be graded by using the other methods listed here. If they also make it all that, you’ll see them on this list, but if they don’t, well—the answer is obvious.
Q. Are there any harmful ingredients in the products above?
A. No, there are not. Ingredients such as toluene and formaldehyde have been removed to prevent complications or risks.
Q. How to apply base coat nail polish?
A. For more information on this, kindly visit our Usage Recommendations section or consult your dermatologist/personal beauty caregiver.
Q. Best top and base coat nail polish?
A. All of the items on this list are the best that you can invest both your money and time in. Though, do keep in mind that there’s no best of anything, so pick the ones that best suit your needs.
Q. Difference between top and base coat nail polish?
A. A top nail coat polish is used for nail smoothness, nail chip-resistance, and aesthetics (glossy look). While a base coat is used for prevention of nail discolouration, nutrition, and maintenance.
Q. Which is the cheapest base coat on this list?
A. The Seche Clear Base Coat is the cheapest base coat polish on this list. And while we’re on this topic, the CND Shellac Base Coat is the most expensive.
Q. Can you use a top coat as base coat nail polish?
A. The only item on this list that can be used both as a top and base coat is the essie nail polish base coat. For more information on this, kindly visit our Best Nail Base Coat section.
Q. Best non-yellowing base coat nail polish?
A. There is no best product for this but all of the base coats on this list fully have this feature.
Q. Where to buy top and base nail coats?
A. Any cosmetics store near you should have these products, but we recommend Amazon as an e-commerce website due to some of its usefulness (like reviews and good pricing)
Q. What color are the top and base coats after application?
A. Both of them should be crystal clear, but in the case of top coats, it might have a slight tint (in terms of colours) and glossy look.