It can be challenging to figure out how to choose the best top coats, because let’s be honest here — all clear nail polishes look exactly the same in the bottle. To narrow things down, Bustle spoke with four professional nail artists to find out which top coats they like to use best on clients. Below are their top picks for top coats that give long-lasting shine (with the exception of one matte top coat), offer protection from chips and breaks, and in some cases, even help polish dry quicker. On this list, you’ll find options to suit every budget, too, including a $5 drugstore classic and a pro-quality top coat/base coat duo.
Sealing in your polish of choice with a top coat will go a long way at protecting your manicure, but for best results, you may want to apply a base coat, too. Don’t forget to moisturize your nails and cuticles with either a cuticle oil or hand cream frequently — especially after washing your hands — to keep your nails in top-top shape.
1. Expert’s Pick: The Overall Best Top Coat
Two experts, celebrity nail artist Britney Tokyo and Stacey Lomascolo at Mirbeau Inn & Spa, both pointed Bustle towards Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat as their number-one top coat of choice. Tokyo tells Bustle that the top coat dries quickly and doesn’t blur nail art, while Lomascolo says they use this top coat on all of their spa guests because, “It helps your manicure or pedicure to dry quickly, it has a nice glossy finish, and lasts for 1 [to] 2 weeks with minimal chipping and peeling.” Amazon shoppers are fans, too: This top coat has been awarded over 20,000 five-star ratings, as well as 7,0000+ five-star reviews.
2. Expert’s Pick: Best Drugstore Top Coat
A Nail Affair owner Rebecca Jayne tells Bustle that many of her clients swear by Sally Hansen Insta-Dri for the way this drugstore classic speeds up drying time, which eliminates the need to sit around waiting for your nails to dry. The brand says you’ll get up to 10 days of shine and chip protection with this top coat that makes nail polish touchable in just 30 seconds. Not only is this a tried-and-true formula with over 13,000 five-star Amazon ratings, but it costs just $5 — making it one of the most affordable top coats, too.
3. Expert’s Pick: Best Base Coat/Top Coat Duo
Celebrity nail artist Chaun Legend tells Bustle that OPI’s ProStay Base Coat Primer and Gloss Top Coat duo is his top pick. The primer protects your nails and allows polish to glide onto a smoother surface, making your manicure appear flawless, while the top coat helps prevent chipping and gives nails an unbelievable, gel-like shine that lasts for up to 11 (!!!) days. For best results, pair it with one of OPI’s Infinite Shine polishes, which come in a wide range of reds and neutrals, in addition to hundreds of other shades.
4. Expert’s Pick: Best Top Coat/Polish Combo
Jayne says she “loves the look” of Vinylux Nail Polish paired with the brand’s Longwear Top Coat. The polish, which contains nourishing ingredients like vitamin E, keratin, and jojoba oil, conveniently has a base coat built into the formula, so that saves you a step, while the top coat gives nails a strong, shiny, chip-resistant finish. The top coat is another extremely popular choice among Amazon shoppers, and the polish comes in so many colors, including pinks, reds, neutrals, purples, and blues, to name a few.
5. Best Matte Top Coat
If you prefer the look of matte nails, essie’s highly rated Matte About You Top Coat will take your polish from shiny to velvety in one swipe. You can use this with any polish — both essie brand and otherwise — to eliminate the glossy effect and protect your nails from chipping. This top coat is free of eight common chemicals found in nail polishes, including DBP, toluene and formaldehyde.
Rebecca Jayne, Owner, A Nail Affair
Chaun Legend, Celebrity Nail Artist
Stacey Lomascolo, Nail Technician, Mirbeau Inn & Spa Skaneateles
Britney Tokyo, Celebrity Nail Artist