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Which clear nail polishes are best?

While it’s fun to add color and sparkle to your nails, sometimes a good, clear nail polish is all you need. Having a great clear coat can make you look neat and put together, or it can help your color last longer. It can also help nails grow strong and prevent breakage. If you’re looking for a versatile, effective clear nail polish, Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat is a top choice. 

What to know before you buy a clear nail polish

Do you need a base coat or a topcoat? 

While it may seem like all clear nail polishes are the same, each one has a different formula to address a variety of issues. So, it’s important to know what you need in your clear coat before making a purchase. If your nails are brittle or prone to breakage, look for a good, clear base coat. If your nail lacquer chips easily, a tough top coat can help.

Strengthening factors

Sometimes nails become brittle or weak and tend to crack before they can reach a good length. In this instance, it’s best to use clear nail polish with strengthening ingredients. Look for formulas that have collagen and other fortifiers to keep your nails healthy and strong.

Vitamin infusion

You can nourish your nails while making them look good by using high-quality clear nail polish. If your nails are dry and need some support after exposure to acrylics or tough chemicals, look for a polish with vitamins. These ingredients are healthy for nails, and they can help soothe irritation as well.

What to look for in a quality clear nail polish 


If you’re going for a simple, color-free look, add some pizzazz to your hands with ultra-shiny clear nail polish. Even short nails look more groomed with a clear, even shine.

Natural ingredients

If you want to stay away from harsh chemicals, many nail polish formulas on the market use plant-based and vegan-friendly ingredients. You’ll want to look for clear nail polish that has calcium, horsetail leaf and vitamin E. 

Stain prevention

Some people use clear nail polish as a base coat under color polish. Base coats use a formula that creates a strong barrier between the color and your nail bed. This is particularly important for red and blue nail polish, which can stain nails yellow. For maximum stain prevention, let the base coat dry thoroughly before applying color. If possible, apply the base and let it set for an hour before moving on to applying color. This practice is especially helpful for dry nails.

How much you can expect to spend on clear nail polish

A great clear, no-frills polish will often cost $5 or less. Those formulated with harder-to-source ingredients range upwards of $20.

Clear nail polish FAQ

Should I use both a base coat and a topcoat?

A. You don’t need to use both a base and topcoat for daily use. However, if you want your manicure to last a while, these two coats will condition your nails and seal in the color while offering long-lasting shine. 

How many coats of clear nail polish do you need?

A. Normally, just one will do the trick. A full application of nail polish consists of a fortifying base coat to create a barrier between your nail and the color nail polish, two coats of color, and a clear topcoat to seal in the color. If you’re applying clear nail polish on its own, one coat is fine, although you can reapply another coat every few days to make it last. Avoid clumping by letting each coat dry thoroughly before applying the next one.

Are clear nail polish and top coats the same thing?

A. Not necessarily. You can use clear nail polish can as a base coat or topcoat, depending on the formula. They also may work well on their own. In general, base coats add strength and nourishment to fortify your nails. Topcoats stay put on their own or seal in color over your favorite nail polish.

What are the best clear nail polishes to buy?

Top clear nail polish

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat

Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat 

What you need to know: Manicure enthusiasts and professionals swear by this product. It has a crystal-clear shine and keeps nails feeling strong. 

What you’ll love: This beautiful clear nail polish is practically invincible and will add to the life of your manicure or shine all on its own. 

What you should consider: Some users report peeling, so be sure to apply to clean nails and a dry base.

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta Beauty

Top clear nail polish for the money

Sally Hansen Mega Strength Hardener

Sally Hansen Mega Strength Hardener

What you need to know: This original nail hardener is a workhorse you can still buy for a fraction of competitors’ pricing.

What you’ll love: This clear, non-yellowing formula strengthens nails immediately and lasts a long time. Use it on its own to help nails grow or apply over your manicure to help it last. 

What you should consider: It has a strong smell and derives its strengthening power from acetates and polymers. If you’re looking to go all-natural, this likely is not a good option.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Dr.'s Remedy Restorative Remedy Trio

Dr.’s Remedy Restorative Remedy Trio

What you need to know: For nails that have been through the wringer or need some recovery from acrylics, this natural, soothing formula can work wonders.

What you’ll love: This formula is vegan, cruelty-free and full of natural ingredients like biotin, garlic-bulb extract, wheat protein, tea tree oil and vitamins.

What you should consider: While this trio is quite effective, it’s a bit expensive.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Maria Andreu writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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