Best top coat nail polish

Nail Color & Care

For optimal results, stick with the same brand of top coat as the rest of the nail polish you’re using in your manicure.

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Which top coat nail polish is best?

Making your manicure last can be tricky business. Dings happen, often within hours of painting your nails, and nail polish can chip or peel off during everyday activities, such as washing dishes or working with your hands. Top coat nail polish is a clear polish that will protect your manicure and prolong its life. It also gives your nails a sleeker, more polished (so to speak) appearance.

Our top pick is this luxury quick-dry top coat polish by Deborah Lippmann.

What to know before you buy a top coat nail polish

Shine finish

The most popular type of top coat delivers a glossy finish and glass-like shine. If you’re getting a mani or pedi, this is the type of top coat your manicurist will likely use.

Matte finish 

Matte finish is a newer trend in nail art and will leave a non-reflective surface on your nails for a look without any shine.

Glitter finish

These top coats are sparkly for a shimmery finish. They vary in the texture and size of glitter particles.

Gel finish

Gel top coats give your regular manicure the look of a gel manicure, which is a shinier, longer-lasting lacquer. Some gel top coats may require UV lighting to set. Many are used in tandem with gel nail polish.

Specials effects

Some top coats allow you to create special effects like a “crackle” that gives your manicure a shattered appearance.

What to look for in a quality top coat nail polish

UV protection 

A great feature if you spend a lot of time outside, top coats with UV protection will help prevent your nails from yellowing from sun exposure.

Nutrients for nails

Some top coats feature nail-nourishing nutrients, such as vitamin C and E, to strengthen your nails. However, these ingredients may be more beneficial in a base coat than in a top coat.


This popular feature allows your manicure to dry lickety-split. It’s always best, however, to apply a top coat after the rest of the layers are completely dry. By the time you get to the top coat, you’re often itching to be done with the process, so a fast-drying product may be worth the purchase.


While all top coats should protect your manicure from dings and scratches, some are better formulated to do so. Look for top coats labeled scratch-resistant if you work a lot with your hands or in the garden.


Especially if you’re pregnant, you want to select top coats free of harmful chemicals. “Big 3 Free” polishes are free from formaldehyde, DBP and toluene. If that’s not natural enough for you, look for top coats labeled “Big 5 Free” or “Big 7 Free,” which eliminate additional chemicals from their formulas.


Because top coats are generally drying — and result in dry, brittle nails — you might want to select a top coat that’s labeled moisturizing or hydrating.

How much you can expect to spend on a top coat nail polish

Drugstore-brand top coat nail polishes will likely cost you less than $10. You may pay up to $30 for a name or luxury brand.

Top coat nail polish FAQ

Can you use a top coat to paint your nails clear?

A. You can, but for a shiny, no-color manicure, it’s best to apply a base coat first, then a clear nail polish, and then a top coat for protection.

Can you use a gel top coat with regular nail polish?

A. You can, but it won’t provide the kind of long-lasting results that using it with a gel polish will. However, removing your manicure will be a whole lot easier than if you’ve used a full gel system.

What’s the best top coat nail polish to buy?

Top top coat nail polish

Deborah Lippmann Addicted to Speed Ultra Quick-Dry Top Coat

Deborah Lippmann Addicted to Speed Ultra Quick-Dry Top Coat

What you need to know: A luxury top coat, it dries with lightning speed for smudge-proof nails.

What you’ll love: It dries in one minute for some users and has a high-shine finish. I tis long lasting and doesn’t streak or bubble.

What you should consider: The formula is thick.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top top coat nail polish for the money

CND Vinylux Longwear Top Coat

CND Vinylux Longwear Top Coat

What you need to know: A gel-like, shiny top coat, it will make nails stronger over time.

What you’ll love: Light exposure strengthens the top coat and keeps the manicure from yellowing. it has zero toxins and is cruelty-free.

What you should consider: It takes a long time to dry.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

OPI Nail Lacquer Top Coat

OPI Nail Lacquer Top Coat

What you need to know: This is an affordable top coat with different finishes from a name brand.

What you’ll love: It comes in four finishes, including high gloss and rapid dry. With even, smooth coverage, it can also be used as a base coat.

What you should consider: It takes some time to dry.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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

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