Nail Experts Share Base Coat Nail Polishes to Make Your Manicure Last

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Whether you have normal nails or nails that peel, crack, or are lined with ridges, we've rounded up the best base coats for all nail types to ensure that you get an amazing at-home manicure.

Learning how to give yourself the perfect at-home manicure is arguably one of the best things you can do for yourself. Not only is it relaxing, but it’s also fun and can improve your overall nail health. Once you’re done stocking up on the best nail polishes, learning the right way to file your nails, and reading up on how to make your manicure last longer, let the pampering begin. Just know that there’s one important step you should never skip, and that’s applying a good base coat nail polish. Besides giving your colored nail polish something to stick to, base coats actually protect your nails and, depending on which one you use, can help strengthen, nourish, or repair them as well.

Why base coat nail polish is so important

A base coat acts as a protective barrier between your nail and the color, says Syreeta Aaron, an educator with LeChat Nails. “When using darker colors like red, navy, or black, for example, these shades can bleed through to your natural nail, and therefore you need a base coat,” she explains. In other words, those fall nail colors and even those irresistible winter nail colors you love so much can actually stain your nails if applied without a base coat.

And what about those of us whose nails need a little TLC? If you have ridges in your nails or nails that tend to peel, you’re not alone. “Nails can be susceptible to daily wear and tear and external factors, such as exposure to hot water, soaps, and detergents, which can contribute to peeling and ridges,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, a New York City–based board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Cornell University. “There are also some medical conditions, such as thyroid abnormalities and nutritional deficiencies, that may contribute to nail changes.”

According to Dr. Garshick, people who have nail peeling or ridging should do their best to keep their nails moisturized and protected. She recommends simple steps, like applying Vaseline Healing Jelly Ointment or another cuticle treatment to the nails to help lock in moisture, and wearing gloves when doing dishes. She also has some suggestions on what to look for when shopping for base coat nail polish.

What to look for when buying a base coat

When shopping for base coat nail polish, look for ingredients that hydrate, strengthen, and nourish your nails, suggests Dr. Garshick. Ingredients such as vitamin E and castor oil can be hydrating for the nails, while keratin and calcium strengthen them. Look for base coats that contain soy protein or bamboo extract to strengthen and nourish nails.

How we chose the best base coat nail polishes

To make an educated decision about the best base coat nail polish for you, we asked the experts for their recommendations on the best options for normal nails, weak and brittle nails, and nails with peeling or ridging. Then we sifted through thousands of reviews to see what real users had to say, and even tested some on our own nails to see if they made the cut.

Whether you’re looking for the best non-toxic nail polish, gel nail polish, or something that can help strengthen your nails, we’ve found the best base coat nail polish for you. And don’t forget to add this $8 nail product to your cart for serious salon-level results—especially if you’re trying out nail art.


Overall best base coat nail polish

OPI Natural Base Coat

Opi Natural Base Coat Via Amazon Ecommvia amazon.com

If you want a base coat that checks all the boxes, then OPI’s Natural Base Coat is it. Not only was this base coat at the top of our list, but it was Dr. Garshick’s number one recommendation as well. “This easy-to-find and easy-to-use base coat is a great option to prevent staining of the nails, and it helps to enhance the overall appearance of the nails,” she says. This relatively thin base coat applies smoothly and evenly thanks to the large application brush, and it dries in under a minute. Once your manicure is completely dry, keep your hands looking beautiful with one of these hand creams that have nearly perfect reviews.

Pros:

  • Fast drying
  • Large application brush
  • Dermatologist recommended

Cons:

  • Won’t repair damaged nails

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Best strengthening base coat

Orly Nail Defense Strengthening Treatment

Orly Nail Defense Strengthening Treatment Via Ulta Ecommvia ulta.com

If you have weak, peeling, or splitting nails, Dr. Garshick recommends this protein-enriched strengthening treatment. “While this is primarily used as a nail strengthener, it can also be applied as a base coat while helping to repair the nails,” she explains. On its own, this treatment should be applied every other day. As your nails begin to improve, you can apply it every four or five days. If you need even more help, these top-rated cuticle oils will also nourish and strengthen your nails.

Pros:

  • Protein-enriched to repair nails
  • Can also be used as a top coat

Cons:

  • Must be reapplied frequently until your nails become stronger

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Best base coat for filling in ridges

Kur Fortifying Ridge Filler by Londontown

Kur Fortifying Ridge Filler By Londontown Via Londontownusa Ecommvia londontownusa.com

If you have ridges in your nails, then you know how dramatically they can affect the look of your manicure. But there’s hope! According to Dr. Garshick, this ridge filler uses a combination of plant-based oils and extracts to help smooth out ridges and bumps while also providing a base coat for your polish.

So how does it work? It contains talc, which fills in the ridges. The small, flat particles stack and assemble to fill ridges and give thin nails a thicker (but not bulkier) appearance. It’s formulated with biotin, vitamin A, vitamin B5, safflower oil, and the brand’s own nourishing florium complex, which includes rapeseed flower oil, cucumber extract, garlic extract, evening primrose oil, chamomile extract, and vitamin E. In other words, it’s heaven for your nails! If you’re looking to make the switch to clean beauty products, here are the 20 of the best natural makeup brands.

Pros:

  • Formulated without harsh chemicals
  • Contains a host of natural ingredients that will strengthen, condition, nourish, and moisturize your nails
  • Dermatologist recommended

Cons:

  • Higher price point

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Best base coat for damaged nails

The Rehab by Tenoverten

The Rehab By Tenoverten Via Tenoverten Ecommvia tenoverten.com

As Dr. Garshick pointed out, daily wear and tear does a number on your nails. Think of this repairing base coat as the ICU for them. It’s formulated to lock in moisture, boost hydration, and enhance overall nail health. Better yet, it’s free from eight harmful chemicals including toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, triphenyl phosphate, ethyl tosylamide, and xylene.

Pros:

  • Formula moisturizes and boosts nail health
  • Made with cleaner ingredients

Cons:

  • Not widely available

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Best base coat for peeling nails

Olive & June Nail Strengthener

Olive And June Nail Strengthener Via Oliveandjune Ecommvia oliveandjune.com

Olive and June’s elevated (and affordable) nail products took Instagram by storm, and for good reason. Simply put, they’re amazing! It should come as no surprise to Olive & June fans that the brand’s nail strengthener can increase your overall nail strength by up to 77 percent. It’s formulated with celery seed extract, which helps heal and condition the nail surface, prevent peeling, improve white spots, and diminish ridges. And yes, it also serves as a base coat nail polish.

Pros:

  • Increases nail strength and helps prevent peeling
  • Cruelty-free and vegan

Cons:

  • Pricier at $14 a bottle

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Best non-toxic base coat

Ella + mila First Aid Kiss Nail Strengthener and Growth Treatment

Ella + Mila First Aid Kiss Nail Strengthener And Growth Treatment Via Amazon Ecommvia amazon.com

Looking for a polish made with love? Look no further. Ella + mila changed the nail game with a product line that’s free from 17 harsh chemicals. Their nail strengthener and growth treatment, which is formulated to improve nails over the course of four weeks, can also serve as a rehydrating base coat. Speaking of feeling the love, here are even more vegan makeup brands for cruelty-free gorgeousness.

Pros:

  • Contains vitamin E to moisturize nails
  • Free of 17 harsh chemicals

Cons:

  • Not the longest-lasting base coat nail polish

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Best two-in-one base coat

Sally Hansen Double Duty Base and Top Coat

Sally Hansen Double Duty Base And Top Coat Via Amazon Ecommvia amazon.com

Let’s be honest. We love convenience. So when a beauty product serves more than one function, saving us time and money, we are here for it. But convenience isn’t the only reason we love this Double Duty Base and Top Coat by Sally Hansen. “This base coat contains panthenol, which helps to smooth your nails’ surface, while also helping to hold onto color,” explains Dr. Garshick. Yep, she’s a fan of it, too!

Pros:

  • Dermatologist recommended
  • Contains Pro-Vitamin B5 to help shield nails
  • Super affordable

Cons:

  • Not a clean or vegan product

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Best base coat on Amazon

Essie First Base Coat

Essie First Base Coat Via Amazon Ecommvia amazon.com

Not only is this iconic drugstore brand used in nail salons all over the world, but it is also said to be a favorite of Queen Elizabeth and has more than 9,700 five-star ratings on Amazon. Essie’s First Base Coat is a staple for anyone with strong, normal nails. Just one coat provides a smooth base surface and helps bond polish to the nails and resist chipping. You can even apply two coats and wear this polish on its own for shine.

Pros:

  • Easy to find
  • Under $10
  • Resists chips and extends the life of nail color

Cons:

  • Doesn’t include strengthening ingredients

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Best splurge

Les Mains Hermès Enamel Base Coat

Les Mains Hermes Enamel Base Coat Via Nordstrom Ecommvia nordstrom.com

An iconic Birkin bag may not be in the cards for you, but a luxe nail polish is totally doable. This smooth, French Hermès base coat nail polish is formulated with 69 percent natural ingredients and is enriched with the resin from Pistacia lentiscus (an evergreen shrub or small tree found primarily in Mediterranean regions). If you’re going to splurge on fancy nail polish, you might as well make a day of it. Go ahead and pick up these must-have items for a relaxing spa day at home.

Pros:

  • It comes packaged in the brand’s signature orange box
  • Made in France
  • Uses 69 percent natural ingredients

Cons:

  • Pricier than other options

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Best value

Nail-Aid Keratin 3 Day Growth Nail Treatment

Nail Aid Keratin 3 Day Growth Nail Treatment And Strengthener Via Amazon Ecommvia amazon.com

More than 14,000 users have given this affordable nail growth treatment a five-star rating. It promises visible growth of healthier, harder nails in just three days with the help of keratin, a hardening protein that builds nails. Like other strengthening treatments, this can be used alone or as a base coat nail polish.

Aside from the fact that it’s less than $5 a bottle, we love that this treatment is free from 20 harmful ingredients, including animal-derived ingredients and harsh chemicals. The brand is also cruelty-free and was among the first beauty brands to receive PETA’s Trailblazer Award.

Pros:

  • Plant-based, non-toxic, and cruelty-free
  • Fast acting
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Must apply every three days for best results

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Best gel base coat

LeChat Gelée Base Coat

Lechat Gelee Base Gel Via Lechatnails Ecommvia lechatnails.com

If you’re using gel polish on natural nails, Aaron suggests a thicker base coat to help prevent breakage. She recommends this base coat nail polish gel, which is ideal for powder gel manicures. If you’re considering learning how to do your own gel manicure, make sure you know how to remove gel nail polish without destroying your nails.

Pros:

  • Thick formula protects nails

Cons:

  • Needs to be cured with an LED or UV lamp
  • Hard to remove

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Best Sally Hansen base coat

Good. Kind. Pure. Hardener

Good Kind Pure Hardener Via Ulta Ecommvia ulta.com

There are plenty of great base coat nail polish options out there from the tried-and-true Sally Hansen brand, but their first plant-based, vegan line is a home run. Since this product is a nail hardener, it improves the look of ridges and imperfections and seals fragile nails while giving you a salon-quality manicure. Everything from the packaging to the formula to the brush is 100 percent vegan and plant-based, so this is a purchase you can feel good about. You’ll also feel great putting it on!

Pros:

  • Free from 16 harmful ingredients
  • Hardens nails
  • Plant-based, vegan formula

Cons:

  • Strong smell

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Best cult-favorite base coat

Seche Clear Crystal Clear Base Coat

Seche Clear Crystal Clear Base Coat Via Amazon Ecommvia amazon.com

You can find a ton of hidden treasures on Amazon, including the Seche Clear Crystal Clear Base Coat. It takes a no-frills approach when it comes to giving you the best at-home manicure. Its thin formula goes on smoothly and bonds to both natural and artificial nails. You can also wear this base coat on its own; two coats will give you a smooth, glossy finish with no yellowing. It’s a beloved nail product with a solid 4.7 rating on Amazon.

Pros:

  • Goes on smooth
  • Dries quickly
  • Works on natural and artificial nails
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Won’t fill ridges

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Best base coat at Walmart

Revlon Quick Dry Base Coat

Revlon Quick Dry Base Coat Via Walmart Ecommvia Walmart.com

Giving yourself an at-home mani and pedi doesn’t have to be expensive. This Revlon Quick Dry base coat nail polish is both affordable and easy to use. Though it’s not formulated for people with weak or peeling nails, it gets the job done when it comes to creating a smooth base for your favorite color. It does help prevent chipping, breakage, and yellowing, and it’s made without formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, and camphor. If you’re already a Revlon fan, you’ll love this Revlon one-step hair dryer!

Pros:

  • Easy to apply
  • Prevents yellowing and chipping

Cons:

  • Not a nail strengthener

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Best biotin base coat

Horse Power Nail Rescue Base Coat by Butter London

Horse Power Nail Rescue Base Coat By Butter London Via Amazon Ecommvia amazon.com

This base coat nail polish is infused with horsetail extract, biotin, vitamin B, and calcium to prevent breakage and strengthen fragile nails. The gentle ingredients also help to prevent future damage over time. Butter London products are both cruelty-free and free from harsh chemicals, so you can definitely feel good about this one on a variety of levels.

Pros:

  • Clean formula
  • Doesn’t peel or chip

Cons:

  • Higher price point

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Marisa Hillman
Marisa is a freelance writer and product expert covering product reviews, gift guides, and sales for RD.com. She is a former educator turned professional shopper dedicated to finding the best sales and products on the market. When she's not on deadline, she can be found exploring the East Coast or curled up at home with her nose in a book. She lives in New England with her husband, three children, and two dogs.