The 15 Best Top Coats for a Flawless Manicure at Home
The right top coat takes your manicures to the next level, locking in color and shine.
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The right top coat is key to a long-lasting manicure
While a trip to the nail salon is the ultimate way to kick back and relax, getting there on a regular basis can be both difficult and pricey. Learning how to do your own manicure saves you time and money.
If you’re determined to perfect the art of the DIY manicure, you may already have a collection of the best nail polishes in your favorite colors or have picked up this $8 product to give you salon level manicures at home. Whether you prefer non-toxic polishes or gel nail polishes, there’s one essential component you’ll need if you want to make your manicure last longer as well as get a salon quality shine, and that’s a good top coat.
What’s so special about a top coat? Besides giving your nails a rich luster, a top coat seals in nail polish and prevents it from chipping or rubbing off, says Syreeta Aaron of LeChat Nails. The last thing you want is to spend all that time giving yourself the perfect manicure, only to have your polish chip off quickly.
What to look for when buying top coat nail polish
There are hundreds of options when it comes to top coat nail polish. First, you’ll have to decide whether to use a regular nail polish, lacquer, which is a slightly thicker, more durable version of traditional nail polish, or gel. According to Aaron, top coats which are labeled as instant dry or quick dry are ideal for regular polish and lacquer.
Since both formulas take longer to dry, and even longer if your coats are too thick, a quick-drying top coat helps set the polish faster. You also have to decide which look you’re going for, says Aaron. Do you want an ultra glossy manicure or are you going for a trendy matte look? Speaking of looks, here are some subtle things your nail polish color reveals about you.
How we chose the best top coat nail polish
With so many different top coats all making the same types of promises, finding ones worthy of your nails is no easy feat. We tested over a dozen different top coats to see which ones lived up to the hype and which ones fell short. We also went through tons of five-star reviews and best-selling products to find the best top coats for every style and budget. So trust us when we say you can’t go wrong with any of these options!
Overall Winner: Best top coat nail polish
Olive & June Super Glossy Top Coat
We love the elevated look and feel of Olive & June nail products, especially their Super Glossy Top Coat. The polish is vegan and cruelty-free, and free from dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, and xylene. When applied, the top coat went on smoothly and evenly, and didn’t bubble as it dried. And though the top coat wasn’t as glossy as some others, it did last a full week without chipping or rubbing off. Best of all, Super Glossy Top Coat costs only $8, and will lock in these irresistible winter nail colors and trends.
- Lasts a week or more
- Shine wasn’t quite as glossy as we wanted
Best gel top coat
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat
According to Aaron, a true gel polish requires curing with a lamp for one to three minutes after application. Many gel nail polish products at your local drug stores are actually gel-like as opposed to true gel. They don’t require the use of a UV or an LED lamp, but are formulated to leave nails looking extra glossy. That’s the case with this Miracle Gel Top Coat. It’s one of the best top coat nail polishes, resisting chipping for up to eight days. This polish comes off easily with both acetone and non-acetone nail polish remover. If you normally get a gel manicure at the salon, here’s how to remove gel nail polish at home.
- High shine
- Doesn’t need to be soaked off
- Can streak if you apply too much pressure on the brush
Best top coat nail polish on Amazon
OPI Top Coat
OPI is a tried and true nail polish brand that has been trusted by salons and manicure DIYers for years. So it’s no surprise that their top coat has over 23,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. We tried the regular top coat and loved how easy it was to apply. Not only is it the perfect consistency, but the brush itself is wider than some of the other brands we tested, so it took fewer brush strokes to cover the entire nail, with no streaking or bubbling. This top coat is perfect if you’re looking to master an at-home pedicure.
- Wide application brush
- Goes on smoothly
- Lasts up to a week
- Does not dry quickly
- Has a strong smell
Best drugstore find
Essie Good To Go Top Coat
When it comes to trusted nail polish brands, Essie always comes to mind. It’s a favorite brand at nail salons and is carried in most drug and big box stores. The Essie Good To Go Top Coat gives you a smooth glossy finish that looks like you just left the salon. Since the consistency of this top coat is a bit thicker than other top coats we tried, it took a solid 15 minutes to dry completely. Many users suggest reapplying this top coat every four or five days to keep it looking fresh. Here are even more ways to make your manicure last longer.
- Easy to find
- Leaves nails super shiny
- Under $10
- Thick consistency
Chanel Le Top Coat
Nothing says luxury like Chanel. But when it comes to their Le Top Coat, you’re paying for more than just the French designer’s name. The formula is infused with Vitamin E oil to help speed up drying, and leaves nails with a brilliant shine. The thin consistency makes this top coat easy to apply, and many users rave about how long their manicures lasted. Not to mention that the black-and-white bottle is très chic.
- Infused with Vitamin E
- Thin consistency
- Some users stay it doesn’t dry quickly
L.A. Colors Base Coat and Top Coat
If you want to seal your mani without spending a lot of money, this two-in-one base and top coat gets the job done for less than $1. While this product is super affordable and convenient for both a top and base coat, you do get what you pay for. We found that it had a strong smell and started to rub off faster than other brands we tested.
- Under $1
- Two products in one
- Doesn’t last more than a couple of days
- Takes a long time to dry
- Has a strong smell
If you’re looking for a high-shine top coat, then look no further than this Hardware Shine UV Top Coat from Butter London. Multiple reviewers swear that this top coat looks like gel and lasts almost as long. And if you’re not 100 percent satisfied with it, you can return the unused portion within 30 days for a full refund. As a bonus, all of the brand’s nail products are free from harsh chemicals including formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, DBP, toluene, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, parabens, gluten, and TPHP.
- The shine is intense
- Clean ingredients
- Higher price point
Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat
Most of us don’t have the luxury of sitting around waiting for our nails to dry. Luckily, we don’t have to with rapid drying top coat from Sally Hansen. This exclusive formula is dry to the touch in just 30 seconds, and completely dry in 60 seconds. Talk about fast! Not only that, but it keeps your manicure shiny and chip-free for up to 10 days. One caveat: You should apply it to already dry polish.
- Dries almost instantly
- Lasts up to 10 days
- Should be applied to dry nail polish
Best Sally Hansen
Good. Kind. Pure. Vegan Top Coat
If you’re working on eliminating harsh chemicals from your beauty routine, this is a good place to start. This plant-based top coat is free from animal-derived ingredients as well as over a dozen different chemicals including formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, xylene, acetone, phthalates, camphor, parabens, ethyl tosylamide, and triphenyl phosphate. Even its application brush is made using 100 percent plant-based bristles.
- 100 percent vegan product, brush, and packaging
- Dries quickly
- Some reviewers say it comes off easily
Best long wear
Smith + Cult Above It All Top Coat
Looking for a top coat that will last and last? Smith + Cult’s Above it All Top Coat is it. Several users claim that it protects their manicures for up to two weeks! And the bottle is as pretty as your manicure. Plus, you can feel good that this vegan and gluten-free polish is free from dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, and triphenyl phosphate.
- Extends your manicure for weeks
- Free from eight harmful chemicals
- Comes in decorative bottles you won’t mind leaving on your bathroom counter
- Thin consistency allows for easy application
- Higher price point
Best no chip
Nails Inc 45-Second Top Coat
There are plenty of top coats that promise to prevent chipping, but finding one that actually works can be frustrating. This rapid drying top coat contains hardening retinol, which creates a chip-resistant shield for your nails. Not only does that shield prevent chipping, but it locks in your color and actually protects thin or weak nails. Here are more simple ways to strengthen your nails.
- Formulated with hardening retinol
- Helps protect weak nails from breaking or peeling
- Not widely available
Tenoverten The Shield
Tenoverten has had a “less is more” approach to nails since they hit the market in 2010. The brand spent years curating an entire line of cruelty-free and vegan nail products that are free from harmful chemicals and still deliver a salon-quality manicure. The Shield Top Coat is a plant-based protective formula that isn’t thick and gluey like some others we tried. It brushes on evenly, dries quickly, and leaves behind a glossy shine. It’s a ten!
- Thin consistency is easy apply
- Free of harmful chemicals
- Comes off easily with nail polish remover
- Small application brush
ella + mila In a Rush Quick-Dry Top Coat
When it comes to clean nail polish, ella + mila takes the cake. All of their polishes, including their In a Rush Quick-Dry Top Coat are free from a whopping 17 harmful chemicals and animal-derived ingredients. This top coat can be used on up to four coats of polish, and dries in just three minutes. It also contains a UV inhibitor that prevents yellowing and can even cover up imperfections that occurred while applying your color. This bottle is a power house!
- Leaping Bunny and Peta Certified
- Dries quickly
- Prevents yellowing and blurs imperfections
- Some users say it doesn’t last as long as other brands
Best top coat nail polish at Walmart
LeChat Dare to Wear Top Coat
Nail salons all over the country trust LeChat nail polish to give their clients quality manicures, and it’s no wonder. The brand’s Dare to Wear Top Coat delivers a long-lasting, high-gloss shine at an affordable price that salon owners and at-home manicurists love. Once it dries, it creates a hard, protective shell that locks in color and protects nails from chips.
- Goes on smoothly and evenly
- Used in salons
- Not quick drying
Best top coat nail polish with a cult following
Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat
If you value popular opinion, check out Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat. This top coat has a cult following (and over 28,000 Amazon ratings), thanks to its longevity and durability. It gives a high-shine finish that lasts up to two weeks and doesn’t chip. Plus a bottle will set you back only about $10.
- Can be applied over wet nail polish
- Dries in 10 minutes
- Bottle tends to dry out quickly
- Syreeta Aaron, LeChat Nails educator