If you've barely got time to do your own manicures, then top coat and base coat are extra steps that you might be tempted to skip. (I get it!) But take it from me as a nail polish addict—this is one area where a few extra minutes will give you maximum payoff.
A good base coat preps your nails for polish, smoothing out any ridges and imperfections, just like a primer would on your face. It will also protect your nails from nasty yellow staining, and can make weak nails feel harder and more durable.
Top coat is essential to make your mani last longer without chipping or wearing on the edges. Plus, it gives you a gorgeous glossy finish that you won't get from polish alone. If you're into nail art, a generous application of top coat will seal in your design and make it look 100 times better than without.
Need some recos? Here are my five favourite top coats and base coats:
The Best Top Coats
Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat
I love the cult favourite Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat because the shine is incredible, and I prefer extra-glossy nails. Plus, it literally dries in no time. I mean, it’s just so fast, I don’t even understand how it works! So for those reasons I’m obsessed. Know that there is a minor shrinking issue that happens from time to time (i.e. it pulls the polish away from the cuticles and tips of the nails). To avoid it the best I can, I make sure to apply a generous amount, and that usually does the job to stop that pulling effect.
Essie Good To Go Top Coat
Essie Good to Go has been my go-to for quite some time. (Proof? I've finished my bottle, so I couldn't even take a photo of it!) This was the first top coat I tried that gave me no bed-sheet marks when I did my nails and went to sleep soon after, so that was pretty impressive. It dries really fast and is shiny (but maybe a little less so than Seche Vite). An all-time fave.
CND Vinylux Weekly Top Coat
I know CND Vinylux Weekly Top Coat is meant to be worn with the Vinylux polishes, but why not break the rules a little? I love this stuff over any type of polish, and I've noticed that my mani lasts the longest with this top coat. It dries in eight minutes over Vinylux polish, so expect to wait about that long over other brands—if you’re in a big rush, you might want to reach for another top coat on this list. But if you’ve got time, this one is really great in terms of lasting power.
CND Super Shiney
I love this stuff! As per its name, CND Super Shiney IS super-shiny and goes on really, really smoothly. The drying time on this top coat is pretty good—not too long, but not as quick as Seche Vite, that’s for sure. I’ve done the do-your-nails-and-go-to-bed test, and unfortunately, this one does not pass. So make sure you leave ample time for your nails to dry. Otherwise, it does a good job of preventing chip and gets my stamp of approval.
Formula X Shine Top Coat
Sephora's Formula X has quickly become one of my favourite brands of nail polish, and the Shine Top Coat is no different. It performs well, dries in a decent amount of time, and has great shine... what's not to love?
Where to buy: Sephora
The Best Base Coats
OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener
I’ve sworn by OPI Nail Envy for years. This is the stuff that really helped my nails grow long (or at least I think it did!). I used the matte version for ages as my base coat—sometimes even use two coats to make it thicker—and I really like it. One caveat: it does have formaldehyde in it. So while I do recommend it, just know that the ingredient list is less than favourable (and I personally no longer use it for that reason).
CND Stickey Anchoring Base Coat
CND Stickey Anchoring Base Coat has a good consistency and I feel like it actually serves a purpose on my nails, unlike some other base coats that are just so thin, they might as well not even be there. (I like my base coats to have a thicker consistency.) It dries in a good time and evens out any imperfections in my natural nails for a great application. This is probably my favourite at the moment.
Quo by Orly Strong Bond Rubberized Base Coat
I like Quo by Orly Strong Bond Rubberized Base Coat because, again, it's not so thin that I feel like it's doing nothing for me. I'm really picky when it comes to base coats, so this Strong Bond one passes the test for drying time and for being a good consistency. Plus, quality this good at the drugstore? Yes, please.
Where to buy: Shoppers Drug Mart
Formula X Prime Base Coat
Fellow Formula X lovers, add the Prime Base Coat to your list. This works really well in preventing stains and evening out my nail bed, although it's a little thin for my liking. It still still makes my list, though I usually slap on two coats to get it how I like it.
Where to buy: Sephora
Butter London Nail Foundation Flawless Basecoat
Butter London Nail Foundation is by far my all-time favourite base coat. It does exactly I want a base coat to do—protects my nails and evens out any imperfections. Because it's tinted, you can easily slap on a coat of this and be good to go without colour for a natural look. But when used as a base coat, it's just amazing. If you have ridges in your nails, then this will serve as the perfect foundation to your polish. Seriously worth the splurge.
Shop Editor's Picks
Do you always wear base and top coat?
Have you tried any of these ones?