The Best Top Coats for Every Type of Nail Look and Need

Leah Faye Cooper
best top coats

Photo: ImaxTree

A great top coat is essential to achieving a beautiful, long-lasting manicure or pedicure. These final layers of polish, which keep your color from chipping or turning dull, are not all created equal. What’s great for quick drying may not be so hot if you want a glossy finish, and if you want a matte look, you can’t just buy any old bottle. Through research (i.e. getting many, many manicures and trying many, many top coats) we’ve identified the best top coats for every type of nail looks and need. Consider these on your next cosmetics run.

The Best for a Matte Finish
Along with the matte nail trend has come several top coats formulated specifically for the look. What we love about Jin Soon Matte Maker ($18, jinsoon.com) is that it mattifies any kind of polish, even the ultra-glossy ones.

The Best for Shiny Nails
For nails that you can see your reflection in, we recommend CND Super Shiney High-Gloss Top Coat ($9, ulta.com). Its formula is scratch-resistant and protects from color-fading UV rays.

The Best for Topping Glitter Polish
Without the right top coat a glitter nail look goes from dazzling to dull in about 18 hours. And this is in addition to the fact that glitter polish is notoriously difficult to smooth over. Our pick for adding shine and smoothness is Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat ($10, ulta.com), which keeps glitter sparkling for days and seeps down to nail bed to prevent chipping.

The Best for a Gel Finish
When we want a gel manicure without a trip to the salon, we reach for Dior Gel Coat ($27, sephora.com). Apply it over any regular polish for the thick, glossy look of a gel manicure, and when it comes time to take it off, you can simply use a regular remover.

The Best for Fast Drying 
Time is often of the essence, which is why Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat ($5, target.com) is beloved among professionals and at-home polishers alike. Once it’s on you’re good to go in just 30 seconds.

The Best for Nourishing the Nails
If your nails are brittle and in need of some TLC, Julep Oxygen Performance Top Coat ($18, julep.com) will help nourish them back to health. It’s one of few top coats that allows oxygen to get down to the nail bed to promote healthy growth, and it’s made with nutrient-rich caviar extract. Fancy.

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