Difference Between Base Coat and Top Coat Nail Polish

You may wonder why your manicurists apply a base coat, nail polish, and top coat in a certain order.

It is because a base coat and top coat nail polish have different functions in ensuring your manicure or pedicure looks gorgeous. 

This article will act as a guide on the difference between a base coat and a top coat.

What This Article Covers:

What Is a Base Coat?

difference between base coat nail polish and top coat nail polish


The base coat offers a barrier between the nail polish color and the fingernails.

The base coat is a clear, sticky consistency that is painted onto nails before you apply the nail polish.

What Is a Top Coat?

You will apply the best top coat nail polish over your polished nail to seal in the color.

A top coat’s main function is to protect your nail polish from chipping and damage while keeping it looking glossy.

Its other purpose is to strengthen your fingernail.

Benefits Of a Base Coat

Holds the Nail Polish to Your Nail Plate

The base coat’s main function is to ensure that your nail polish adheres securely to your nails. Base coats have sticky resins that create an adherent surface over your nails for your varnish to stick onto.

The base coat nail polish prevents chipping and peeling by acting as an adhesive.

As an adhesive, the base coat also makes certain that the color stays put for longer.

Prevents Your Nails from Getting Stains

Some nail polishes consist of a lot of pigments and dyes that can cause your natural nails to get stained. In general, bright red nail polishes tend to be the biggest culprit.

Frequent usage of nail varnish over your nails can cause your nails to develop a yellow tint.

The base coat works as a thick barrier to prevent the dyes and pigments from penetrating your nails. In turn, this prevents the stains and unnatural yellow tinge.

Makes Your Nail Polish Flexible

The base coats are more flexible due to the high levels of plasticizers in them.

You can bend your natural nails easily without worrying about the nail polish chipping when you have applied a base coat.

Nourishes Your Nails

Some base coats have nutrients, such as vitamins and proteins, that hydrate and strengthen your nails.

The nutrients help to restore damaged and weak nails. This is essential for you if you are a fan of gel or acrylic applications.

Covers the Cracks on Your Nails

Damaged nails tend to be filled with ridges and cracks, making your nail polish look uneven and dull.

A base coat allows your nail polish to look smooth and even by filling these cracks and ridges. 

When filling the cracks, make sure you know how many coats of nail polish you should use. It is usually 2 to 3 coats.

Benefits Of a Top Coat


base coat vs top coat nail polish


Protects Your Nail Polish

A top coat protects your nail by creating a durable layer over your nail polish to protect it from damage and scratches.

Its hardened layer helps to keep water from getting into contact with your lacquer. Water exposure can increase the rate at which your polish can peel.

The majority of top coats contain ultraviolet shields. The UV shielded chemicals aim to protect your nail polish from sun exposure. The sunlight’s UV can cause the dyes in your nail polish to decay, which can make the nail polish’s color dull.

Gives Your Nail Polish a Glossy Shine

If you want a long-lasting glossy polished look, then you will need to apply a top coat over your nail polish.

If you are not a fan of the glossy effect, then you can look for the best matte top coat. Matte top coats will protect your nails without the added glossy sheen.

Protects Your Nail Polish from Stains

There are stain-resistant top coats that protect your nail lacquer from getting stained easily.

Stain-resistant top coats form a solid layer that makes it difficult for stains to cling onto.

If you struggle with color dyes whilst cooking, then you will benefit from a stain-resistant top coat.

Helps Your Nail Polish Dry Faster

If you are short on time, then you will enjoy a fast-drying nail polish top coat. Fast-drying top coats speed up the nail polish’s drying time.

To make sure your nail polish lasts longer, you only need to apply thin coats of the top coat.

The Takeaway

To keep your nails well-groomed, you need to ensure that there is no cracking or chipping in the nail polish. A base coat and top coat are a useful addition to your manicure or pedicure, as they prevent discoloration, and discourage chipping and cracking of the nail polish’s color.

If you want your nail lacquer’s color to last longer, then you should apply both a base coat and a top coat. 

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