We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is the Difference between a Base Coat and a Top Coat?

Lainie Petersen
By
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
BeautyAnswered is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At BeautyAnswered, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Manicurists and individuals who groom their own fingernails often use both a base coat and a top coat during the process. The base coat is a clear, slightly tacky product that is brushed onto nails before the application of nail polish. Its purpose is to provide a barrier between nail polish pigments and the fingernails and to hold the nail polish to the nail. The top coat, on the other hand, is typically brushed onto the polished nail as a way of sealing in the color and strengthening the nail. Some companies sell all-in-one products that incorporate a base coat and a top coat so that consumers do not have to purchase two different products to care for their nails.

While many people enjoy painting their fingernails and toenails different colors, the pigments in nail polish can sometimes stain the nails. In addition, keeping nails well groomed includes ensuring that there is no obvious chipping or cracking of the nail polish. Once nail polish chips, an individual must either completely redo the nail, visit a manicurist to correct the problem, or simply remove the nail polish off every nail to achieve a consistent appearance. The use of a base coat and a top coat during a manicure helps to prevent the discoloration of fingernails and discourages the cracking and chipping of the nail color as well as the nail itself. Typically, each layer of nail product and color is applied in turn and allowed to dry between applications.

For those who perform their own manicures and pedicures, using a base coat properly is important. As the base coat is often slightly sticky, it is inappropriate for use as a top coat, as it could create an easily marred surface for the nail. If someone is reluctant to purchase both a base coat and a topcoat, she should look for a dual-purpose product or simply use a topcoat for both steps during the manicure.

A top coat often serves several different purposes in nail grooming. Not only does it protect nail polish against chipping, but it can also help strengthen the fingernail. Some people will simply apply a top coat to their nails if they want a natural look with just a bit of shine. Many women will also carry a bottle of top coat with them when wearing nylon stockings, as the top coat can be used to stop runs from growing.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen , Former Writer
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an editor. With a unique educational background, she crafts engaging content and hosts podcasts and radio shows, showcasing her versatility as a media and communication professional. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any media organization.

Discussion Comments

By fBoyle — On Jul 15, 2013

@burcinc-- As long as she doesn't apply a base coat on top of nail polish, it's fine.

For me, base coat means nourishment and top coat means protection. My base coat has vitamins in it that nourish my nails and my top coat has ingredients that strengthen my nail.

Sometimes when I run out, I use a top coat as a base coat just to make my nails shiny and strong. But I would never apply a base coat as a top coat. That beats the purpose.

By serenesurface — On Jul 15, 2013

@burcinc-- Some people do that and there is no rule about it. But I think that it's best to use these products for what they're meant.

A top coat gives shine and strength to the nail. It's job is to make the nail polish last longer and look better. Even though you can use it as a base coat, the nail polish might not stick so well to it when applied on top. A top coat is not sticky like a base coat.

By burcinc — On Jul 14, 2013

My mom has a clear top coat that she also uses as a base coat. This is not a good idea right? I have no idea why she does that.

Lainie Petersen

Lainie Petersen

Former Writer

Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an...
Learn more
BeautyAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

BeautyAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.