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14 Best Gel Top Coats for a Long-lasting Manicure - Pinkvilla

14 Best Gel Top Coats for a Long-lasting Manicure

Updated on

Mar 12, 2024

Written by Sayantani Deb , Makeup & Beauty Writer

The products curated for this article are independently chosen by the editorial team. If you make a purchase through the links mentioned below, we may receive a commission. Check out our product research & curation process

Everyone loves a good manicure but no one likes it when the color fades or chips within a few days, especially when manicures can cost an arm and a leg. As indicated by our tests and the recommendations of several nail professionals, you can get the most out of your manicure with the help of the best gel top coats. 

Whether you use regular polish or gel nail polish, it is the norm at nail salons to seal the color with a good quality top coat. However, when it comes to the top coat with a long-lasting finish, gel top coats remain unbeatable. Our findings show that they not only protect the color from fading and chipping but also help to maintain its vibrancy. Since many people prefer doing their nails at home, many brands have come up with good-quality yet affordable gel top coats so that you can achieve a salon-like manicure at home. Join us as we discover some of the top-rated gel top coats available in the market today that can take your manicure from drab to fab in an instant.

What is a Gel Top Coat and Why Do You Need It?

Gel top coats have revolutionized the way we do manicures at home. But, what is it really? 

A gel top coat is usually a clear nail polish but of a special kind. It is used as a last step of the manicure to act as a protective layer against daily wear and tear. It protects the bottom layers from fading, staining, and chipping. It extends the life of a manicure and offers several finishes, including matte, glossy, and shimmery. It is the best thing you can do for your manicure. Whether you add the gel top coat over a nail color or your natural nails, it works both ways. It is especially good for tse with weak and brittle nails. If you are a habitual nail biter, get your hands on a good-quality gel top coat. It will not only give your nails a natural-looking shine but also prevent you from digging your teeth into the nails. There are many more reasons why a gel top coat is a must-have which we have covered later in this article. Keep reading to get to know more about our handpicked recommendations and comprehensive guide!

14 Best Gel Top Coats

Nothing beats the beautiful formulations of Londontown. This dual-acting nail coat is most suitable for a beautiful manicure. This acts as the perfect base coat that allows the nail paint to last long and it also acts as the perfect top coat. It is chip-resistant, long-lasting, and extremely safe to use. Free of all chemicals, this top coat adds the perfect amount of gloss to the nails. It enhances the existing nail color's sheen to give your hands instant glamor.  

Pros

  • Chip-resistant
  • Long-lasting
  • Dual effect
  • Free of harmful chemicals

Cons

  • None

When it comes to top coats, there's nothing like the Miracle Gel top coat from Sally Hansen. From the protection it offers to the variety of finishes, this product is a class apart. It offers a fabulous shine to your manicure, unlike any other gel top coat. It is easy to use and apply while being equally easy to remove. Available in 4 other textures, including matte, sugar, unicorn, and crystal, this gel top coat allows you to have fun and customize any nail look you want without needing any UV lamp. Drawing from our experience, it is true to its promises and offers a shiny and chip-resistant manicure for up to 8 days. You can easily add another layer to extend the life of your nail color and get the most beautiful nails ever.

Pros

  • Quick-drying formula
  • Adds a good shine
  • Smooth finish
  • Doesn't streak
  • Makes manicure last long
  • Looks good with dark colors

Cons

  • May need frequent reapplications

Trust this gel top coat to get the job done. The beetles top coat is the perfect companion for your at-home manicures. It protects the nail color from fading and chipping for about 3 weeks. This means you just need to do your nails once and forget about it for the next 21 days and sometimes more. It gives an unmatchable highly glossy finish and can be used over any kind of nail polish, making it the best gel top coat. Our team discovered through using this product that it requires a learning curve to figure out the right amount of product to achieve a perfectly glossy and long-lasting manicure.

Pros

  • Easy to use and remove
  • Long-lasting wear
  • Low odor
  • Cures fast
  • Adds to the strength of nails
  • No wipe finish
  • Good for beginners
  • Value for money

Cons

  • May take more time to dry
  • Pricey

Essie is a cult-favorite brand that makes high-quality polishes and top coats. Their couture range is considered especially good, thanks to its ultra glossy finish, cute packaging, and life that is longer than the average situationship. It doesn't require curing under a UV nail lamp and can last a good 14 days. The brand suggests reapplication every 7 days to make it last longer. It is the best nail polish top coat if you are looking for something fuss-free that prevents fading of your favorite nail color. After putting it to the test, we can say that it is a great addition to your DIY manicure kit, thanks to its chip-resistance formula that can work well enough even without a base coat.

Pros

  • High-quality sheer finish
  • Goes on smoothly
  • Flat brush for easy application
  • Durable
  • Easy to use and remove
  • Value for money
  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • May chip easily

The CND Vinylux gel top coat is one of the best in the business and is loved by nail art lovers and nail technicians alike. It gets the job done like no other top coat. True to its name, it ensures that your manicure lasts longer while maintaining the color vibrancy and shine. Based on our firsthand experience, your lifestyle will play a huge role in determining the life of your manicure. However, with this award-winning and one of the best top coat gel polishes, you can expect exceptional wear.

Pros

  • Easy to apply
  • Dries easily
  • Smoothes out polish
  • Lasts long
  • High-shine finish
  • Dries quickly
  • Durable
  • Scratch-resistant

Cons

  • May chip on the tips

Let your nails shine bright like a diamond with the shiniest gel top coat from Seche Vive. It is a staple in many people's manicure kits and all for good reasons. It offers professional salon-like results in the comfort of your home. This award-winning top coat is literally the knight in shining armor for your nails as it provides protection against color fading, and yellowing while also adding to the strength of your nails. That’s not all! It makes the nails look plump and juicy even without curing under a UV or LED lamp. When we trialed this product, we had a worry-free experience as it dries and sets quickly, saving a lot of time.

Pros

  • Dries faster
  • Lasts longer
  • Easy to remove
  • Durable
  • Doesn’t contain harsh chemicals
  • Value for money
  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • May shrink a little upon drying

The Revlon ColorStay nail polishes have proven their worth with their long-lasting vibrant color. Trust this gel top coat from the same range to offer similar results. It effectively extends the life of your manicure and allows it to last longer when compared to other top coats. It is labeled as one of the best gel polish top coats, thanks to its ability to seal in the color with its patented DiamondPlex technology. After conducting experiments with it, we can say that it offers a brilliant shine and smooth finish.

Pros

  • Dries fast
  • Long-lasting
  • Easy to remove
  • Enhances nail strength
  • Chip-resistant
  • Value for money
  • Formaldehyde-free

Cons

  • May have a little odor

Get ready to receive some compliments for your gorgeous manicure anywhere you go with this shiny gel top coat. Turn heads with its mirror-like shiny finish that is enough to induce envy. It applies smoothly and with precision, thanks to its efficient brush applicator. There is no sticky residue left behind nor does it allow any smudging or cracking. It will require curing under a nail lamp and can last up to 21 days without causing any fuss. We have found from using this product that it is a non yellowing gel top coat that you can use to create several different looks with acrylic nail polish, chrome powder, or even acrylic powder.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Long-lasting
  • Durable
  • Good for beginners
  • Water-resistant
  • Works well with different polishes
  • Value for money
  • Budget-friendly

Cons

  • Has an odor

Achieve the perfect salon-like finish for your next manicure with the help of this KUPA GelFinity Gel Top Coat. It is the best professional gel top coat that comes with a high-quality brush applicator, resulting in a beautiful, even, and smooth application like never before. The same goes for the brilliant shine that it imparts after drying. It is unmatchable. Thanks to its many qualities, this glossy gel top coat has become the go-to choice for beginners as well as experienced nail enthusiasts.

Pros

  • Doesn't chip
  • Lasts long
  • Stain resistant
  • Dries quickly
  • Applies smoothly
  • No wipe finish
  • Peel-resistant

Cons

  • Runny consistency

This UV gel top coat is heaven-sent for those with weak and brittle nails, all thanks to its thick consistency. It is the perfect final layer to be added to your manicure for stronger nails and longer-lasting nail color. It offers an incredible shine and can be used on natural nails as well as artificial nails with ease. That's not all! You can also pair up this no wipe gel top coat with most kinds of nail polishes, whether gel, acrylic, or regular. Our research indicates that it can last up to 21 days without chipping or cracking and cuts on the extra step of wiping the sticky residue.

Pros

  • Good quality
  • Easy to use
  • Beginner-friendly
  • High-gloss finish
  • Shine lasts long
  • Dries quickly
  • Doesn’t peel
  • Works for sensitive nails
  • Value for money

Cons

  • May leave a yellow tint

Get the nails of your dreams with the best top coat for gel nails from Kiara Sky. It is thick enough to offer long-lasting protection to your nails but it is not so thick that it may clump into a gooey mess. It has just the right kind of consistency. Though this color-resistant gel top coat may take a little longer than usual to cure, it doesn't compromise on its super shiny finish. However, it does save time on wiping off the sticky residue as it happens to be one of the best no wipe gel top coats. After trying out this product, we found that it flows onto the nails during application without creating a mess. It also leaves a professional finish without having to take even a single step outside your home.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Goes on nicely
  • Has shiny finish
  • Chip-resistant
  • Precise brush applicator
  • Holds shine for weeks
  • Doesn’t look patchy

Cons

  • May not work on press ons

You can very easily take your manicure to the next level with the Mineral Fusion Gel Top Coat. Whether you are going to the office or spending your days in the Caribbean, this is the best gel nail top coat you can get your hands on because it will survive everything. It not only ensures that your manicure will last long but it also ensures a long-lasting shine. Based on our observations, it has a unique glossy shine that gives a wet and watery look. A huge plus point of this high-quality top coat is that it is free from harsh and harmful chemical ingredients, including formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene, to name a few.

Pros

  • Dries quickly
  • Little to no odor
  • Non-toxic
  • Adds fantastic shine
  • Easy to apply
  • Has an even finish
  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • May chip and peel if not used sparingly

A perfect addition to your busy lifestyle, this Gelish Soak Off Top Coat can work wonders for your manicure. This gel top coat polish is known to get the job done. It seals in the color and makes sure it doesn't chip, fade, or stain, making your manicure last longer than ever. It has an adequately thick texture that works for everyone, especially individuals with weak, brittle, and damaged nails. We determined through our tests that even though it is expensive, this is a long-lasting top coat with a high-quality finish that makes it worth every penny.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Durable
  • Long-lasting
  • Offers nice shine
  • Non-toxic
  • Cruelty-free
  • Makes nails stronger
  • Value for money

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Has a runny consistency

Not everyone likes shiny nails. And for those people, we have the perfect matte gel top coat from the cult-favorite brand, OPI. You can use it at home for your DIY manicure or take it with you to the nail salon. It has a high-quality formula that will leave you in awe. It works perfectly on a variety of nail polishes, whether regular or gel. Since it's not a no-wipe top coat, you may have to remove the sticky layer after curing. Our analysis of this product revealed that it may look glossy initially but takes on a more semi-matte finish once it dries. 2 coats for nails give a full matte finish.

Pros

  • Goes on smoothly
  • Lasts long
  • Chip-resistant
  • Makes manicure long-lasting
  • Good for brittle nails
  • Durable

Cons

  • Matte effect fades gradually
  • Expensive

How to Buy the Best Gel Top Coat?

Buying the best gel top coat is no rocket science, however, it may still feel overwhelming. But, don't you worry, because we are here to help you make the best out of your buck by choosing the gel top coat that is perfect for you. Here are some factors you must consider before purchasing to make the best choice for your nails: 

Ingredients

Go through the ingredient list carefully. Make sure it doesn't contain anything that may cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation. Avoid harsh ingredients like formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP (dibutyl phthalate). Try to look for some natural ingredients like vitamin E, aloe vera, bambo extracts, and cellulose resin.

Formula

Good gel top coats typically come in specialized formulas. You can pick one according to your preferences. However, it is best to pick a lightweight and breathable formula that is also quick-drying, chip-resistant, and durable. 

Finish

You must determine which type of finish you want. Ascertain whether you want matte, glossy, glittery, glow-in-the-dark, or any other kind of finish. This will also be determined by the event or occasion and the purpose you expect the gel top coat to serve.

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Condition of Nails

Another factor that will help you determine what kind of gel top coat you need is the condition of your nails and how you want them to look. For instance, if you have weak and brittle nails, you may want to get a gel top coat that aids in strengthening. Similarly, if they are prone to getting yellow, you must get your hands on an anti-yellowing gel top coat.

Application and Drying Time

You must consider the application process of the gel top coat you wish to purchase. Check whether it is easy to apply or not. Moreover, you must opt for a top coat with the least amount of drying time possible. This will help you be done with the manicure business in a jiffy.

UV or LED Curing

Some gel top coats require to be cured under a UV or LED light, while others don't. Consider carefully which one you would prefer based on your requirements, lifestyle, and personal preferences. However, you must keep in mind that nail techs and professionals suggest curing under a UV or LED lamp, irrespective of what it says. This helps the nail polish stay longer.

Brand Reputation

While it is easy to ignore the well-being and health of your nails, you must try your best and only purchase the items from reputable brands. It will ensure that you receive high-quality ingredients and formulations. 

Customer Reviews

Don't forget to read customer reviews and feedback across various online platforms and nail blogs. This will help you gain valuable insights into the real-life efficacy and performance of the products you have been eyeing.

How To Apply a Gel Top Coat?

It is not hard, but there sure is a certain way of applying a gel top coat for a longer-lasting and shinier finish for your manicure. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to apply a gel top coat for optimal results:

  • Always start with clean and dry nails. Make sure there's no oil or any kind of residue on the nail surface. Remove the remnants of the old gel polish, if you are wearing any.
  • As part of the nail prep, you must trim your nails to the desired length and file them away to give them the shape you want, from oval and square, to stiletto and almond. This is your playground now and you can play however you want.
  • Push back the cuticles gently, if that's what you prefer and like. It is not necessary. The cuticle is not the enemy.
  • Buff the surface of your nails a little to create a bit of a rough texture. It will help your gel polish adhere better. 
  • Don't forget to apply sunscreen to your hands as you will be using a UV light. Use at least SPF 30 with broad spectrum protection.
  • Next, grab the colored gel nail polish you want to apply. But, before that apply a layer of a base coat to your nails. This will help the color of your nail polish look more vivid and last longer. 
  • Once it has been cured, move on to applying your gel nail polish. Let it dry and cure under a lamp as per the instructions. Different gel nail polishes have different durations for curing.
  • Finally, apply a thin and even layer of a good gel top coat to your nails.
  • Once again you must cure this gel top coat under the UV or LED lamp according to the instructions.
  • You can apply another coat if needed.
  • If you use a no wipe gel top coat, you don't have to do anything else. However, if you use a regular gel top coat, you may need to wipe off the slightly sticky and tacky layer over your nails using some alcohol or gel cleanser.

Benefits of Using a Gel Top Coat

There are several benefits of using a gel top coat and we have tried to summarize the best ones here. Go ahead and take a look!

Extended Wear

Gel top coats are typically chip-resistant, meaning your nail paint won't chip easily. They add an extra layer of protection and durability to your manicure. A nail polish with a gel top coat lasts longer than the ones without a gel top coat. This helps keep your manicure looking fresh for days to come.

Glossy Finish

Since gel top coats are available in many different finishes, you can pick any as per your preferences and create your desired look. They are mainly favored because of their glossy finish. You don't even have to choose the shiniest gel top coat as most gel top coats offer a shiny finish. This makes your nails look more vibrant and fun.  

Customizable Finish

Gel top coats are available in various finishes, including glossy, matte, glittery, and other special effects like glow-in-the-dark. You can customize your look as per your preferences. You can make any of your gel nail polish matte or glittery if that's what you want.

Strength and Protection

The primary purpose of using gel top coats is to enhance the longevity of a manicure. They act as a protective barrier over your nail polish. They not only protect your nail polish from chipping and peeling, but they also strengthen the nail as a whole. A gel top coat comes especially handy for people with weak and brittle nails.

Versatility 

Gel top coats are quite versatile in the sense that they can be used over any nail paint, whether it is a gel polish or not. This means you can use any nail polish of your choice and add to its strength and longevity with the help of a gel top coat. You can also use the gel top coat as a stand-alone product for your nails to create a natural and healthy-looking nail look.

Minimal Maintenance

With a gel top coat, your manicure is well protected and won't require frequent touch-ups as compared to regular top coats. They are ideal for people with busy lifestyles who want colorful nails but cannot afford to devote time to their frequent upkeep.

Tips for a Good Manicure

Here are some tips as dos and don'ts of a manicure so that you can maintain a nice set of healthy and well-groomed nails while also enjoying the colorful manicures:

Dos:

  • Always start with clean hands and clean nails. Remove any and all residue from the surface of your nails, whether it is dirt or old nail polish.
  • Make it a point to invest in good-quality products, including nail polish, nail polish remover, gel base coat, top coat, and nail tools. This will ensure optimal results without damaging your nails.
  • Moisturize your hands and nails regularly. This will not only keep them soft and hydrated but also enhance the health of your nails.
  • You must file in one direction to avoid splitting of nails.
  • Apply a base coat before going in with the nail color. This will provide a smooth base to the polish, enhance its color, and prevent the staining of your natural nails.
  • Start with applying thin and uniform layers of the base coat and nail polish.
  • The last layer must be the top coat to add strength and protection to the manicure.
  • Use an acetone-free nail polish remover as the one with acetone can dry out your nails and cuticles.
  • If you are a huge fan of colorful manicures and are always wearing nail polish, make sure to give your nails a break between manicures. 
  • Clean your nail tools regularly and sanitize them before and after every use to prevent the growth of microbes and avoid infections.
  • Always be gentle with your nails and your cuticles. As we said before, the cuticle is there for a reason and not an enemy that you have to defeat in battle.

Don'ts:

  • Do not cut your cuticles to avoid infections and any other issues. Gently pushing them back does the trick.
  • Avoid excessive filing of nails as it can weaken the nails. You should avoid being aggressive or rough with a filer. It can hamper the shape and strength of your nails.
  • Do not let excessively chipped nail polish stay on your nails for long waiting for it to remove itself. Once your nail polish is beyond saving, remove it using an acetone-free nail polish remover. This will help prevent discoloration of nails.
  • Do not use too much nail polish remover. It can cause dryness. It is easier to soak a cotton ball with the remover, wrap it over each nail one by one, and let the nail polish get soaked off. It is easier than wiping away the polish.
  • Do not forget to apply a base coat when applying nail polish. This prevents your nails from yellowing or staining while also enabling the nail polish to adhere better.
  • Do not use nails as tools to open cans or other such tasks that are rough on them to avoid nail chipping and breakage.
  • Similarly, don't use your nail tools for any purpose other than doing your nails to maintain their shape and avoid unwanted infections.
  • Do not use thick layers of nail polish as it increases drying time and makes the nail polish much more prone to chipping.
  • Do not bite your nails. This can severely damage the nails and the nail bed. It also increases the chance of getting an infection. 
  • Don't be in a rush when doing your manicure. Take your time to avoid making any mistakes and getting uneven layers.
  • Do not use too much gel or acrylic nails as it can hamper the health of your natural nails. 
  • Never ever forget to wear sunscreen, whenever you are going out and whenever you are going to use a UV or LED lamp.

Everyone loves a good manicure, and with the help of the best gel top coats, you can now get salon-quality and long-lasting manicures at your home. Whether you use regular nail polish or gel nail polish, a gel top coat can change your nail game for the better. You can choose from multiple finishes and customize your manicure as per your preferences. It not only helps strengthen the nails but also forms a protective layer on top of your nail polish to prevent it from chipping, fading, and losing its shine. With our handpicked recommendations and detailed guide, you can navigate the world of DIY manicures with ease.

FAQ's

Do I need a UV or LED lamp to cure the gel top coat?

You don’t necessarily need a UV or LED lamp to cure the gel top coat. Many brands specify how they don’t require curing. However, nail professionals suggest using a lamp to ensure a long-lasting manicure.

How long does gel top coat last on nails?

A gel top coat can last anywhere between a week to 3 weeks of wear depending on its formula.

What is the difference between a gel top coat and a no-wipe gel top coat?

A gel top coat when cured leaves a sticky film on top that needs to be wiped. On the other hand, a no-wipe gel top coat is as its name suggests. You don’t have to wipe anything off.

Can we use regular nail polish with a gel top coat?

Yes, you can use regular nail polish with a gel top coat. It will enable your regular nail paint to be more durable and long-lasting.

Can we use a gel top coat on dip powder?

Yes, you can use a gel top coat on dip powder. This is one way to add more shine to your manicure.

Which gel top coat is the shiniest?

The Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat and the Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Diamond Top Coat give one of the shiniest finishes.

Are all gel top coats the same?

No, all gel top coats are not the same. They are of different types, such as matte, shiny, no-wipe, glittery, anti-yellowing, fast-drying, and glow-in-the-dark, to name a few.

Can you put another layer of nail polish over the gel top coat?

A gel top coat is the final layer applied to a gel manicure. So, it doesn’t make sense to put another layer on top of it once it has cured. However, you may apply another layer if you see your nail polish getting chipped in the coming days. You must be careful to not put too much though.

Can gel top coat polish be used as a base coat?

A top coat plays a different role than the base coat which means you cannot use the gel top coat polish as a base coat. It won’t give the desired results for your manicure.

Can I use a gel top coat alone?

Yes, you can use a gel top coat alone. They make the gel manicure last longer and have a glossy finish. When used alone, a gel top coat can give your nails a healthy-looking natural shine.

What do you wipe the gel top coat off with?

You can use isopropyl alcohol to wipe the gel top coat off. It is the cheapest and best method you can use.

Why Trust Pinkvilla

Sayantani, the author, is a certified makeup expert who loves a good manicure. She knows and understands the value of including a gel top coat in your DIY manicure routine. And that's why she decided to curate this list with her top picks of the best gel top coats. Each product on this list has been individually tested by her based on several factors.

Our product experts study the specifications of every product we suggest and try them out to bring what’s proven to be worthy of your money, time, and energy. We also have subject matter experts from various fields like Fashion, Skincare, Haircare, Home Decor, and Health & Fitness onboard to make sure our suggestions are credible and trustworthy. You can trust Select to be your faithful shopping guide for all the right reasons!

Author BIO

Sayantani Deb

Makeup & Beauty Writer

Sayantani is a certified hair and makeup professional turned writer with 2+ years of experience in the same genre. Ap More

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