9 Best Gel Top Coat Brands: Your Easy Buying Guide (2019)

gel top coat

Your top coat is your armor. It’s a seal that makes your lacquer last longer, protects your color from fading, and adds that high gloss shine gel polish is known for.

All about gel top coats.

How does gel work? Unlike regular nail polish, gel will never air dry. Nail polish uses evaporation to change from a liquid to a solid, a little like hairspray.

Gel polish relies on chemicals called photoinitiators which react to UV or LED light by initiating a chemical reaction. This chain reaction converts the liquid gel polish into an extremely hard, and durable polymer.

Do I really need a top coat?

I know we’re all in a rush, but yes, you need a top coat. Gel nail polish has two jobs: stick to your base and be a pretty color. That’s all does. Top coats have one job: make everything else look great for as long as possible. Those are two very different objectives.

Isn’t a top coat just clear polish? Nope. Clear polish is just the gel polish formula minus the pigment. It doesn’t have the properties of top coat. Top coats are built to be tougher than your daily life.

Unlike polish, top coats are designed to be bumped into, repeatedly, without chipping. Top coats give you that high shine and many protect your polish colors from fading over time.

What Are the Best Gel Top Coats?

Bottle of white LeChat gel polish top coat in white box Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Top pick
  • Salon quality
  • Easy to work with
Price: $10.92 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Black bottle of CND Shellac gel top coat with gold label Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Longest lasting
  • Plump and glossy
  • Salon quality
Price: $15.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
White bottle of Gelish gel top coat with silver cap Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Trusted brand with lots of kit options
  • Durable
  • Easy to apply
Price: $14.48 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Black bottle of Cheri gel top coat with gold cap Amazon Customer Reviews
  • No wipe for nail art and chrome powders
  • Affordable
  • Easy to apply
Price: $10.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Black cylinder of OneDor gel top coat with cap off Amazon Customer Reviews
  • No wipe top coat
  • Great for nail art and powders
  • Affordable
Price: $8.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Black bottle of Red Carpet Gel Top coat with teal lettering Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Very durable
  • Gloss doesn't fade
  • Bottle lasts you many applications
Price: $13.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
shine extreme from gel II Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Very glossy
  • Easier to remove than others
  • Long-lasting
Price: $14.45 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Package of two white DND gel polishes top and base coat Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Intensely glossy
  • Includes base coat
  • Afforable
Price: $9.40 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Top and base coat Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Includes base coat
  • No-wipe
  • Good for nail art and powders
Price: $9.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Perfect Match High Gloss Top Sealer by LeChat

    • Very high gloss
    • Long-lasting shine
    • Durable
    • Great formula
    • Must remove tacky layer
    • A bit thick for some
    • Shine can fade after a week or so

    I’d say LeChat’s High Gloss Top Sealer is one of the longest lasting top coats on the list. Its bright shine almost sparkles and won’t dull over time. This is a brand you’ll often find used in nail salons and as a top choice among professionals.

    The formula is a dream–slightly thicker than regular polish but not as thick as a hard gel. Just be sure you’re applying a thin coat and you’re polish is protected for over two weeks. It’s self-leveling and cures very smooth and hard as a rock.

  2. 2. Shellac Top Coat by Creative Nail Design

    • Very high gloss
    • Great formula
    • Lasts two weeks
    • Trusted salon brand
    • Performs best with the CND lamp and polish
    • Must remove tacky layer
    • Pricier than others

    CND Shellac is still a favorite among salons for its lasting high shine and durability. The formula is smooth and easy to apply.

    This little bottle is what gives the shellac manicure its famous plump, glass-like shine. CND claims their line of shellac will last you 14 days and I appreciate that they aren’t making wild claims that it will last four plus weeks. And it’s true.

    This top coat and shellac line will go approximately 14 days. You may get some edge wear but nothing that affects the look of your nails. I like honesty in a brand. It works with any gel, but you will have the longest and best wear with this top coat when used with other CND Shellac products.

  3. 3. Top It Off by Gelish

    • Applies like nail polish
    • High gloss
    • Long-lasting
    • Kits and sets to choose from
    • Trusted brand
    • Has inhibition (tacky) layer
    • A little thin for some
    • Gloss may dull after about a week

    Gelish has great shine and a hard finish. The high gloss will probably keep that shine a little over a week before it may dull slightly. You can apply a second thin layer of top coat when the shine begins to fade, just be sure to prep your nail surface with alcohol first.

    It has fairly average cure times at 30 seconds with LED and two minutes under UV. The most important part is that it does last. When applied properly, this top coat can give you two weeks easy. Top It Off creates a very tough barrier that’s durable enough to handle even active hands.

    Top It Off has a very similar consistency to regular nail polish. It’s not so thick that it becomes hard work with or difficult to cure but it’s also not so thin that you’re constantly flooding your cuticles and needing to do lots of clean up. I do recommend doing your thumbs separately because of the thinner formula so that you can lay your thumbs down flat and prevent the gel from pooling to one side.

  4. 4. Non-Wipe Gel Top Coat by Cheri

    • No tacky layer
    • Perfect for pigment powders
    • More affordable
    • Nice formula
    • Full-size bottle
    • Takes longer to cure
    • Strong odor
    • Works best with a thick layer

    If you want to skip scrubbing off that sticky inhibition layer, go for a no wipe top coat like Cheri’s Non-Wipe Gel Top Coat. When cured this top coat doesn’t leave any tackiness that you need to wipe off which saves you a step and more time to do other things. A no wipe top coat is very important when working with chrome or holo powders for the shine of the nail pigment powders to stick properly and look brilliant.

    It’s a middle of the road formula that’s not too thick or too thin. It will last you two weeks and is cheaper than most of the top coats on the list. The Cheri Top Coat’s main issue is that it takes longer to cure than most, but also longer than they claim. So whatever the bottle tells you, add 15 or 20 seconds so you’re not ending up with an under-cured top coat and rubbery nails.

  5. 5. One Step Gel Polish Top Coat by OneDor

    • No tacky layer
    • Perfect for chrome powders
    • Nice formula
    • Affordable
    • Not as long-lasting as others
    • Not as glossy as others
    • Brush is a little small

    This is a no wipe top coat that I see a lot of YouTuber’s using for nail art like in the video below. It has a nice glossy shine and no sticky inhibition layer making it a good choice for those of us who do nail art or use nail pigment powders. It’s a nice thickness that won’t run or pool so it stays exactly where you want it.

    It has a nice shine, but it’s not the most glass-like on the list. You can get a good two weeks with this top coat, but I wouldn’t push it to three. For the money, that’s really respectable. If you work with pigment powders, this is an excellent choice.

  6. 6. Brilliance Seal & Shine Top Coat by Red Carpet Manicure

    • Extremely long lasting
    • High shine won’t fade
    • Made in America
    • Must remove tacky layer
    • Formula is a little thin
    • Bottle is smaller than average
    • Pricey for the amount you get

    This is one of the top, longest lasting gels on the market. It has a bright sparkling gloss that won’t fade on you even after two weeks. Brilliance is incredibly durable and should help your gel manicure last between two and three weeks before you start seeing wear.

    My only issue with it is that the formula is a little thin so you have to be careful not to flood your cuticles when applying. But once you get the application down, the performance of this top coat is enough to hook you on this brand.

  7. 7. Shine Xtreme Top Coat by Gel II

    • High gloss
    • Easier to remove
    • Decent staying power
    • Brand doesn’t need a base coat
    • Works best with other Gel II products
    • Gloss fades after a week
    • Has a tacky layer

    This is another top coat that works best with polishes in its own brand, which I don’t mind because Gel II polishes are formulated to not need a base coat. Not needing a base coat saves you a step and helps keeps your gel nails from getting too thick. Shine Xtreme has a mirror finish gloss and includes vitamins and botanicals to nourish nails--even though a top coat isn't really going to touch your nails. 

    It’s got decent staying power and you can easily get to 14 days with minimal tip wear, impressive for a line with no base coat. It wears nicely and keeps its shine well with only a little dulling after about a week. One nice plus is that this brand tends to remove faster than others.

  8. 8. Top & Base Coat Duo by DND

    • Comes with base coat
    • Affordable
    • Intense high gloss shine
    • Must remove tacky layer
    • Included base coat isn’t awesome
    • Not as durable as others

    If your priority is intense glass-like shine, this may be what you’re looking for. The DND Top Coat delivers serious shine that won’t dull or fade on you. This set comes as a duo of the DND Top Coat and Base Coat and for the price of the two of them, this may be the most affordable top coat on the list.

    However, if you do a lot of work with your hands and are pretty rough on your nails, you may want to skip this one. If you don’t regularly go rock climbing or work as a nurse, this top coat can help your polish last a good 14 days with a brilliant no-quit shine. The base coat is sort of hit or miss depending on your prep routine. The shine is really the star here.

  9. 9. Top & Base Coat Set by Modelones

    • Comes with top and base coat
    • No-wipe top coat
    • Comes in gift box
    • Long-lasting
    • Hard to locate
    • Expensive
    • Formula is a little thin for some

    This top and base coat has great longevity and a high glossy shine.

    The formula of this top and base coat from Modelones is so easy to work with you can forget you’re using gel. It’s about the same consistency as a thicker top coat for regular polish. I like that they come in a gift-ready box and that the top coat is a no-wipe top coat, meaning it won’t leave a tacky layer once it’s cured.

See Also:

Got any top coat tips?

I do--which isn't shocking since I chose to write that question. If you're not capping your polish with a quality top coat, you're not getting the kind of life out of your polish that you could.

Capping your manicure refers to running the base, lacquer, and top coat over the free edge of your nail to seal the tips. You want to make sure you do this with each layer.

It helps prevent shrinkage and will prevent edge-wear like you wouldn't believe. I was actually mad the first time I did it because of how much of a difference that tiny extra step made.

If you're new to gel, be sure to review the process and tips for beginners to ensure you have a long-lasting mani.

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