11 Best Matte Top Coats for Any Nail Polish (2018)

matte top coat

A matte top coat lets you put unexpected twist on the look of your nail polish and it’s an effect that can be utilized for all sorts of interesting nail art designs. Check out this matte nail polish art compilation on Ink Your Nail for a little inspiration.

When to use matte nail polish.

A matte finish gives your nails a soft, velvet appearance that works for both highly formal and completely casual occasions. In other words, matte is appropriate anytime you’d wear nail polish.

It’s great for a change of pace, to highlight nail art, or if you’re looking for a slightly more downplayed look. I find that matte looks particularly good over black, red, bright yellow, soft pinks, and nudes.

Matte nail polish or matte topper?

Here’s the thing, matte nail polish exists–but I don’t understand why. As we established in my Best Top Coats article, you’d never want to wear nail polish without a top coat.

Top coats create a protective seal that keeps your nail polish from chipping and your colors from fading. So you’re definitely going to put a top coat over that matte nail polish, but if you put a regular shiny top coat, your matte isn’t going to be matte anymore. That means you’d need a matte top coat to seal in your matte nail polish.

But good matte will turn even the most sparkling glitter nail polish matte so there’s no real need to seek out matte nail polish when you can mattify the colors you already have. Plus, it basically doubles the number of nail polish colors you have to choose from as the chalkboard finish is usually a shade lighter.

How does matte top coat work?

Let’s start by recapping how regular glossy top coats work since matte are regular top coats with one or two ingredients added. Top coats are armor for your nail color.

It’s a top coat’s job to withstand all the abuse you put your hands through like doing dishes, typing, and banging them into everything (if you’re me). A top coat does this by drying into a super smooth, impenetrable coating, resulting in a reflective glossy shine.

Matte finshes don’t want to reflect light so they don’t dry completely smooth. If you were to zoom in on a matte manicure, you’d see that the surface looks like the skin of an orange. It’s covered in bumps and dimples which scatter the light and give it that soft dull appearance. Think cloth instead of glass.

Can you DIY something without having to buy a special top coat?

Sure, but it’s probably cheaper to buy the top coat.

Some people have suggested using a base coat on top of nail polish to dull down the shine. It’s true that base coats will be less shiny but base coats are meant to dry a little sticky in order to grab and hold your nail color. Use that as your protective layer and your manicure isn’t going to last long.

Others have had some success in adding powders like corn flour or arrowroot powder to normal top coats but it’s a messy process and if you don’t get the proportions just right you can end up with unusable goop. If you can swing the couple extra bucks for a real mattifying top coat, you can skip possibly wasting a bunch of top coat and getting arrowroot all over your kitchen.

It’s so worth getting a real matte top coat. If space is an issue, grab a more efficient Nail Polish Organizer and it will look like you have fewer polishes than when you started.

Does matte chip really fast?

The unavoidable truth is that the very structure of a matte finish makes it more vulnerable to chipping. It’s more porous and less stable than a smooth, shiny surface. The best way to combat this is to use quality products, cap your tips, and reapply a fresh coat of top coat every other day.

Whenever you’re adding a second top coat to a finished manicure, be sure to wipe down your nails with rubbing alcohol to dry out any natural oils that could get trapped under your top coat and cause chipping.

Matte tips and tricks.

Generally, you can apply your matte coat directly on top of your dry nail color. However, if you’re having trouble with transfer (polish being picked up on the brush) you can avoid all of this by applying a quick-dry top coat before adding your matte. My go-to is still Seche Vite.

If you’re playing with nail art or nail stamping, most matte polishes can smear your artwork so you’ll definitely want to apply a quick dry top coat first to protect your nail art from streaking.

Sometimes when matte formulas are really old, the dissolved silica can clump together and you end up with white flakes on your nails when it’s dry. So if you’re getting white specks, it’s time to toss that bottle.

Because matte dries unevenly to form its dimpled surface, it can feel dry before it really is. When your matte manicure feels dry, give it another five minutes just to be safe.

Not all matte top coats are made equally so if you’ve tried one that ended up looking streaky or not matte at all, then you need to pick up a new brand. Also, since the trend has been out for almost 10 years now, companies have had time to perfect their formula so you may have tried a few brands years ago that were atrocious but they’ve since gotten it right.

Let’s get down to the best matte top coats around today.


1. Matte About You Top Coat by Essie

Image of a bottle of essie matte nail polish with cloudy look

essie

This one is my personal favorite and go-to for a matte finish. I haven’t found had any problems with streaking which you can often get with drugstore brands.
The lacquer isn’t clear and goes on with a milky tint to it, but not to worry, it won’t cloud your colors at all. I’ve used it over plain colors and over nail art and the images stay crisp and clear but with that soft, matte look.

The formula is on the thinner side and is easy to work with. I bought this with my own money and if I could only point to one top coat, it would be this one.

While it’s best to use a quick dry top coat over nail art before adding you matte, I’ll admit to being lazy sometimes and using this top coat directly over my nail stamping.

If I float my brush (apply the top coat without the brush actually touching the nail) I can almost make it out streak-free. It’s not perfect for over nail stamping but I haven’t had it ruin nail stamping if I’m careful with my application.

Like all matte finishes, this one will chip faster than a glossy top coat. You can extend its life by adding another coat. I’ve also found that if you’re heavy on the cuticle oil like I am, after a couple of days, it can lose a bit of that matte appearance, but by then I’m adding a second coat anyway so that takes care of that.

Price: $8.45

Buy the Matte About You Top Coat by Essie here.



Pros:

  • Flat chalkboard matte finish
  • Trusted brand
  • Easy to work with
  • Not as streaky as others
  • Good choice for nail art
  • Fast drying

Cons:

  • Essie’s smaller brush can be annoying here
  • Starts chipping after a few days

Find more Matte About You Top Coat by Essie information and reviews here.


2. Cirque Colors Matte Look Top Coat

Image of bottle of cirque matte nail polish with dark shadow

Cirque Colors

This matte finish by Cirque goes on a lot more clear than Essie’s but still creates a velvet finish. I find this one to have a very soft looking effect that’s chic and upscale.

For matte, it has a long life to it. You can get a couple of days out of this without chipping and if you’ve worked with matte before, you know that is no small feat.

I like that as an indie brand so you’re supporting an American small business and all of Cirque’s lacquers are made in New York. Matte Look Top Coat is vegan and free of four of the more toxic ingredients normally found in nail polish.

You can see this top coat swatched over several colors and glitters in this YouTube video.

Price: $12.50

Buy the Cirque Colors Matte Look Top Coat here.


Pros:

  • Soft velvet look
  • Made in America
  • Long lasting for a matte
  • Cruelty-free
  • Doesn’t contain DBP, formaldehyde, or toluene

Cons:

  • The tiniest bit shinier than some mattes
  • Best if applied to very dry polish

Find more Cirque Colors Matte Look Top Coat information and reviews here.


3. OPI Matte Finsh Top Coat

Frosted bottle of OPI matte finish top coat

OPI

This top coat from OPI will mattify anything you can throw at it. It’s a thin, slightly cloudy formula that’s easy to spread and won’t flood your cuticles. If you prefer thicker formulas, this may seem a little watery to you.

You get that wide, full OPI application brush making it easy to get full coverage fast and with fewer passes so you can avoid brushstrokes. It’s not a quick dry top coat but it does dry fairly quickly.

I will say that this top coat does have a tendency to transfer the nail color onto your top coat brush so if you’re having this issue, you’ll want to do a layer of quick dry top coat before adding the matte.

Matte Finish Top Coat is used in this matte manicure tutorial video on YouTube if you’d like to see it in action.

Price: $9.98

Buy the OPI Matte Finish Top Coat here.


Pros:

  • Soft, brushed metal finish
  • Dries quickly
  • Great brush
  • Trusted brand

Cons:

  • Best over a layer of top coat
  • Formula is thin for some

Find more OPI Matte Finish Top Coat information and reviews here.


4. MatteAstrophe by ManGlaze

Dark bottle of ManGlaze matte topper with neon graffiti art

ManGlaze

Another indie brand, ManGlaze is targeted toward men and anyone else into something more offbeat. The bottles look like street art instead of the usual, more feminine nail polish labels. Their matte toper, called MatteAstrophe, has one of the mattest finishes on the list.

It’s a flat, chalkboard look without a speck of shine to it. This is a matte effect for when you want to stand out.

That said, it’s a little bit of wild card because the formula reacts differently with each polish brand and even different levels of dryness. Sometimes you get an impeccably smooth matte finish and sometimes you can get a matte crackle effect. It’s not entirely predictable but it is fun and looks great however it dries.

Price: $13.13

Buy the MatteAstrophe by ManGlaze here.


Pros:

  • Extremely matte
  • Made in America
  • Cruelty free
  • Three free
  • Unique bottle art

Cons:

  • Not predictable in whether it will crackle or not
  • This makes it not great for nail stamping

Find more MatteAstrophe by ManGlaze information and reviews here.


5. INM Out The Door Matte Finish Top Coat

Image of black squat bottle of INM matte finihs top coat

INM

Another top coat that had a rocky start, INM’s Matte Finish Top Coat got a makeover and is now back in the running. It’s more of a satin than a chalkboard finish which some people prefer as a frosted look instead of a flat velvet.

The formula makes it fairly easy to avoid streaking and it’s quite fast drying. It has standard wear time for a matte and brings the shade of your polish just a tiny bit lighter.

Price: $5.95

Buy the INM Out The Door Matte Finish Top Coat here.


Pros:

  • Satin finish
  • Great formula
  • Fast drying
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Can be streaky if you’re messy with the application

Find more INM Out The Door Matte Finish Top Coat information and reviews here.


6. Mattes a Wrap by Morgan & Taylor

Image of tan glass Morgan & Taylor polish bottle with black cap

Amazon

Mattes a Wrap both has a clever name and a great mattifying formula. The finish on this one is a soft, suede or velvet look. It looks super touchable and elevates any color you apply it to.

The consistency of the formula is great though it does tend to transfer so you’ll likely want to put a quick dry top coat over nail art before applying this. It dries quickly and has a decent lasting time for a matte.

Check out this nail art tutorial on YouTube to see Mattes a Wrap swatched.

Price: $9.99

Buy the Mattes a Wrap by Morgan & Taylor here.


Pros:

  • Touchable suede look
  • Trusted brand
  • Great formula

Cons:

  • May pick up nail color on the brush

Find more Mattes a Wrap by Morgan & Taylor information and reviews here.


7. Orly Matte Effect Top Coat

Image of white bottle of Orly matte finish top coat with fuchsia cap

ORLY

Orly is an example of a brand that originally got into the matte game when the trend came on the scene, but their product wasn’t that great. It was streaky and not all that matte.

Now, years later, their new formula has really stepped it up. Their most recent matte topper creates a very smooth, streak-free matte finish. It’s not all the way to chalkboard matte, but it gets pretty close.

Plus, it dries quickly, which I always appreciate. This top coat isn’t as durable as some others but it’s a great deal for the price.

Price: $5.99 (41 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Orly Matte Effect Top Coat here.


Pros:

  • Flat, satin finish
  • Dries quickly
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Chips faster than others

Find more Orly Matte Effect Top Coat information and reviews here.


8. Matte-ly in Love by Ella+Mila

Square bottle of top coat with yellow elephant and before and after photos of matte nail polish

ella + mila

If you’re looking for a quality matte that’s also vegan and low toxin, Ella+Mila may be your brand. Mattel-ly in Love is seven free as well as cruelty-free.

The formula is slightly thicker for better control without becoming too thick. It delivers a brushed velvet finish without having to struggle against brushstrokes. It’s not the longest lasting on the list, but it is one of the safest.

Price: $11.39

Buy the Matte-ly in Love by Ella+Mila here.


Pros:

  • Soft satin finish
  • Made in America
  • 7 free and cruelty-free
  • No brushtrokes

Cons:

  • Chips an average amount for matte

Find more Matte-ly in Love by Ella+Mila information and reviews here.


9. Matte Magic Top Coat by China Glaze

Image of silver China Glaze polish bottle and black cap

Amazon

This was one of the favorites for a long time because of its ability to create a slate, chalked-out look. Unfortunately, it’s been discontinued–but you can still get your hands on it for the time being.

The supply is finite so this isn’t something you can rely on being able to try in a few years. The formula is a little thicker but goes on nicely. It dries quickly and keeps your lacquer true to the color it normally is instead of a slightly lighter color which tends to happen with most mattes.

The only issue here is you run the risk of really falling in love with this top coat and possibly not being able to find it in the future. Just be aware that Matte Magic comes in a slightly smaller bottle than your average nail polish.

Price: $5.25

Buy the Matte Magic Top Coat by China Glaze here.


Pros:

  • Slate or satin finish
  • Not streaky
  • DBP and toluene free

Cons:

  • Discontinued
  • Smaller bottle

Find more Matte Magic Top Coat by China Glaze information and reviews here.


10. JINsoon Matte Maker Top Coat

Image of frosted rectangular bottle of JINsoon matte finish top coat

JINsoon

For a runway inspired look, this JINsoon Matte Maker creates a dull satin sheen. Not as matte as some of the others, the Matte Maker has more of a frosted glass look to it so it keeps some shine while still being mostly matte.

The formula is a perfect medium of thick and thin and so easy to work with. Five free and made in America, this lacquer is a good choice for those looking for a low toxin nail polish.

Price: $18

Buy the JINsoon Matte Maker Top Coat here.


Pros:

  • Frosted glass effect
  • Cruelty-free
  • Five free
  • Made in America
  • Great formula

Cons:

  • Not as matte as others

Find more JINsoon Matte Maker Top Coat information and reviews here.


11. LeChat Dare to Wear Matte Top Coat

Lechat matte top coat bottle with black cap

LECHAT

For a soft, suede matte try out this top coat by LeChat. This is a brand that I’ve featured several times in my gel nail polish articles, but they also have some great products in their regular nail polish line.

This isn’t a drastic chalkboard look, but more of a velvet. As you can tell by the near opaqueness of the top coat, this is one that will lighten the color of your polish a shade once it’s dry.

Price: $10.89

Buy the LeChat Dare to Wear Matte Top Coat here.


Pros:

  • Soft touchable look
  • Trusted brand
  • Long lasting

Cons:

  • Costs more than others

Find more LeChat Dare to Wear Matte Top Coat information and reviews here.


See also:

  • Best Top Coats for Long Lasting Nail Polish
  • Best Nail Stamping Kit: Which Is Right for You?
  • 10 Best Base Coats for Nail Polish
  • Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.

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