11 Best Base Coat Brands for Nail Polish

base coats

A manicure is only as good as your best base coat. If you feel like you barely have time to do your nails as it is, skipping your base layer almost guarantees your polish will be chipping in a day or two and you’ll have to spend more time taking your now messy manicure off and polishing again.

It’s a time-saver because a quality base coat and top coat makes your nail polish last chip-free longer. If you want your polish to last, you have to start at the foundation. Read on for more base coat information, and tips to make your polish last longer.

What Are the Best Base Coats?

Pink short gold cap nail polish bottle Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Slightly ridge-filling
  • Dries quickly
  • Extends the life of polish
Price: $18.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Green essie foundation coat Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Long-lasting
  • Dries quickly
  • Three free
Price: $7.80 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Zoya anchor base nail polish Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Tacky finish
  • Five free
  • Long-lasting
Price: $10.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Blue base coat nail polish Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Sticky finish
  • Prevents chips
  • Three free
Price: $8.50 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
bottle of seche base polish Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Ridge-filling
  • Dries quickly
  • Provides white base
Price: $5.40 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Orly rubberized base coat Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Rubberized finish
  • Prevents staining
  • Easy open cap
Price: $8.96 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Clear bottle of zoya polish Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Vitamins, proteins, and botanicals
  • Offsets discoloration
  • Cruelty-free
Price: $12.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Clear bottle of clear nail polish Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Natural ingredients
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Vitamins and botanicals
Price: $11.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Maxus base polish and black box Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Tea tree and silk amino acids
  • 11 free
  • Made in America
Price: $17.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Tan colored base coat Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Ridge filler
  • Strengthens nails
  • Five free
Price: $18.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Three bottles of Jessica base coat Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Several formulations to match your nail issue
  • Seven free
  • Enriched with vitamins
Price: $10.90 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Longest-Lasting: Smith & Cult Basis of Everything

    Pros:
    • Five free
    • Long-lasting
    • Great matching top coat
    • Slightly ridge-filling
    • Luxe bottle
    Cons:
    • Wide bottles are a little chunky to store
    • Pink tinge to the clear base
    • Pricier than others

    This base coat by Smith & Cult, besides being gorgeous to look at, is five free and possibly the long-lasting base coat available

    Smith & Cult has a very dedicated following and it’s easy to understand once you give the products a try. The first time I tried their polish, it lasted a week with minimal chips, which is no easy task when you’re rough on your hands like I am.

    With my schedule, I don’t have as much time to do my nails as I used to so I recently just made the switch from Essie’s First Base to Basis of Everything as my go-to base coat simply because it extends the life of my manicure.

    It goes on clear and provides an ultra-resinous base for your polish to stick to. The cap might look large and unwieldy to hold, but it actually lifts up to reveal a smaller twist off cap attached to the brush. 

    This used with their Above it All top coat and it was the longest a regular polish manicure of mine has ever lasted.

    VideoVideo related to longest-lasting: smith & cult basis of everything2018-10-24T13:25:16-04:00

  2. 2. Best Overall: First Base by Essie

    Pros:
    • Three free
    • Fast drying
    • Long-lasting
    • Great at preventing staining
    Cons:
    • Formula might be a little thin for some
    • Slight green tinge in bottle
    • Skinny applicator brush

    First Base is a three free polish that is great for extending your manicure and keeping your polishes from staining. It’s a thin, easy to apply formula that dries quickly so you can get on to the fun stuff.

    It has a strong bonding base that holds tight to nail polish and your manicure can last over five days with this one. This is one of my go-to base coats (bought with my own money) and I’ve had good success with it.

    It’s got a green tint in the bottle but don’t worry at all about that showing up on your nails. I’ve never noticed any green on my nails and I use this base coat for reverse nail stamping so it goes over the top of my polish with no problems. 

    VideoVideo related to best overall: first base by essie2018-10-24T13:30:45-04:00

  3. 3. Best Sticky Base: Zoya Anchor Base Coat

    Pros:
    • Five free
    • Long-lasting
    • Flexibility
    • Trusted brand
    • Tacky finish
    Cons:
    • Works best with Zoya nail polish
    • Skinny applicator brush
    • Can feel drying

    The Anchor Base Coat by Zoya is strengthened with calcium for a tough foundation that really sticks to your nails with a tacky finish.

    The formula is focused on flexibility so you’re not going to have to worry about those little creases and chips that happen when your nail happens to bend even the littlest bit. It’s great at preventing stains and, like all Zoya products, is five free.

    This base coat is part of Zoya’s Color Lock System which includes this base coat, Zoya nail polish remover, their UV blocking top coat Armor, and their nail polish drying treatment Fast Drops. The line was made to create a manicure that really adheres to polish and lasts around a week.

    They also offer a ridge filling base coat in this line called Get Even which is a thick, cream-colored base coat. I do have ridges, but I still prefer Anchor for its sticking power and the fact that it dries clear.

  4. 4. Most Durable: CND Stickey Base Coat

    Pros:
    • Long-lasting
    • Tacky finish for great grip
    • Prevents chipping
    • Three free
    • Trusted salon brand
    Cons:
    • Formula is a little watery
    • If worn on its own it may looks a tiny bit green
    • Round bottle can make it hard to get last bit of product

    This Stickey Base Coat by Creative Nail Design has been a popular favorite for years. Don’t let the green scare you, it dries almost completely clear and it dries fast.

    It has a slightly tacky finish when dry for an increased grip on your polish. This one is great especially if you get chipping at your tips early on in your manicure. This can push your polish up to or even past the one week mark chip-free.

    It’s a three free polish so you don’t have to feel bad putting it on your bare nails all the time. The included brush is very dense and spreads out to a nice wide fan for easy application. The formula is a little thin for my tastes so you do want to make sure it doesn’t pool in your cuticles.

  5. 5. Best for Ridged Nails: Seche Base

    Pros:
    • Great for smoothing out ridged nails
    • Fast drying
    • Milky base makes other colors pop
    • Prevents staining
    Cons:
    • Some may not like the opaque base
    • Chips faster than some
    • Can pull nail if you pick at it

    This is a ridge filling base coat that goes on thick and creamy to fill in any uneven parts of your nail so it’s a nice flat surface. Seche Base is an atypical opaque base coat that dries to a sheer pearl color.

    I bought this with my own money and is my go-to base coat for when I’m wearing holographics or other polishes that tend to show the dents in my nails and this gives me that smooth, even shine.

    It looks like it goes on unevenly, but really the base pools in the lower areas to create a flat surface so don’t worry if it looks streaky.

    Because it’s opaque, it works like a primer you would use when you’re painting a wall. It smooths out the surface, gives the paint something to stick to, and provides a flat white-ish tone so so the color you put over it really pops, making it perfect for lighter colors like pastel purple nails.

    It’s fast-drying, but isn’t the longest-lasting base coat of the bunch. If ridges are your issue it’s worth giving a shot.

  6. 6. Best Cheap Base: Orly Bonder Rubberized Nail Base Coat

    Pros:
    • Rubberized, tacky finish
    • Long lasting for most
    • Prevents breaking and staining
    Cons:
    • Price has been fluctuating
    • Not everyone gets best results
    • Not clear

    This Rubberized Nail Base Coat by Orly is an internet favorite. It has a tacky finish when dry creating a surface your nail lacquer can really stick to.

    The strong, flexible adhesion protects nails from breaking and prevents dark colors from staining. This base coat claims to make your manicure last up to two weeks, but there’s no way your regular nail polish is going two weeks without chipping. That’s not to say this base coat won’t significantly extend your polish’s life.

    As far as longevity, the Bonder Rubberized Base Coat seems to work better for some than others possibly depending on nail type. Some people start chipping after only three days, but others, often those who have nails prone to breaking, are finding their manicure lasting them over a week.

    So the results aren’t entirely consistent, but for the price, it’s worth seeing if you’re in the majority who have great success with Orly’s Bonder.

  7. 7. Best for Discolored Nails: Zoya Naked Manicure Base Coat

    Pros:
    • Moisturizes and strengthens with botanicals
    • Five free
    • Vegan
    • Helps offset stained nails
    Cons:
    • Works best with the Naked Manicure Line
    • Not as long-lasting as others
    • Can thicken over time

    This Naked Manicure Base Coat is part of Zoya’s Naked Manicure Line which is formulated to heal damaged nails. It is designed especially for nails recovering from acrylic or gel, by nourishing the nail and having different sheer lacquer colors meant to correct discolored nails. For example, if your nails are yellowed, you would use the lavender-tinted corrector which turns your nails a healthy pink.

    The line starts with this base coat which is vegan, five free, and contains sunflower oil and garlic extract to promote nail health. Don’t worry, I promise your nails won’t smell like garlic.

    While it isn’t necessarily a ridge filler, the formula will smooth out the surface of your nails if your pitting isn’t too extreme which is great for people with damaged nails. This base coat can help your polish last five to seven days.

  8. 8. Best Natural: Karma Organic Triple 5 Base Coat

    Pros:
    • All natural ingredients
    • Vegan
    • Not tested on animals
    • Made in America
    • Safe for children
    • Vitamins and plant extracts
    • No chemical smell
    Cons:
    • Not as long-lasting as others
    • Not exactly chemical free as advertised
    • Pricier than others

    For those who are worried about putting more chemicals on your body, check out Karma Organic. And if you’re going to buy only one toxin-free nail product, your base coat is the way to go since it has direct contact with your nail, creating a barrier from the rest.

    Their Triple Five Base Coat boasts five vitamins, five plant extracts, and five benefits for your nails all without any toxins. The brand claims to be chemical-free but nearly everything is a chemical. Technically speaking, water is a chemical so they’re off the mark with that claim. 

    What they mean (and do say) is that their ingredients are naturally sourced and skip the most common toxins in favor of natural fibers and chemicals naturally occurring in the earth. 

    The formula helps to strengthen nails with vitamins B5, A, C, E, and F as well as botanical extracts like aloe vera, ginseng, pomegranate, grape, and lemon.

    It’s a good choice for those looking for something more eco-conscious and body-friendly, but keep in mind that those nasty chemicals are in use for a reason and this may not work as well as more mainstream brands.

  9. 9. Best for Problem Nails: Maxus Base Coat

    Pros:
    • Contains tea tree and silk amino acids
    • Great applicator brush
    • Long-lasting
    • 11 free
    • Made in America
    Cons:
    • Not a ridge filling base coat
    • Not as good for brittle nails
    • Bad for reverse stamping

    If you’re looking for a good sticky base coat, I recommend this one by Maxus Nails. Maxus sent me a sample to try and I can tell you that it goes on clear and dries to a tacky, rubberized finish that grips polish tight. The applicator brush is very full which makes applying it a breeze.

    For nail health this base coat has tea tree oil which is a natural antiseptic and anti-fungal and silk amino acids which add strength and help your nail hold on to needed moisture. My nails are naturally dry and prone to peeling and after trying this out for a few weeks I’ve noticed less breakage. My nails feel stronger but haven’t lost their flexibility.

    It has extended the life of my polish and I can easily get four or more days before I have to worry about chipping. My one issue with Maxus Base Coat is that it seems like it would be perfect for reverse stamping nail art, but every time I try it the stamp just won’t stick.

  10. 10. Best for Strengthening: The Foundation Base Coat by Tenoverten

    Pros:
    • Five free
    • Strengthening
    • Ridge filler
    • Cruelty free
    • Botanicals like horsetail grass
    Cons:
    • Formula isn’t clear
    • Pricier than some
    • Not as long-lasting as some

    The Foundation is a strengthening base coat meant to treat weak, peeling, splitting, and soft nails.

    It’s five free so you don’t have to worry about damaging your nails with chemicals like DBP or formaldehyde.

    The Foundation contains horsetail extract to strengthen nails and is a cruelty-free lacquer. The creamy formula fills ridges and pits in your nails, supporting them and giving your polish a flat surface to bond to.

    The high polymer formula makes this base coat extra sticky to nail polish while drying fast and smooth. If you’re looking for a base coat and top coat combination, you can save a couple of dollars by picking up The Foundation and Tenoverten’s top coat, The Shield, together in the Tenoverten Nail Care System.

  11. 11. Most Specialized: Jessica Base Coats

    Pros:
    • Formulations match your nail problems
    • Options for healthy nails as well
    • Seven free
    • Easy open bottle
    • Supportive vitamins, herbs, oils, and proteins
    Cons:
    • Have to know which to pick
    • Pricier than some
    • Not an instant fix

    I love Jessica’s top coat Top Priority for how hard it dries, so I checked out their base coats and I was impressed at how specialized they are with options for damaged, dry, brittle, and healthy nails. 

    If you know what your nail issues are, you can pick a formulation that addresses your issue–which makes sense. If you have dry nails, adding calcium to them isn’t going to fix the problem the way it would help brittle nails. 

    Jessica Rejuvenation is their base coat for dry nails. Along with strengthening proteins, it contains jojoba oil, aloe vera, and vitamin E to replace lost moisture.

    Jessica Restoration (out of stock) is their base coat for damaged nails, which is particularly good for using after removing gel or acrylic nails. It helps your nails grow stronger with a regenerative complex including echinacea for healing.

    Jessica Reward (out of stock) is a base coat for maintaining healthy nails with a combination of the above including aloe vera for moisture, calcium for strength, and vitamins for healthy growth.

My number-one base coat nail polish tip to extend the life of your manicure.

Before applying your base coat, give your nails a quick wipe with rubbing alcohol to remove any lotions or natural oils that may be on your nails. These oils prevent your polish from properly adhering. It's a small thing, but it makes a huge difference.

Base coat vs top coat.

There are plenty of brands that claim to have a dual-purpose base and top coat but they serve two very different purposes.

The base adheres to your nail and provides a grippy surface for your polish to stick to. 

The top coat adheres to the lacquer and forms a smooth protective shell that's meant to be so smooth that anything that bangs into your nails slides right off. 

If you have a base that's slippery like a top coat, your polish won't stick. If your top coat is too rubberized, it won't hold up to the abuse your hands take. They're specialized and worth the small, extra expense to have both. 

What do base coats do anyway? 

Prevent staining. I have a favorite deep blue lacquer that stains my nails an awful light blue color whenever I wear it without a base coat so it looks like I'm in a constant state of hypothermia. They're a protective layer that keep lacquer pigments from discoloring your nail bed. Your nails take a long time to grow out, so if you don't want oddly colored nails for months, a base coat keeps your nails a healthy color.

Make your manicure last longer. I'm sure you've noticed that your fingernails aren't naturally sticky. (Thank goodness.) That's great for everyday life, but when you want something to adhere to your nails, having smooth nails puts us at a disadvantage.

It's like liquid double-sided tape. They anchor to your nails and create a surface that your lacquer can really grab hold of.

This (along with a great top coat) prevents chipping. Often they are also more flexible than most nail polish. They create a middle ground between bendy nails and rigid polish that keeps nail polish from flaking off when your nails flex while typing or opening a can.

Fill in nail ridges. A lot of us don't have completely smooth nails and that can be a problem. Genetics, diet, medications, and disease can all cause your nails to grow with ridges or dents in them.

My nails grow with horizontal ridges that are visible under nail polish and this kind of bumpy surface affects the strength and stability of dried nail polish. Buffing your nails can create a flat surface but for those with thin nails already, that can cause more problems than it fixes.

Ridge filling base coats have a thicker formula that pools in the low spots of your nail and dry to a flat, even nail surface so it's ready for the next coat of paint.

Help with nail stamping. A good sticky base coat is crucial for a clean stamp when you're doing reverse nail stamping. In reverse nail stamping, the image is dry and no longer sticky so you have to make your nail surface tacky to transfer your design. A base coat that dries sticky is ideal to prevent smudging. 

Okay, but what is the single best base coat of 2021?

There isn't one--it's all about the best base coat for you because it all depends on your nails and what sort of nail polish you like to rock. This is why I've included a range to cover a set of different needs.

If you have issues with breaking or peeling nails, a specialized base coat that doubles as a nail treatment is the way to go.

If you do a lot of nail stamping or other nail art, go for a sticky base coat that works well with decals, foils, and reverse stamping.

If you're too busy to do your nails often, prioritize long-lasting base coats. 

If you have stained nails, go for a color-balancing formula.

See Also:

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