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11 Best Gel Top Coat Brands: Your Easy Buying Guide

gel top coat

123rf.com (Tatiana Chekryzhova)

The best gel top coat is your manicure’s armor that makes your lacquer last for weeks instead of days. Whether you go with a traditional top coat or a no wipe gel top coat, it will protect your color from fading and add that bright high gloss shine gel polish is known for.

To ensure a long-lasting manicure, start with a strong foundation by using one of the best gel base coats.

What Are the Best Gel Top Coats?

Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Top pick
  • Salon quality
  • Easy to work with
Price: $13.69 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Kiara Sky top coat bottle Amazon Customer Reviews
  • No wipe for nail art and chrome powders
  • Professional brand
  • Easy to apply
Price: $14.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Bottle of Gelish Top it Off Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Trusted brand with lots of kit options
  • Durable
  • Easy to apply
Price: $14.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Gel top coat bottle from LONDONTOWN lakur Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Luxe brand
  • Color-protection
  • Solvent-free
Price: $12.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Xtreme top coat in box Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Very glossy
  • Easier to remove than others
  • Long-lasting
Price: $17.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Three Beetles nail polish bottles Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Affordable
  • Comes with glossy, matte, and base
  • Can personally recommend
Price: $7.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
DND base and top coat duo Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Intensely glossy
  • Includes base coat
  • Afforable
Price: $12.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Black open bottle of top coat Amazon Customer Reviews
  • No wipe top coat
  • Great for nail art and powders
  • Affordable
Price: $7.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Mia Secret top coat bottle Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Trusted brand
  • Full-size bottle
  • High glossy finish
Price: $12.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Top and base coat Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Includes base coat
  • High shine
  • Good for nail art and powders
Price: $7.29 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Longest lasting
  • Plump and glossy
  • Salon quality
Price: $15.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. EDITOR’S CHOICE: 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 your polish is protected for over two weeks. It’s self-leveling and cures very smooth and hard as a rock.

  2. 2. Non-Wipe Top Coat by Kiara Sky

    • No tacky layer
    • Perfect for pigment powders
    • Professional brand
    • Nice formula
    • Full-size bottle
    • Takes longer to cure
    • Strong odor
    • Thicker than some

    If you want to skip scrubbing off that sticky inhibition layer, go for a professional no wipe top coat like Kiara Sky. 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.

    The formula is slightly thicker than average making it easy to work with and fewer worries about flooding your cuticles before it can cure. The brand is trusted by professionals so you can feel good about how long it will last. The one issue is that it takes longer to cure than some so whatever the bottle tells you, add 15 or 20 seconds–that way you’re not ending up with an under-cured top coat and rubbery nails.

  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’s Top It Off 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. LONDONTOWN Gel Color Lock Top Coat

    • Long-lasting
    • Prevents yellowing or dulling
    • No harsh chemical fumes
    • Great brush shape
    • Best with other LONDONTOWN products
    • Can be harder to find
    • Longer cure times

    If you’re sensitive to polish fumes, go with LONDONTOWN’s Color Lock Top Coat. They have removed solvents from their formula altogether and those are the chemicals responsible for the horrible off-gassing smell.

    LONDONTOWN is consistently one of my favorite polish brands and I’m a dedicated user of their nail care products as well as their skincare. 

    Their Color Lock Top Coat is formulated to protect your polish colors from yellowing over time and it’s a good sign when a brand is worried about yellowing because it means that your polish is going to stay on your fingers long enough to yellow. 

    It’s on the thicker side allowing for great control and self-levels well.

  5. 5. 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

    Shine Xtreme 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. 

  6. 6. Beetles 3-Piece Set: No-Wipe, Matte & Base Coat

    • Affordable option
    • Good shine
    • Comes with glossy top coat, matte top coat, and base
    • Long lasting for a cheaper brand
    • Smaller bottles
    • Not as long lasting as professional brands
    • Might not want base or matte
    • Thinner and can flood cuticles

    For those looking for a cheaper option that still gives you weeks of wear, check out Beetles. I recently bought this Three-Piece Set of half-size bottles to test out for myself and found it lasts much longer than some of the other brands I’ve used in the past. I like that you get the glossy top coat as well as a base coat and matte top coat for this price. 

    Because it’s so affordable, this is my go-to brand for creating a gelly-sandwich where the base and top coat are gel polish and the polish layer isn’t a UV gel. (Keep in mind a non-UV polish needs to dry for 24 hours before applying a gel top coat or it will warp.)

    The formula is on the thinner side so if you hate manipulating thick gels, this might be a good choice for you. I have had some flooding but it’s been easy enough to manage by flash curing each nail for 15 seconds after I apply the top coat and then curing the entire hand. 

  7. 7. 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.

  8. 8. 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

    One Dor 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.

  9. 9. Glass Finish UV Top Coat by Mia Secret

    • Glossy as polished glass
    • Full-size bottle
    • Salon-grade
    • Trusted professional brand
    • Good for over gel and enhancements
    • Applicator brush isn't the best
    • Doesn't stay shiny as long as others
    • Not as long lasting as some

    If achieving that high gel shine is one of your priorities, check out Glass Finish by Mia Secret. It goes on with a glossy finish like glass and brings all the attention to your nails. It’s great for nail polish and nail art that needs that high shine like chrome powders and holographic nail polish

    It’s formulated to work over gel polish, as a strengthened for natural nails, and a sealing coat for nail extensions and enhancements like acrylic and nail builder gel.

    This top coat is a great choice for people who want to show off their new look, get some good photos for social media, and then change up their look a little later. It isn’t the longest-lasting top coat on the list and the shine does seem to dull after a week or so. 

  10. 10. Top & Base Coat Set by Modelones

    • Comes with top and base coat
    • Comes in gift box
    • Long-lasting
    • Hard to locate
    • Expensive
    • Formula is a little thin for some

    Modelone’s top and base coat have decent longevity and a high glossy shine. This is a thick formula that’s great to use if you’re trying to DIY your own blooming gel.

    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.

    I got to test out a media sample of these products and while they don’t last as long as some others, they’re nice and easy to work with and the shine is stunning.

  11. 11. 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.

    Keep in mind that CND is a professional product and you may need a professional account for most sellers. 

How Does Gel Nail Polish 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 a hairspray.

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

For those worried about a product that requires exposure to UV light, the FDA views nail lamps as low risk even at daily 30-minute exposures and a set of nails doesn't even come close to that. 

Do I Actually 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: to stick to your base and be a pretty color. That's all does.

Top coats have one job: to make everything else look great for as long as possible by protecting your polish from the elements. Those are two very different objectives.

You also need them with working with other UV products that don't have a top or base option, like solid cream gel nail polish.

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.

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. (What the Gel Nails can help with that) to ensure you have a long-lasting mani.