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7 Best Gel Base Coats: Your Buyer’s Guide

gel base coats

123RF.com (pashapixel)

If you’re doing gel nails but you’re still having lifting issues, you may need to take a second look at your choice of gel base coats. Your base is the foundation of a manicure and if it’s not top-notch, you can’t expect top-notch results.

This list is specifically for gel base which needs a UV lamp to cure. If you’re using standard, air-drying polish then you’re looking for the best nail polish base coat.

What Are the Best Gel Top Coats?

in.Hype base polish bottle Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Professional-grade
  • 12 formula options
  • Supports natural nails
Price: $14.50 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
white bottle and box for LECHAT base coat Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Long-lasting formula
  • Ultra-thin wear
  • Affordable
Price: $12.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Black bottle of Didier Lab fiberglass base coat Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Fiberglass provides nail strength
  • Vitamin-infused
  • Repairs broken nails
Price: $12.90 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
two bottles of Beetles gel polish Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Affordable
  • Two full-size bottles
  • Low smell
Price: $7.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Gelish bottle of foundation base coat with purple text Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Trusted brand
  • Long-lasting
  • Great formula
Price: $17.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Kiara Sky base coat bottle with white cap and black label Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Salon brand
  • Works great with other brands
  • Good value for mone
Price: $15.50 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
red nail polish bottle Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Rubberized base
  • No bad smell
  • Cult following
Price: $16.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. EDITOR’S CHOICE: in.Hype Gel Base Series (12 Types)

    • Rubberized
    • Affordable
    • Soak off
    • Tinted and shimmer options
    • Too thick for some
    • Some have reported shrinkage
    • Not all bases work for everything

    While most brands offer one or maybe two base options, the in.Hype Base Coat Series offers 12 different formulas so you can pick one that best suits your nails or needs. I’m featuring their Crystal Clear Elastic Rubberized Base which is designed to be thick enough to give support to brittle nails but also stretch and move with them to prevent further breakage. According to Healthline, brittle nails can be caused by various things, including hypothyroidism, iron deficiency, or repeated exposure to drying soaps or detergents. 

    If your nails need more support than that, there’s the in.Hype Strong Base. It’s extra thick and strong to provide the rigidity you need to protect your nails from breaking. Because it’s thicker, you’ll want to wait three seconds before curing so you can give the base a moment to self-level. Keep in mind that because this base is a low-acid formula, you’ll want to use a proper nail prep product to ensure good bonding. 

    in.Hype also offers a wide range of tinted base coats that can cover up stained or disclosed nails and provide a more desirable, even-toned canvas for your gel polish. Or they can be worn alone with only a top coat for a nice thin mani that adds strength to your nails. 

    You can find these across the color spectrum from Chiffon’s subtle peach to a bolder Iris purple and even bolder Golden Sands with a shimmering glitter finish.

  2. 2. LECHAT Perfect Match Gel Ultra Thin Base

    • Salon-grade
    • Full-size bottle
    • American brand
    • Not in a pair
    • Best with other LECHAT polish
    • Some found it to be too thick

    One thing that could use improvement with a gel manicure is that it can feel thick on your nails. LECHAT tackles this problem with their Perfect Match Ultra Thin Base Gel

    For gel polish application, more thin layers are always better than fewer thicker layers. As Makeup Restart explains, your nail lamp won’t be able to fully penetrate a cure a very thick layer so it’s always best to use thin layers.

    But you may be hesitant to apply a skimpy thin layer of the base that’s supposed to provide strength to your manicure. This Perfect Match Base can hold up over time even when applied extra thin which I really appreciate when my polish color needs at least two coats and I’m guilty of loving a very thick glossy top coat because nothing shines like gel. 

    If you want that plumpness with the lamp, they also make gel-like nail polish options.

  3. 3. Octagon Fiber Base by Didier Lab

    • Fiberglass structure
    • Available in several colors
    • Vitamin E and calcium for nail health
    • Not a full-sized bottle
    • May not want a fiberglass base
    • Long cure times

    As someone with softer nails, I appreciate the added strength that a gel manicure provides. Now imagine the strength of gel combined with a meshwork of fiberglass for even more support. That’s Didier Lab’s Fiber Base Octagon

    This base is packed with tiny, invisible fiberglass particles that tangle together and when cured, lock into place for an extra strong foundation. They make boats out of fiberglass. This stuff is strong. You may also have seen fiberglass nail extension kits where strips of fiberglass become the length of the nail. This adds similar strength to your natural but in an easier application method. 

    This is an ideal choice for people with soft nails or people with long natural nails who are dealing with a break. Fiber Base is strong enough to apply to your broken nail pieces and hold them in place, good as new.

    Didier Lab has a wide range in their Fiber Base including the original Fiber Base Strong which is clear. I’m featuring the Octagon version which has added Vitamin E and calcium to promote nail health. They also have the base in half a dozen colors if you want to wear it along for strength. (Still probably want a matching Didier Lab top coat on this though.) 

    There are some things to keep in mind, however. Being thicker and having fiberglass in the formula, you want to cure this for longer than you’re used to. Nothing drastic, but give them a good minute under an LED nail lamp to ensure it’s properly cured. And also, don’t be surprised by the size. This is a half-size bottle at 8 milliliters, which isn’t awesome for the price, but remember that you’re not just getting another typical base coat. This is a step up and it’s worth it.  

  4. 4. Beetles Base & Top Coat Set

    • Long-lasting
    • Can personally vouch for this base
    • Great formula
    • Grippy texture
    • May be a little thin for some
    • Not the longest lasting on the list
    • In a set with top coat

    When I do my gel nails at home, I use Beetles, including the Beetles Gel Base. I’ve tried a lot of brands but I always tend to go back to Beetles. I love that their products are affordable but don’t wear like their cheap so they’ve worked out how to get quality and price in great balance. 

    Once cured, the base has a fantastic grippy quality to it that feels like rubber. Their base coat formula looks a little thick on the brush but that’s deceiving. It actually spreads and levels quite well for a nice, thin coat. Some people used to really thick gels might find it moves around a little too much for them, but I haven’t had cuticle flooding issues and I have a pretty shaky hand when it comes to polish.

    This is a set of their base and top coat, both in full-size 15-milliliter bottles. I haven’t been able to find the gel base coat all on its own, but for the price, I wouldn’t stress and their top coat is great too. (I prefer their matte top coat, personally.) And you can get a 23-piece set with 20 mini colors and base, glossy top, and matte top coat for the price of one base coat from the pricier brands. 

    I’ve bought sets from Beetles with my own money and I have received media samples for testing with no promise of a review. I am hard on my nails. I garden. I forget to wear gloves when I do dishes. I type all day.  When I wear gel nails, I do not expect them to last me very long but I’ve had surprisingly good results from Beetles and those manicures tend to last as long as top-tier brands.

  5. 5. Gelish Basix Foundation

    • Salon-grade
    • Thick but workable
    • Durable
    • Pricier than some
    • Harder to find not in a set
    • Not a full-size bottle

    Gelish is one of the most trusted names in the nail game so I’m sure you’re not surprised to find Gelish Basix Foundation on this list. When paired with the rest of the Gelish Basix products (especially their pH Bonder nail prep) you can get a seriously long life out of your manicure. There’s a reason that you’ll often find Gelish products in a salon setting. They’re professional-level good.

    The price of that sort of quality is, well, the price and availability. It can be hard to locate this product as not part of a set. This is a full-size bottle price for a mini-sized bottle of base coat. With this listing, you only get a nine-milliliter bottle compared to a standard 15-milliliter bottle. 

    I recommend buying the Gelish Basix Kit that includes Foundation, pH Bonder, and Top It Off. All three bottles are full-size and you end up sizing a ton of money.

  6. 6. Kiara Sky Soak Off Gel Polish Base

    • Long-lasting
    • Full-size bottle
    • Great sticky finish
    • Good application
    • Too thin for some
    • Matching top coat isn't the best
    • Some users report lifting

    It might sound strange to say a polish is sticky like it’s a good thing, but that’s the case with the Kiara Sky Gel Polish Base. It cures with lots of tackiness to it which allows your color layer to really adhere to your base coat. 

    Kiara Sky is a well-known and salon-trusted brand for dip powder and acrylic but their gel line is nothing to sneeze at either. This base lays a thin, comfortable foundation for a long-lasting mani as long as you’ve properly prepped your nail. 

    It plays well with others, meaning other brands of polish and top coat work with the base with no issues which is good. (I’ve heard that their Kiara top coat can get a little dull over time.)

    This listing is for a full-size bottle of base and for the money, it’s pretty affordable as far as high-quality base coats go.

  7. 7. koki Professional Rubber Base Gel

    • Great for brittle nails
    • Non-toxic
    • Available as bundle or alone
    • Pricier than others
    • Not quite full-size
    • Too thick for some

    This kodi Rubber Base Gel is known for its resiliency and ability to add strength to brittle nails. Rubber bases are more flexible than rigid bases and all your nails to bend with pressure instead of breaking. This is a good choice for people with brittle or thin nails who have a hard time growing out their natural nails. 

    The base will add strength as well as height because this is quite a thick gel. Some people find the formula a little too thick for them but I like that it stays where you put it and won’t flood your cuticles, ruining all your prep work.

    It works best when paired with other kodi products but it performs well when used with other brands too. I like that you can buy it on its own and that you can also pick it up as a set with the matching non-wipe top coat.

    This is a 12-milliliter bottle, which is slightly smaller than the standard 15-milliliter bottles but not small enough to be considered mini.

What If My Gel Polish Is Still Lifting?

If your products are on point, troubleshoot your process. 

Are you using a cuticle remover and the proper tools to remove lingering skin from your nail so your base coat has a chance at a good seal to start with?

Are you lightly buffing the shine from your natural nails and then giving them a wipe down with rubbing alcohol or using a nail prep product before applying your base?

Are you leaving a border so no polish is touching skin?

Are you careful not to touch your nail surface between coats?

Are you capping your tips? (Applying a thin line of polish to the free edge of your nails.)

Are you applying a second layer of top coat after the third or fourth day of your mani? (Wipe with alcohol first.)

Are you rushing your curing times?

Are Gel Base and Top Coats the Same?

Nope. Just like standard air-dry polish, top and base coats serve very different purposes. 

A base coat's job is to grip the bare nail surface underneath it and create a grippy surface for polish to hold onto. 

A top coat's job is to grab hold of the polish layer beneath it and create a smooth, inpenetrable surface that will protect the polish from the elements and normal abuse we put our nails through. (Some more than others, I'm looking at you, me.) 

You don't want anything to grip onto a top coat. That's why they have that smooth as glass feeling, so that anything that bumps into it slides off and no substances can seep through it. 

Matte top coats are another story, but there's a reason that matte polish doesn't last as long as glossy polish--the non-smooth surface isn't as protective.

So can you use a gel base as a top coat and vice versa? Technically, the police won't come banging down your door, but don't expect your manicure to last very long either. 

Is Your Gel Base Coat Supposed to be Sticky After Curing?

Yes, now stop touching it! A base coat should be like double-sided tape for your polish to hang onto. The presence of any oils, like the natural ones found on your fingertips, can interfere with the polish's adherence powers. So no more touching. 

Is Gel Base Coat Necessary?

Again, no one is going to charge you with federal crimes if you skip a base,  but your mani won't last as long without one and your polish is much more likely to stain your nails without the base coat's protective barrier.

Is Gel Base the Same as Dip Base?

No. You can use it for dip nails but you can't just substitute base coat for dip base without any other changes. The process is entirely different.

To use base coat as a dip base, apply and cure one coat of base coat. Apply a second coat of base and then pour your dip powder over the nail. A gel base has a very different formula compared to dip base so if you were to physically dip your nails into the powder, it would get all squished and distorted from the pressure. 

Another difference in this process is that you'll need to cure with a lamp instead of using a dip activator liquid. Repeat the process until you're happy with the opacity and then apply and cure a glossy gel top coat.

Check out this YouTube tutorial for more information.

Can Gel Base be Used as Nail Glue?

Another technically yes. It will not have the same sort of staying power as nail glue but it will get the job done--at least in the short term.

Keep in mind that it still has to cure, so you can use base coats to attach clear nail tips but not opaque ones.