Base coats are like insurance for your manicure or pedicure: they aren't the most exciting part of the process, but they're sure to keep your nails looking better, longer. And they help protect your nail beds from discoloration, help nail polish adhere and resist chipping, and can even improve the health of your nails.
So if you're having a hard time making the most of your nail polish, a base coat might be just the thing you need. We've scoured the web to find the ten best base coats for whatever your specific nail care needs may be. Our favorite is the MAXUS Base Coat that both protects your nail beds from discoloration and prevents breakage. Read on for more base coat options and a buying guide, which was reviewed by a cosmetologist, to help you choose your own product!
Denise is a licensed cosmetologist who advises people on certain products they should get. She formally worked at Ulta and is now headed into a salon.
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
The expert oversees the Buying Guide only, and does not determine the products and services featured.
Table of Contents
It may not be immediately clear what kind of base coat product you need, especially if you've never used one before! To make sense of it all, we put together this buying guide to help make your decision easier.
If your nails need a little extra love, consider a formula that helps combat common nail problems. Base coats with strengthening formulas are created to repair weak and brittle nails, while protecting nails from further damage.
Nourishing base coats, often containing nutrient-rich oils, help promote nail and cuticle health. The specialized formulas condition your nails to be able to withstand more without breaking.
Some nail polish products have been tested on animals. And while many brands have become fully cruelty-free in recent years, however, all products that are sold in mainland China require some amount of animal testing. If that is an important issue to you, look for the Leaping Bunny certification symbol for cruelty-free products.
Certain nail polishes also include animal-derived ingredients. Common examples are carmine and guanine, but these are usually found in red and pink polishes and those with glitter or shimmer in them. If you prefer to use only vegan products, be sure to double-check the ingredients list!
You'll often see nail polish products marketed as 3-free, 5-free, 7-free, and so on. These labels let consumers know the number of common (potentially) harmful ingredients that are not in their products. The higher the number on the x-free label is, the fewer of these ingredients are in the formula. This is a great indicator for fans of clean beauty.
The most common ingredients that are included in these labels are dibutyl phthalate (DBT), toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, and parabens. Many consumers err on the side of caution and look for products without these ingredients.
Of those ingredients, DBT, toluene and formaldehyde are the top three that are avoided. DBT is a plasticizer that helps increase flexibility, but some studies have found that it can have a negative effect on the reproductive system.
Toluene is a solvent that's added to polishes to smooth the consistency, much like paint thinner. However, it has been reported to cause nausea and dizziness for some users.
Formaldehyde is often used in products that are marketed as hardeners and strengtheners, but has been known to cause irritation and allergic reactions in some individuals. For these reasons, you may want to stay clear of these ingredients!
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Prevents Discoloration and Strengthens Nails
Crystal Clear Base Coat
A Tried-and-True Fan Favorite
Bonder Rubberized Base Coat
A Base Coat for Strong, Flexible Nails
Natural Nail Base Coat
A Favorite Among Professionals
Nail Foundation Priming Basecoat
The Base Coat That Does it All
Ultimate Shield Base & Top Coat
A Base Coat and Top Coat in One Bottle
Ridge-Filler Base Coat
Fills Ridges for a Smooth and Silky Manicure
Quick Dry Base Coat
A Base Coat for Manicurists on the Go
First Base Adhesion + Protection
Protect Nail Beds and Bonds With Polish
For weak and damaged nails, this is the best base coat to get them back into tip-top shape. The MAXUS strengthening base coat not only protects nail beds against discoloration, but it also helps restore nails back to their natural beauty.
Users love that they're able to achieve salon-quality results at home. Some warned, however, that if you apply more than one layer of this base coat, it tends to peel.
As an 11-free product, this base coat is free from many ingredients believed to be harmful by clean beauty enthusiasts. The formula also includes tea tree oil that acts as a natural anti-fungal and antiseptic, making it a great product for pedicures.
Seche products are cult favorites among both professionals and nail art hobbyists, and their base coat is no exception! The award-winning formula is suitable for all nail color applications including gel and acrylic manicures.
Drying down to a hard, protective layer for your nails within seconds, it also speeds up the time in which subsequent polish dries.
Users love how quick and easy it is to use this product. They also mention that it works best with Seche top coat polishes as the products bond with the color in between.
One of the best ways to keep your nails from breaking and chipping is to increase your nails' flexibility. This ORLY base coat is made with a rubberized bonding agent to help strengthen nails and assist in adhesion for nail polish.
Users are wowed by just how long their manicures lasted with this base coat. They even reported that they no longer need to use a top coat to prevent their nail polish from chipping!
Some say that the finish is a bit tacky to the touch, but that it really helps grab onto the polish. The formula is also quick to dry and you get more product than most other base coats at 0.6 fluid ounces per bottle.
OPI is a highly reputable nail care brand and is very commonly spotted in salons. This base coat enjoys some of the highest ratings on Amazon.
Specially formulated to prevent staining, strengthen nails, and prolong nail polish wear, this base coat is revered for its salon-quality performance.
Reviewers advise that you make sure to coat the tip of your nail as well as the bed to avoid any peeling. When used correctly and consistently, they report that their nail color is easier to apply and they're able to wear it longer.
Tackle more than one issue with this multi-tasking base coat: fill ridges, prevent staining, and strengthen your nails all at once. Hydrolyzed silk, horsetail extract, and a blend of vitamins condition the nails for the perfect canvas to your color.
It is also an 8-free product, meaning that it does not contain formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, DBP (dibutyl phthalate), toluene, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, or TPHP.
This base coat from butter LONDON is praised by users for how long their nail polish lasts with this base coat. Reviewers say that their manicures last over 7 days and their nails feel stronger and more nourished.
For those with limited space in their medicine cabinet or who prefer multi-tasking products, the Ultimate Shield from Sally Hansen is sure to impress. Doubling as both a base coat and top coat, this product protects your nails and your nail color.
Users like that they can consolidate their nail care with this two-in-one product, and the fact that it dries within a minute makes it an even more practical choice.
Some have reported peeling after extensive water exposure or after several days of wear. Most reviewers, however, seem to be happy with this affordable drug store product.
Many of us have ridges and dents that naturally form on our nails that can sometimes make it difficult to apply nail polish. Instead of trying to constantly buff those imperfections away, use a ridge-filling base coat like this one from ella+mila for a smoother manicure experience.
Fans of this base coat say that the product is easy to use, spreads evenly on the nails without being too thin or too thick, and keep their polish looking better, longer.
They also love that the product is free from many potentially toxic ingredients found in other base coats and that the brand is fully vegan and cruelty-free.
If you don't have a lot of extra time in your day to dedicate to painting your nails, this is the base coat for you. Prime your nails in less time and keep your nails looking healthy for longer.
Users say that they love that the base coat provides just the right amount of coverage of imperfections for a smooth and color-ready canvas. While some wish that it dried faster, overall reviewers are happy with how quick and easy this product is to use.
Essie's philosophy is that one size does not fit all when it comes to nail care. This product was specifically designed to help polish bonds to nails for longer-lasting color wear. So, if you've been looking for a base coat to give your colorful manicure longer life, look no further!
Reviewers say that while their polish usually lasts a day or two before it starts to chip, with this base coat they were able to go at least a week before seeing any chipping. They also love that it prevents their nail beds from yellowing when using more vibrant nail polish colors.
You need more than just a base coat for a flawless manicure. Add some of these recommended products to your nail care arsenal, and you'll have the look of a professional mani in no time!
Want to see more options for nail polish base coats? Check out the favorite choices of Amazon shoppers.
No. 1: MAXUS｜Base Coat
No. 2: Seche｜Crystal Clear Base Coat
No. 3: ORLY｜Bonder Rubberized Base Coat
No. 4: OPI｜Natural Nail Base Coat
No. 5: butter LONDON｜Nail Foundation Priming Basecoat
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