Does Gel Polish Need A Top Coat?

Gel nail polish is thick and looks stunning, but a gel manicure is a whole system that includes various products like base coat and top coat. Many people find the process tedious, and while they won’t leave out the base coat to ensure nail protection, they tend to skip the top coat, thinking it is unnecessary.

So, does gel polish need a top coat? Here is the answer:

It is required to apply a top coat to gel polish. The top coat seals the manicure, helps the gel polish last longer, prevents chipping, provides a sheen gloss, and speeds up the drying process. Without a top coat, your gel polish can peel, flake, scratch, and chip faster.

There are many benefits to using a top coat in a gel manicure, but the product is also essential in gel polish. Below, we’ll discuss how top coat benefits your gel manicure, why it is effective, and if there are any alternatives to the product.

painting top coat of gel polish before curing

Why Does Gel Polish Need A Top Coat?

The primary reason nail techs find people want to leave out the top coat is because they think it is only meant for shine and gloss. Contrary to this belief, the top is much more essential than that. Here are all the benefits of using a top coat for gel polish:

Top Coat Speeds Up The Drying Process

Using a top coat over your gel polish can speed up drying. Many product bottles won’t mention that you can apply a top coat over a polish that is not entirely dry. The top coat dries faster on the surface, allowing you to continue using your hands without damaging your nail polish.

A top coat should only be applied once the gel polish has been cured, but using a top coat helps your drying process, so you don’t have to wait for extended periods before you leave the salon or use your hands for anything,

Top Coat Seals The Manicure

Applying a top coat over your gel polish helps to seal the manicure. Without a top coat, your gel polish can come off by peeling more easily and quickly. Using a top coat also seals any glitter or nail art applied to the gel polish. It unifies the manicure and keeps everything in place, so there are no bumps or uneven edges, and none of the nail art will fall out.

Top Coat Provides A Glossy Finish

Does Gel Polish Need A Top Coat?

As I’ve mentioned, a shiny, glossy finish is not the only benefit of using a top coat, but it definitely should not be undermined. Some gel polishes and matt colors leave your manicure looking dry, dull, lifeless, and sometimes unprofessionally done. Without a top coat, your gel polish can look like the manicure is incomplete.

A top coat over your gel polish will give your nails a sheer, smooth finish and give life to your final result.

Top Coat Prevents Chipping, Scratches, And Flaking

Another important reason for top coat is to reduce and prevent damage to the polish, including chipping and peeling. Since the top coat seals your gel polish, your manicure is less likely to chip and flake. If your nail rubs against something, the polish may get scratched or dented, whereas, with a top coat, that won’t happen so easily.

It is not to say that the top coat prevents these issues entirely, but it does reduce the chances of it happening as fast as it would without the top coat. A good quality top coat is also necessary, and application by a professional is always recommended.

Top Coat Prevents UV, Water, And Detergent Damage

An underrated and lesser-known benefit of top coat is that it protects your manicure from UV, water, and detergent damage. The damage is not inevitable; applying a top coat creates a seal for your nails and the color polish. Any UV rays, water, or products that may alter the color of your polish, dry out your manicure, or cause peeling, flaking, and lifting will be reduced with a top coat.

Everything in the environment shortens the lifespan of your manicure. Other than your nails actually growing, sunlight, water, shampoos, lotions, food, etc., can all negatively affect your manicure. The top coat shields your manicure against these effects and gives you longer-lasting results.

does gel polish need a top coat

Why Is Top Coat Effective?

So, I have established that the top coat is essential to your gel polish and has a pool of benefits to help your manicure last as long as possible without damage. The question is, what about the top makes it so effective, and how does it work?

You may think adding another layer to your gel polish will only make your nail polish heavier and make your nails feel heavier. That might be slightly true, but it comes with positive results.

Top coats contain a blend of solvents that make up around 20-30% of the product. Most of the solvents evaporate quickly once exposed to air. Once you apply a top coat to your manicure, the solvents start evaporating. That leaves behind other ingredients that become concentrated, which include polymers that harden.

Polymers in top coats harden within a relatively short time into a smooth film. Combining these processes helps top coats dry faster and create a shield and protective layer over your gel polish manicure.

The other effective benefit that comes with top coats is shine. That comes from the Nitrocellulose ingredient to create a high-gloss finish. Some top coats include more than one cellulose-based chemical to ensure it gives the correct sheen.

Can You Use Clear Nail Polish As Top Coat?

You will often find people who do their own gel manicures and try to save on money, and products use clear nail polish as a top coat instead of an actual top coat product. Some people, including some nail techs, find that highly effective, and without denying that it can be done, it is not recommended.

Nail polish and top coats don’t have all the same ingredients and are not meant to do the same work as a manicure. Clear nail polish may offer a shine and protective layer for your gel polish, but it will not create a long-lasting manicure or prevent damage as well as the top coat does.

Clear polish is meant to be applied as nail polish itself. You can even use a top coat over clear polish for better results. But the top coat is specifically designed to go over various types of nail polish to seal and protect the nail polish and speed up the drying process.

Applying clear nail polish over gel polish will create a thicker layer of polish, with the possibility of faster chipping, peeling, and lifting of your manicure. It is best to stick to products that are specific to their designated work.


The top coat is vital for gel polish and helps seal your polish and give you a longer-lasting, damage-free manicure. It also saves you money because you will need to change or fix your gel nails less if there is a top coat to protect them.

I hope you have found this article helpful, and thank you for reading until the end!