The 17 Best Base Coats for DIY Polish

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While a base coat might seem like something you can skip when painting your nails at home, we spoke to a couple of experts who say it's a must. "The foundation of any manicure application, it creates a sticky layer for your nail lacquer to adhere to," explains nail artist Christine Doan of Gloss House.

Meet the Expert

Christine Doan, formerly a nuclear engineer, is a California-based nail artist, licensed cosmetologist, and the owner of Gloss House.

But that's not all. "A base coat provides a smooth canvas for a salon-worthy manicure from home," nail care expert Nadine Abramcyk tells Byrdie. "It also helps keep your polish durable and prevents it from peeling or chipping."

Meet the Expert

Nadine Abramcyk is a nail expert and co-founder of Tenoverten, a conscious nail care brand.

When shopping around, you'll find everything from adhesives and hardeners to ridge fillers and anti-yellowing formulas. In addition to helping your lacquer last longer, Abramcyk says, "The right one can work to repair, moisturize, and strengthen your nails."

Scroll down to check out the best base coats on the market.

Best Overall: Nails Inc. Nailkale Superfood Base Coat

Nails Inc. Nailkale Superfood Base

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Hardening

  • Nourishing

  • Prevents breakage

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

What do buyers say? 79% of 600+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars and above.

Our number one pick is NailKale from Nails Inc. As the name suggests, it contains kale—yep, the leafy green superfood—and keratin to strengthen brittle nails and prevent breakage.

The all-star formula also promises to harden, hydrate, and nourish your nail beds, leaving nails brighter and healthier-looking with a brilliantly glossy finish. Your nails will look so good that it's almost a shame this base coat will be covered up with regular lacquer.

Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: Sally Hansen Double Duty Base and Top Coat

Sally Hansen Double Duty Base and Top Coat
What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Dries quickly

  • Doubles as top coat

What We Don’t Like
  • Not long-lasting

If you're on a budget, go with this two-in-one formula from Sally Hansen. It doubles as a base coat and topcoat, smooths your nail beds, dries quickly, and provides a hardening effect.

Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore: Essie First Base Coat

essie first base coat

Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Primes nail beds

  • Long-lasting

  • Budget-friendly

What We Don’t Like
  • Consistency changes quickly

Essie's cheekily named First Base is our favorite drugstore option. The rubberized formula primes your nail beds, adheres to nail polish, and helps your DIY mani last as long as possible.

Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Splurge: Hermès Les Mains Hermès Enamel Base Coat

Hermès Les Mains Hermès Enamel Base Coat

Saks

What We Like
  • Primes nail beds

  • Long-lasting

  • Light-protected bottle

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

The price tag on this base coat is a bit high, but if you like the high-end stuff, you won't be disappointed. This vanity-worthy bottle is filled with a smoothing, protective formula that promises to extend the life of your manicure—and the translucent white finish is pretty on its own.

Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Translucent white | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Adhesive: Triple O Polish Sticky Base Coat

Triple O Polish Sticky Base Coat

Triple O Polish

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Prevents chipping

What We Don’t Like
  • Not fast-drying

This base coat has a sticky consistency—but that's the point. It's designed to adhere to your polish so that it grips your nail beds, and your manicure lasts longer without chipping.

Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Ridge Filler: Butter London Nail Foundation Priming Base Coat

Butter London Nail Foundation Priming Base Coat

Amazon

What We Like
  • Prevents discoloration

  • Expert-recommended

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

"Ridge fillers can help even out the texture of your nails," says Doan, who's partial to Butter London. "The brand is clean, which is especially good since the base coat is the closest to your nail beds."

Size: 0.4 ounces | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Nail-Hardener: Londontown Kur Nail Hardener & Base Coat

Londontown Kur Nail Hardener & Base Coat

Amazon

What We Like
  • Primes nail beds

  • Strengthening

  • Prevents chipping

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

We're also loving Londontown Kur. Formulated with weak, brittle nails in mind, this hardening base coat helps create a durable canvas that bonds to the lacquer, extends its wear time, and prevents breakage.

Size: 0.4 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Strengthening: Tenoverten The Foundation Base Coat

Tenoverten The Foundation Nail Strengthening Base Coat

Courtesy of Net-a-Porter

What We Like
  • Smooths ridges

  • Prevents cracks

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

"The Foundation is a great everyday base coat," says Abramcyk. "It's perfect for prolonging your polish and preventing cracks and ridges."

Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Nourishing: Deborah Lippmann All About that Base CC Base Coat

Deborah Lippmann All About That Base CC Base Coat

Courtesy of Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Color-correcting

  • Primes nail beds

  • Strengthening

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

When your nails crave nourishment, reach for Deborah Lippmann's All About That Base. This color-correcting formula conceals blemishes, then hydrates, strengthens, and primes your nail beds, so they're ready for polish.

Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Bonding: Orly Bonder Base Coat

Orly Bonder

 Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Prevents chipping

  • Dries tacky

What We Don't Like
  • Some reviewers note it yellowed their nails

Formulated with rubberized resin, this base coat bonds to your polish to give it the best shot at longevity. It dries a bit tacky, but this is what gives the nail lacquer something to hold on to.

Size: 0.6 ounces | Finish: Matte | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Anti-Yellowing: OPI Natural Nail Base Coat

OPI Natural Nail Base Coat

 Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Prevents discoloration

  • Protective

  • Long-lasting

What We Don’t Like
  • Brush sometimes pops out

To keep that dreaded yellow tint at bay, go with OPI. This base coat is designed to prevent highly pigmented colors from staining your nail beds while providing an adhesive foundation for your polish.

Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Chip-Resistant: Smith & Cult Basis of Everything Base Coat

Smith & Cult Base Coat

 Courtesy of Dermstore 

What We Like
  • Prevents peeling

  • Long-lasting

  • Chic packaging

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

This base coat is more than just a pretty bottle. The adhesive formula creates a smooth surface, clings to your nail polish, and works to prevent chipping, peeling, and cracking for a week or more.

Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Long-Lasting: Cirque Colors Get Ready Base Coat

Cirque Colors Get Ready Base Coat

Etsy

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Prevents chipping

What We Don’t Like
  • Not quick drying

If the goal is a longer-lasting manicure, Cirque's Get Ready Base Coat won't let you down. The anchoring formula bonds to lacquer so that it doesn't peel, crack, chip, or budge until you're ready to take it off.

Size: 0.4 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Brittle Nails: Habit Cosmetics Non-Toxic + Vegan Nail Polish Base

Habit Cosmetics Non-Toxic + Vegan Nail Polish Base

Safe & Chic

What We Like
  • Supports nail growth

  • Gel-like formula

  • Toluene- and formaldehyde-free

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

This base coat from the eco-friendly brand Habit Cosmetics contains strengthening myrrh extract to support healthy nail growth. The clear, glossy formula is also vegan, cruelty-free, and made without toluene, parabens, or formaldehyde.

Size: 0.3 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Damaged Nails: Côte Resurface and Repair Base Coat

Côte Resurface and Repair Base Coat

Côte

What We Like
  • Primes nail beds

  • Strengthening

  • Prevents breakage

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Damaged nails? Côte is your best bet. After smoothing your nail beds, this reparative base coat calls on calcium to strengthen, protect, and prevent future breakage.

Size: 0.4 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Breathable: Sundays B.01 Hydrating Base Coat

Sundays B.01 Hydrating Base Coat

Amazon

What We Like
  • Permeable

  • Long-lasting

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Breathable nail polish? Yeah, it's a thing. Sundays B.01 creates a permeable base, meaning air can pass through while adhering to the lacquer, so it lasts longer.

Size: 0.5 ounces | Finish: Glossy | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Brush: Dior Crème Abricot Base Coat

Dior Crème Abricot Base Coat

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Wide brush

  • Primes nail beds

  • Long-lasting

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

If you ask us, a good brush is just as important as the formula—but Dior Crème Abricot excels in both categories. Thanks to the wide bristles, one swipe of this smoothing, hardening base coat is all you need to prime your nail beds and create a smooth canvas for painting. The sheer peachy hue is pretty on its own, too.

Size: 0.3 ounces | Finish: Peachy sheer | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

The best base coat overall is Nails Inc. NailKale, a strengthening formula infused with kale and keratin that works to brighten and smooth your nail beds. However, if you're looking for something a little more affordable, you can't go wrong with Essie First Base, an adhesive base coat that bonds to polish and helps lacquer last as long as possible.

What to Look For When Buying a Base Coat

Ingredients

The main feature to look out for when buying a base coat is the nail-caring ingredients it contains. If you have weak, brittle, or peeling nails or are coming off of many gel polish manicures, look out for things like keratin, vitamin E, soy protein, calcium, bamboo, and castor oil. 

2-in-1 Formulas

For those who prefer a one-and-done nail product, be sure to reach for a dual top and base coat. These are formulated specifically to prep the nail and seal in a colored mani. 

What Are You Applying Afterward

Are you going in with a colored polish or hoping to keep the nail bare? This should guide your base coat product choice. If you’re keeping things bare, go for a milky, slightly opaque option to give the nail an even, healthy appearance.

FAQ
  • Why use a base coat with regular polish?

    According to Australian-based mobile manicure service Purely Polished, a base coat is an essential step in any DIY or professional normal polish manicure because it smoothes the nail, provides nourishment, and protects against staining. In some instances, base coats act as a primer, too, giving the polish something to hold on to.

  • Can you use a base coat as a top coat?

    Some base coats are designed to simply prime and nourish the nail, in which case, a separate long-wearing, high gloss topcoat should probably be used. But there are a lot of two-in-one formulas on the market that are ideal for both prepping the nail and sealing in color.

  • Can you use a base coat with dip powder?

    According to the team at Purely Polished, dip powder should be used in conjunction with the specific matching bonding agent. These are slightly different from regular base coats as they give the powder something to grip.

  • Do you need a base coat for gel polish?

    Similar to the above, gel polish should also be used with a specific gel base coat. If you apply a separate base coat to the bare nail, you risk your gel peeling or not adhering properly.

Why Trust Byrdie

Theresa Holland is a commerce beauty writer. She spoke to two experts for this story, including a nail artist and a nail care specialist, compiling their product recommendations and expertise on formulations. As a life-long DIY manicurist, she'd tried several of the base coats on this list, including OPI, Essie, Butter London, Orly, and Sally Hansen. Theresa writes about color cosmetics, skincare, and haircare at Byrdie.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Baswan S et al. Understanding the formidable nail barrier: A review of the nail microstructure, composition and diseases. Mycoses vol. 60,5 (2017): 284-295. doi:10.1111/myc.12592

  2. Cao, Bo et al. Seeing the Unseen of the Combination of Two Natural Resins, Frankincense and Myrrh: Changes in Chemical Constituents and Pharmacological Activities. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 24,17 3076. 24 Aug. 2019, doi:10.3390/molecules24173076

  3. Saeedi P, et al. Nail Properties and Bone Health: A Review. Journal of functional biomaterials vol. 9,2 31. 23 Apr. 2018, doi:10.3390/jfb9020031

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