Can You Use Clear Nail Polish as a Top Coat?

Can You Use Clear Nail Polish as a Top Coat

Can you use clear nail polish as a top coat? Nails have been used for centuries as a form of self-expression as well as a form of art. Depending on the season, occasion, or simply the way you feel, can determine your choice of color and design. While I can’t quite put my finger on it, there is something about a freshly painted set of nails that bestows confidence and authority into your life.

Manicures are adored so much so, you may recall seeing the world-renowned “Mani Cam” at the Emmy Awards. This gave celebrities the opportunity to show off their professionally designed manicures to the world and viewers couldn’t wait to see the creative pieces of artwork their nail techs came up with.

The Mani Cam came with its own red carpet so celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Zooey Deschanel, one of the Mani Cam’s biggest stars.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can probably relate to using clear nail polish instead of a topcoat. But does the use of one over the other really matter or make a difference?

Differences Between Top Coat and Clear Nail Polish

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat 45117 Clear, 0.45 Fl Ounce (Pack of 1)
Source: Amazon

If you are like me, you have more than likely used clear nail polish to add a little extra shine over your favorite nail polish instead of using an actual top coat and the differences are obvious.

In order to protect your freshly done manicure or a full set of acrylics, and to ensure their longevity, a top coat is a must! A top coat helps shield and protect your nail polish from chipping and scuffing, as well as protect them from the everyday natural elements such as dirt and dyes. While the clear nail polish is great for adding shine and an extra layer to the nail, when it comes to protecting the nail, it falls short of the assignment.

Yes, clear nail polish could possibly help with preserving the color of your nail polish by adding an additional barrier between your colored nail polish and all the outside hazards and chemicals, but chances are it will easily chip and peel with its first encounter of washing dishes. Once the clear nail polish is compromised, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the nail polish underneath follows.

Can You Put Top Coats Over Nail Polish Strips?

WOKOTO 20 Sheets Red Series Solid Color Full Nail Wraps with Nail File Self-Adhesive Nail Stickers Real Nail Polish Strips for Women Nails Art
Nail Strips |Source: Amazon

For a quick manicure, nail polish strips are a lifesaver. They don’t require much work or skill to apply and the finished results can appear professionally done. All you need to do is search for the design or color you want, apply a base coat, apply the nail polish strip, trim to size, and file.

Fortunately for the do-it-yourselfer, many of the nail strips are already lined with a top coat; however, if you find yours does not or if you want a little added shine, adding an additional top coat would do the job. In this case, using a clear nail polish would work as well. But remember nail polish strips are capable of chipping and scuffing; adding clear nail polish would simply be for a polished finish.

Can You Use Top Coat Alone?

OPI Nail Lacquer, Bubble Bath, Nude Nail Polish, 0.5 fl oz
Source: Amazon

No manicure is complete without polish! Here is where the clear nail polish comes into play. Because clear name polish is, well, nail polish without the pigment, it works great for someone who doesn’t necessarily want a colored manicure, but would rather stick to simple well-groomed nails. If you don’t have any color or design to seal in place, then there is no need for a top coat.

With that being said, top coat polish was strategically designed to adhere to nail polish, not the natural nail bed. Because some top coats can be a bit harsher on the nails, you don’t want to frequently use top coat alone on your bare nails.

A technique that could be used, if you would prefer to use a top coat on naked nails, is going in with a base coat first and then adding a thin layer of top coat on your nails. This protects your nail from the harsh chemical compounds that make up some top coats. We’ll talk a little more about base coat polish in a minute.

Can You Use Clear Nail Polish as a Top Coat on Acrylic Nails?

The answer to this question depends on whether you are using clear acrylic or colored acrylic. Using colored acrylics is great because it makes chipping and scuffing nonfactors, but remember breaks can still happen and can be painful a lot of the time.

Using a clear polish over colored acrylic nails will work. If at any time you find that your acrylics are dull and are no longer giving you a glossy polished look, you can simply add on a layer of clear nail polish to give your acrylics a little pick-me-up.

On the other hand, if you are using colored polish on top of your acrylics, the same manicure rules apply. You will need a top coat to protect the color and prevent chipping.

Can I Put a Top Coat Over Color Street?

Color Street "Tokyo Lights" Nail Polish Strips
Source: Amazon

Color Street is another form of nail polish strip. The company specializes in creating the appearance of a salon-quality manicure and offers a variety of color options, including ones with patterns. Some Color Street strips are glossier than others, but pretty much all nail sets perform best when sealed in with an extra topcoat.

Putting a regular top coat over Color Street specifically won’t affect the quality of the nail strip itself, so feel free to apply a thin coat and wait for it to dry.

Can You Put a Clear Coat Over Matte Nail Polish?

The classy matte nail is a staple for the fall season. It brings warm and fluffy vibes to almost any fall color. When a matte polisher is applied and dried, it leaves a satin finish. This is because the matte polish is made to absorb light instead of reflecting it like glossy polish.

Matte polishes are a separate category of topcoats, that when added to any polish, will leave that smooth satin finish to a manicure. Adding a clear coat on top will ruin the matte look.

Can You Put Gel Clear Coat Over Regular Polish?

Yes, you definitely can use a clear gel coat over your regular polish. Regular nail polish takes about 24 hours to fully cure on its own, while gel nail polish only needs about 30 to 60 seconds. Unlike acrylics, regular nail polish cannot be cured under a UV lamp, so to be safe, let your regular nails sit for 4 to 6 hours before applying the gel topcoat.

Applying the gel coat prematurely will make the regular nail polish shrink and wrinkle underneath. After waiting for the appropriate amount, apply a thin layer of gel polish, making sure to go over the edge of the nail to seal everything in. After, use the UV Lamp to cure.

It should be said that each brand of gel nail polish has its own recommended drying time under the lamp, so be sure to check. Once the nails are done, wipe off any sticky residue (a common, but minor problem for gel nails) with rubbing alcohol and you’re done!

Is Clear Nail Polish the Same as Base Coat?

AIMEILI Gel Nail Polish No Wipe Top and Base Coat Set, Shine Finish and Long Lasting, Soak Off Gel Nail Lacquer - 2 x 10ml
Source: Amazon

Remember when I previously told you we’d get more into base coats in a minute? Well, that minute is up!

Simply put, no, you do not want to use clear nail polish as a base coat, and here is why. A base coat is chemically engineered to assist your nail polish in adhering to your natural nails, as well as act as a barrier between your own nail and the nail polish, which can stain your natural nails, along with a few other things.

The advantages to using a base coat is that it includes moisturizers, vitamins and minerals, and conditioners that help the nails thrive in, what could be, harsh environments with the chemicals of nail polishes, gel polishes, and top coats.

Should You Put a Top Coat on Before Nail Polish?

After touching on base coats, the answer to this question is obvious. No, you should never put on your top coat before your nail polish. If anyone tells you any differently, they cannot be trusted! Our base coat works as an adhesive to our top coat while our top coat seals and protects our polish.

When it’s all said and done, a nice manicure can say so much about a person without saying anything at all. To achieve this, it is important to utilize base coats, nail polishes, and top coats as they were intentionally designed. While top coats are a bit more expensive than clear gel polish, it is never a good idea to use clear nail polish in the place of a top coat. Do yourself the favor and get it done right the first time.

By doing so you are prolonging the life cycle of your manicures and acrylics and overall will help you save money in the long run!

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