A close-up shot of a hand delicately applying a base coat to a set of acrylic nails, capturing the precision and care required for a flawless finish.

Do You Need A Base Coat For Acrylic Nails?

When getting acrylic nails, you may wonder if using a base coat is necessary or just an optional extra step. With so many products and steps involved in a professional acrylic manicure, figuring out the basics can be confusing.

If you’re short on time, the quick answer is: yes, a base coat is highly recommended for acrylic nails to help them last longer and protect your natural nails.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at the importance of base coats for acrylics. We’ll overview the benefits of using one, the different types available, application tips, how to care for acrylics properly between salon visits, and finish with a quick recap on why a base coat really is an essential primer before acrylic application.

What Does a Base Coat Do?

Protects the Nail Plate

Applying a base coat is crucial for protecting the natural nail plate underneath acrylic or gel polish. The nail plate is made up of delicate keratin layers that can be damaged when repeatedly exposed to the adhesion and removal process of nail enhancements.

Using a base coat creates a protective barrier between the natural nail and the artificial polish. This helps prevent peeling, splitting, brittle nails, and other types of mechanical damage. According to industry experts, a good base coat can reduce the risk of nail plate injuries by up to 70%!

So don’t skip this important first step.

Allows Acrylics to Adhere Better

A quality base coat is formulated to help nail extensions and polish adhere properly to the natural nail. The base coat works like a “primer” by allowing products to bond to the nail plate surface better.

This gives a strong foundation for building acrylics, gels, or polish that will be less likely to lift, crack, or fall off prematurely. Using a base coat helps the polish last longer, which saves time and money.

According to Sally Beauty’s latest industry report, a good base coat can increase the wear time of polish by over 30% compared to going without one.

Reduces Staining and Discoloration

There are ingredients in some polishes, gels, and acrylics that can cause staining or discoloration of the natural nails over time with repeated use. A base coat provides a protective layer that blocks those pigments from penetrating into the nail plate.

This keeps nails looking clean, healthy, and free of yellowing or dark spots. Some base coats even contain whitening properties to actively brighten the nails. For example, OPI’s Natural Nail Base Coat is infused with vitamin E and camellia oil to hydrate and nourish nails while blocking stubborn stains.

Keeping nails stain-free and brightly white is especially important before special occasions like weddings.

Different Types of Base Coats for Acrylics

Bonding Base Coats

Bonding base coats are formulated to help acrylic nails adhere properly to the natural nail. They work by roughing up the surface of the natural nail so the acrylic product can grab on tightly. Using a bonding base is crucial for getting acrylic nails to last.

Some popular bonding base coat options include Young Nails Protein Bond, Cuccio Nail Veneer Base Coat, and OPI Natural Nail Base Coat.

Ridge-Filling Base Coats

Ridge-filling base coats are designed to smooth out any ridges or grooves in the natural nail prior to acrylic application. This allows the acrylic to go on smoothly and evenly. Some top choices for ridge-filling base coats are Young Nails Ridge Filler, Mia Secret Cover Pink Acrylic Base, and Cuccio Pro Base Coat.

Using a ridge-filling base is especially important if you have a lot of ridges and grooves in your nails.

pH-Balancing Base Coats

Acrylic nails require an alkaline environment to properly bond and cure. pH-balancing base coats help prepare the nail bed by making it more alkaline prior to acrylic application. Some acrylic base coats that help balance pH include:

  • Young Nails pH Bonder
  • Cuccio Pro Base Coat
  • OPI Natural Nail Base Coat

Using one of these before acrylics can help the product adhere better and last longer.

Non-Acidic Base Coats

Some base coats are non-acidic, meaning they don’t contain methacrylic acid which is found in many nail bonding products. Non-acidic base coats are gentler on natural nails. Some options include:

  • OPI Natural Nail Base Coat
  • Essie First Base Base Coat
  • Orly Bonder Rubberized Basecoat

These create a protective layer between the nail and acrylics without using harsh acids. They allow acrylics to adhere without damaging nails over time.

Base Coat Types Benefits
Bonding Improves acrylic adhesion
Ridge-filling Smooths out uneven nails
pH-balancing Prepares nail for acrylic curing
Non-acidic Gentle on natural nails

As you can see, there are several types of base coats specially formulated for use with acrylic nails. Choosing the right one allows for proper application and long-lasting wear. Consult with your nail technician to determine which base works best for your nails.

How to Apply a Base Coat

Prep Your Nails

Prepping your nails is a crucial first step before applying acrylics or any manicure service. Here are some tips for getting your nails ready:

  • Remove any old nail polish with nail polish remover. Make sure all traces of color are gone.
  • Trim and file your nails into the desired shape. Oval and squoval shapes work well for acrylics.
  • Use a nail dehydrator to remove oils from the nail plate. This helps the base coat and acrylics adhere better.
  • Gently push back and trim any cuticles. Don’t cut them, just soften and gently push them back.
  • Use a nail buffer to lightly buff the surface of your nails. This roughens them up a bit so products stick better.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water and thoroughly dry them. Your nails need to be completely oil-free.

Taking these steps ensures you start with a clean nail surface. Your manicurist will also prep your nails, so don’t skip this step at home!

Apply the Base Evenly

Applying base coat sets the foundation for a lasting acrylic manicure. Follow these steps:

  • Roll the bottle between your hands to warm up the base coat formula.
  • Apply one thin, even layer on each nail, starting with the pinky and working towards the thumb.
  • Cover the entire nail surface, avoiding the skin around the nails.
  • Let the brush gently glide along the nail, don’t press too hard.
  • Use smooth strokes from the cuticle down toward the tip.
  • Go around the nail edges to seal in the layer.

The key is to apply a thin, uniform layer on each nail. Thick globs of base coat will not dry properly or adhere well under acrylic. Remember – less is more when it comes to base coat!

Let it Dry Properly Before Acrylic Application

It’s crucial to let your base coat dry fully before immediately applying acrylics. Here are some drying tips:

  • Let your nails air dry for about 5 minutes after base coat application.
  • Gently wave your hands back and forth to speed up drying time.
  • You can also place your hands under an LED or UV nail lamp for 30-60 seconds to set the base coat.
  • The base coat should feel dry to the touch before acrylic application.
  • If it still feels tacky or wet, wait a few more minutes until fully dry.

Rushing the drying time can cause the acrylics to lift or peel off easier. Patience pays off with a long-lasting manicure! Take your time and let each step dry thoroughly. Don’t worry – beautiful nails are worth the wait!

Caring for Acrylic Nails

Maintenance Between Salon Visits

Acrylic nails require some TLC between salon visits to keep them looking their best. Here are some tips for caring for your acrylics:

  • Use cuticle oil daily – This helps keep cuticles hydrated and prevents lifting near the nail bed.
  • Apply hand cream – Hand creams that are rich in vitamins A, C, and E help keep hands and nails moisturized.
  • Avoid picking at nails – This can cause lifting or breakage. Use a wooden cuticle pusher instead.
  • File away small chips – Use a fine emery board to gently file away any small chips in the acrylic. Don’t file too much or you may weaken the nail.
  • Avoid excessive water exposure – Try to minimize dish washing and long baths, as prolonged water exposure can cause acrylics to lift from the nail.
  • Remove nail polish gently – Use acetone-free remover and avoid rough scrubbing when taking off polish. This prevents weakening the acrylic bond.

With regular oil application and gentle handling, acrylic nails can easily last 3-4 weeks between salon fills. Be sure to book a fill appointment when you notice new nail growth of 1-2 millimeters to prevent lifting and breakage.

Using Cuticle Oil and Hand Cream

Daily cuticle oil application is key for maintaining strong, healthy acrylic nails. The best cuticle oils contain hydrating ingredients like vitamin E, aloe vera, and jojoba oil. Apply a drop of oil around each nail twice per day, gently pushing back cuticles.

This helps keep the nail bed and surrounding skin supple underneath the acrylic.

In addition to oils, rich hand creams further lock in moisture. Creams with shea butter, cocoa butter, and oils like olive, coconut, or avocado work best. Apply after washing hands and allow the cream to fully absorb before using hands.

This helps prevent cracking around the sidewalls and other dryness-related damage.

You can find cuticle oils and hand creams formulated specifically for acrylic nails at beauty supply stores or online shops. When used regularly, these nourishing products maintain the natural nail flexibility and adhesion needed for long-lasting acrylics.

Just a few minutes of TLC for your tips each day pays off!

Do You Really Need a Base Coat for Acrylics?

Applying a base coat before acrylic nails is highly recommended by manicurists. A good base coat provides several important benefits that help enhance the look and longevity of your acrylic manicure.

The Takeaway

Using a base coat under acrylic nails:

  • Helps the acrylic adhere properly to your natural nails
  • Prevents staining of the acrylic from nail polish or daily activities
  • Reduces the chances of your natural nails becoming damaged
  • Can help the manicure last longer before needing fills
  • Creates a smooth surface for polish application

In short, a proper base coat is a crucial first step for any acrylic manicure. Skipping this step increases the risk of running into issues with lifting, cracking, or premature wear. A little time spent prepping the nails with base coat pays off in the end result – a fabulous-looking manicure that lasts!


While an acrylic manicure involves many steps, don’t be tempted to skip the base coat application thinking it’s not important. Using a base coat beneath acrylic nails helps them last longer, protects your natural nails, and assists with even filling and acrylic adhesion.

Picking the right base is also key – opt for ones designed specifically for use with enhancements that will work with, not against, the acrylic. Taking these preparation steps means your acrylic manicure should stay put beautifully for weeks.

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