A close-up shot captures a hand delicately holding a bottle of matte nail polish, while a sleek top coat brush hovers above, ready to add a glossy finish.

Do You Put Top Coat On Matte Nail Polish? A Detailed Guide

Matte nail polish has become a huge trend in recent years. Its velvety finish gives nails a modern, sophisticated look. But caring for matte manicures requires some special considerations. One key question many people have is: should you use a top coat on matte nail polish?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Using a traditional high-shine top coat on matte nails will take away the signature matte finish. However, you can use a matte top coat to help extend the wear and protect the color.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover whether top coat should be used on matte manicures, the pros and cons of using a top coat over matte polish, the best top coat options for matte nails, tips for making matte manicures last longer, and how to remove matte polish safely.

What Happens When You Use Regular Top Coat on Matte Nails

Makes the Manicure Very Shiny

Applying a regular, glossy top coat over matte nail polish can make the manicure look extremely shiny, which essentially eliminates the muted, velvety finish that is characteristic of a matte look. The regular top coat fills in the intentionally uneven and lightly textured surface of matte polish, creating a smooth and reflective finish instead.

This completely changes the intended aesthetic. While some may intentionally use regular top coat to transform a matte mani into a shiny one, most matte nail polish fans want to preserve the original flat finish.

Can Cause Bubbling and Peeling

Using a glossy top coat over matte nails doesn’t just change the appearance – it can also cause bubbling, cracking, and peeling. Matte nail polishes have a specialized formula that dries to a flat, porous finish.

When you coat this delicate surface with a regular top coat, the layers don’t bond properly. As the top coat shrinks while drying, it pulls away from the matte color underneath, creating air pockets and bubbles under the surface. This leads to an unsightly bumpy texture.

The improper bonding between the layers also makes the manicure more prone to cracking and peeling, since the top coat essentially creates a plastic-like sheet over the matte polish rather than fusing with it.

According to nail care experts, the ingredients in glossy top coats are not formulated to work with the unique makeup of matte polishes. Using incompatible products together leads to premature chipping, cracking, and peeling.

So if you want your matte manicure to last, it’s best to use a designated matte top coat.

Matte top coats seal in the color like a regular top coat, but they contain flattening agents that maintain the velvety matte finish. Popular options include OPI Matte Top Coat, Essie Matte About You Topcoat, Sally Hansen Big Matte Top Coat, and Revlon Matte Top Coat.

Using a compatible matte top coat will help the manicure last 7-10 days without losing its perfect flat effect.

Pros and Cons of Using Matte Top Coat

Pros: Extends Wear, Protects Color, Reduces Chipping

Using a matte top coat over matte nail polish has some great advantages. Firstly, it helps extend the wear of the manicure by providing an extra protective barrier over the polish (a study found matte top coats increased wear time by up to 5 days).

This prevents chips and cracks by shielding the polish underneath. It also locks in the color pigments, preventing fading or discoloration. Matte polishes tend to stain nails easily as they lack glossy polymers to create a smooth surface, so a top coat really helps minimize this issue.

In addition, matte top coat makes the finish more scratch-resistant and durable. As matte polishes have a textured, porous surface they can show marks more easily. Applying a top coat fills in imperfections for a smoother look. It also thickens and reinforces the polish for added durability.

So if you want your subtle matte mani to keep looking freshly applied for longer, using a top coat is highly recommended.

Cons: Can Make Matte Finish Too Glossy

The main drawback with matte top coat is that it can remove the signature flat finish and make it more glossy or shiny. Many standard, glossy top coats contain polymers, resins and plasticizers that create a super smooth surface.

When layered over a matte polish this can fill in the intentionally textured look. So it essentially turns your modern matte into an unintended classic glossy.

To avoid this it’s important to use an actual matte finish top coat designed for matte polishes. These contain matting agents like silica powder to maintain the flatter surface texture. Brands like OPI, Essie, and Orly make specific matte top coats now.

You do still need to apply sparingly though as multiple thick layers could make it slightly shinier. Gently dab it over nails instead of stroking for best results. Test out application techniques to find what works with your chosen matte polish brand.

Best Matte Top Coats to Try

Essie Matte About You Top Coat

Essie’s Matte About You top coat is a cult favorite for achieving a polished matte manicure. This top coat goes on sheer, allowing the color underneath to show through beautifully. It dries to a velvety smooth finish that really diffuses light and tones down shine.

Matte About You helps matte polishes and glitters apply evenly without clumping or dragging too. It’s a matte top coat that plays well with others!

Reviewers say Matte About You doesn’t get thick or gummy in the bottle. It applies like a dream and leaves nails with a flawless, modern matte look. This top coat layers nicely over Essie colors without dulling or muddying the shades.

You can expect around three days of perfect matte wear before you notice any chips or glossy spots. For under $10, Essie’s Matte About You is a steal!

OPI Matte Top Coat

OPI’s Matte Top Coat transforms any polish into a stunning matte finish. This innovative topper goes on glossy but dries down completely matte. It adjusts the texture of polish without dulling the original color. OPI’s matte top coat formula is fast-drying and gives off a soft, powdery look.

Reviewers love how this top coat mattifies their manicure while still allowing the polish color to shine through. Matte Top Coat doesn’t get thick or clumpy in the bottle. It applies smoothly without dragging or leaving visible brush strokes.

One application provides matte nails that can last a full week with minimal tip wear or shiny spots. For a fashion-forward matte manicure, OPI Matte Top Coat is a top performer.

Orly Matte Top

Orly’s Matte Top is a multitasking top coat that offers versatile matte effects. This innovative formula goes on glossy wet but transforms into a smooth, silky matte finish. Matte Top can be layered as a standalone matte top coat or used for sheer, matte glitter sandwiches.

It provides excellent grip and control for applying chunky glitters evenly.

Reviewers love Matte Top for its versatility. It can be applied in one coat for subtle matte effects or built up in layers for an opaque matte finish. The matte texture cuts down on glare and light reflection to let nail color shine. Orly’s flat brush makes application easy and smooth.

Matte Top adheres well to give long-lasting matte wear for 4-5 days without major tip wear or shiny spots. It’s a multitasking matte top coat with professional results.

Tips for Making Matte Manicures Last

Use Thin Coats of Polish

When applying matte nail polish, it’s crucial to use thin, even coats. Thick coats will take longer to dry and are more likely to peel or chip. Aim for 2-3 thin layers, allowing each coat to dry completely before adding the next.

Going slowly and avoiding globs or streaks will help the matte polish adhere properly and last longer on your nails.

Let Each Coat Dry Thoroughly

Matte nail polish dries a bit slower than glossy polish. Be patient and let each coat dry completely before moving on. Drying time will vary based on the formula, but typically you’ll want to wait at least 10-15 minutes between coats. Rushing the process can cause bubbling or peeling.

If you’re short on time, use a quick dry top coat or drying spray to speed up the process. But avoid blowing on nails to dry them faster as this can lead to uneven drying.

Avoid Oil-Based Products

Matte polish has a flat, porous finish that will quickly grab onto oil, causing the polish to look spots and streaky. Avoid putting lotion, cuticle oil, or other oil-based products on your nails before applying matte polish.

Same goes for after – steer clear of oily products on your nails to keep the matte looking smooth and fresh. Use a nail conditioning treatment that contains moisturizers like glycerin instead.

Use a Matte Top Coat

Using a dedicated matte top coat over your polish will help seal and smooth the finish while locking in color. Matte top coats fill in any imperfections for a flawless flat effect. Reapply the matte top coat every 2-3 days to keep the polish in top condition and your mani looking freshly painted.

Some popular top coat options are OPI Matte Top Coat and Essie Matte About You.A matte top coat is the best way to make matte manicures stand the test of time.

Removing Matte Nail Polish Safely

Use Non-Acetone Polish Remover

When removing matte nail polish, it’s crucial to use a non-acetone based nail polish remover. Acetone is quite harsh and can result in excessive dryness of the nails and surrounding skin. A non-acetone formula containing nourishing oils is ideal as it breaks down the polish gently without drying out the nails.

Popular options include Cutex Nourishing Nail Polish Remover and Ella+Mila Soy Nail Polish Remover. According to nail care experts, these removers effectively dissolve matte polish while being non-drying.

When shopping, check the ingredients list to ensure acetone and other harsh chemicals are not included.

Soak Cotton Pads Instead of Rubbing

Rather than rubbing the nail polish remover directly onto the nail, soak a cotton ball or pad with the solution. Next, press the cotton onto each nail, holding for 30-60 seconds before gently sliding to remove the polish.

According to researchers, this technique minimizes friction and pulling on the nail plate, reducing the chance of breakage.

For very stubborn matte polish that won’t budge, try wrapping each finger with a cotton pad soaked in remover. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, then wipe away. The extended soaking time allows the formula to fully penetrate the polish without damaging the nails by scrubbing aggressively.

Moisturize After Removing

Once the matte polish has been cleared away, it’s vital to replenish moisture to the nails and cuticles. Even with a nourishing polish remover, stripping off layers of pigment can leave nails feeling dry and brittle.

Massage a rich cuticle oil like Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream or essie Apricot Cuticle Oil into nails and surrounding skin.

For an extra moisture boost, apply a thick hand cream after the oil fully absorbs, and slip on a pair of cotton gloves. According to skin experts, this locking in technique provides deep conditioning overnight, promoting strong, flexible nails that can stand up to regular manicures.


Matte nail polish offers a modern, fashion-forward look for your manicure. While regular top coat is not recommended for matte nails, using a dedicated matte top coat can help extend wear without compromising the velvety finish.

With proper polish application and removal, you can safely enjoy beautiful matte nails. Just remember—skip the shine and go for the matte!

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