A close-up photo capturing a hand holding a bottle of glossy top coat, ready to be applied on matte nails, reflecting light and promising a shiny transformation.

How To Make Matte Nails Shiny Again: A Complete Guide

If you love a good matte manicure but miss the glossy shine of traditional nail polish, you may wonder if it’s possible to transform your matte nails back to a high-shine finish. The good news is, yes! With the right products and techniques, you can restore the shine to matte nail polish easily.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Use a clear top coat like Seche Vite over your matte nails. The top coat fills in the matte texture and provides instant shine. You can also gently buff the nails first to smooth them out before applying top coat.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make matte nails shiny again. You’ll learn about the different options for adding shine back to matte nails, the tools and products you need, step-by-step instructions for each method, and tips to make your shiny manicure last.

Why Matte Nails Lose Their Shine

The Matte Finish

Matte nail polishes have a flat, dull finish that lacks the glossy shine of traditional polishes. This is achieved by including flattening agents like silica, mica, or kaolin clay in the formula. While the matte look is desirable for some, it does make the polish more prone to showing signs of wear.

The flat surface of matte lacquers means they fully expose the imperfect texture of the natural nail. Any small ridges or scratches on the nail can be easily seen. So if your nails are not buffed to a totally smooth surface before application, it will be obvious with a matte polish.

Additionally, the porous nature of the flat finish makes it easier for stains to cling to the surface. Things like food, dirt, oil, and dead skin cells get trapped, creating an uneven appearance.

Effects of Wearing Matte Polish

Wearing any polish can weaken nails over time. But matte lacquers tend to cause more stress compared to shiny ones. The drying agents that remove the gloss also make matte polish quick-drying.

This rapid dry-down coupled with the stiff matte texture can cause extra pressure, leading to more breaks and chips. Plus, oil from the nail bed has a harder time diffusing through such an impenetrable barrier.

As with all polish, matte varieties also stain the nails after they are removed. This discoloration becomes more visible as the polish wears down. Frequent use of dark matte shades can actually permanently tint nails yellowish or brownish.

Matte manicures may only look pristine for a couple days at best. But restoring the polished perfection is totally possible with a little TLC for your tips.

Supplies Needed to Make Matte Nails Shiny

Top coat

A quality top coat is the most essential supply for restoring shine to matte nails. Top coats create a glossy, smooth finish over the matte polish. Look for top coats labeled as ‘glossy’ or ‘high shine’. Two great options are OPI’s High Shine Top Coat or Essie’s Good To Go Topcoat.

Applying 1-2 thin layers of topcoat will add brilliant shine without affecting the color underneath. Allow each layer to dry before adding the next.

Buffer and nail file

Before applying a shiny topcoat, it’s important to smooth and buff the matte polish. Matte nail polish has a gritty, textured finish that needs to be filed down for maximum shine. Use a fine grit nail file or buffer to gently smooth the surface of each nail.

Avoid filing too much or you may remove some of the polish color. Buffing evens out the texture so the topcoat can fully gloss over the matte polish.

Cuticle oil

Hydrating the nails and cuticles helps achieve aglass-like shine. Massaging in cuticle oil before buffing softens the nail bed for a seamless, mirror-like finish. Look for nail oils containing vitamins and moisturizing ingredients like jojoba, coconut, or vitamin E oils.

Brush a drop over each cuticle and nail before filing and topcoating. Let the oil soak in for a few minutes. The hinges and sides of nails tend to get drier and emphasize texture. Focus the oil application here. Properly prepped nails better absorb the topcoat for superior shine.

Methods to Make Matte Nails Shiny Again

Apply regular top coat

The easiest way to add shine to matte nails is to apply a regular glossy top coat. This will instantly transform the finish from matte to shiny. Simply paint a layer of your favorite top coat over the matte polish and let it dry. Top coats containing silicone provide an ultra-glossy wet look shine.

Popular top coat options include Seche Vite and Essie Gel Setter. For best results, wait until the matte polish is fully dry before applying top coat – this prevents smudging or dragging of the matte color underneath. Using quick-dry top coats is also recommended to avoid messing up the mani!

Gently buff nails before top coat

Lightly buffing the nails before applying a glossy top coat can help achieve an even shinier finish. Use a fine grit nail file or buffer to gently smooth over the matte polish. Be very gentle – you only want to buff off the matte finish, not remove layers of color.

Buff just until you notice the nails look shinier and a bit more polished. Then wipe nails clean and follow with a layer of regular top coat. The newly smoothed nails provide the perfect base for the glossy top coat to adhere to.

Use foil and top coat for shine

Here’s a fun trick to get super shiny nails – sandwich foil between layers of top coat! Start by painting your matte base color as usual and letting it fully dry. Cut small pieces of foil to fit each nail.

Brush the first layer of top coat over the matte polish, then immediately place a foil piece on each nail. Smooth it out gently to adhere. Finish by adding another layer of top coat over the foil. Let it dry fully before touching nails.

The foil reflects light between the layers of top coat, creating an uber glossy, mirrored effect. This method is less mess-free than buffing and provides next level shine!

With a few simple techniques, it’s easy to transform a matte manicure into a shiny, glossy look. Applying regular top coat is the quickest method. For an even more glass-like finish, try gently buffing nails or sandwiching foil between layers of top coat. The shine options are endless!

Don’t be afraid to experiment and find new ways to switch up your nail look.

Tips for Making the Shine Last

Prep nails properly

Properly preparing the nails before applying matte nail polish is crucial for helping the manicure last longer with a smooth texture. Start by gently pushing back and trimming cuticles to create a clean canvas. Then, thoroughly buff away any ridges on the nails with a fine-grit file or buffer.

This levels the nail surface so polish glides on evenly. Don’t forget to wipe nails with acetone-free nail polish remover beforehand as well, removing any oils for better polish adhesion. Taking these simple preparatory steps allows matte lacquers to set properly.

Let top coat dry fully

It’s imperative to allow ample drying time between coats of matte nail polish, especially the top coat. Unlike creme or glossy polishes, matte lacquers have a flattened finish and porous texture. If you add another layer too soon, it can pull up the underlying polish, marring the appearance.

Give at least 5-10 minutes between applications. Check if the surface feels smooth and not tacky before deciding the top coat has fully cured. With patience for thorough drying, the completed manicure resists chipping and peeling longer.

Avoid water exposure

Since matte polish has a more porous consistency, it’s best to avoid excessive moisture, which can alter the finish. Try limiting time with wet hands when possible in the days after your manicure. Use gloves for extended dish washing or other water-related chores around the house.

You can apply a thin layer of clear top coat just on the free edge and tips if more protection is needed temporarily. But take care not to apply it over the entire matte polish. A durable matte top coat specifically formulated for a flat finish is ideal for shielding against water damage when used properly.

With extra care limiting moisture exposure, your stylish matte manicure maintains its modern sophistication.

FAQs about Restoring Shine to Matte Nails

Does matte top coat work over shiny polish?

Yes, applying a matte top coat over shiny nail polish will give it a muted, matte finish. The matte top coat creates a flat, non-reflective surface over the shiny color underneath. This allows you to transform regular polish into a trendy matte look.

However, it’s important to apply the matte top coat correctly for the best results:

  • Let the shiny colored polish dry completely before adding the matte top coat, or it may drag and get messy.
  • Apply a smooth, even layer of matte top coat over the entire nail. Using too little may not fully matte the polish.
  • Most matte top coats work best over creme polishes. Using them over glitter or shimmer polishes will tone down the sparkle.

So while you can apply a matte top coat to make shiny nails matte, you’ll get the truest matte color if you use a dedicated matte nail polish rather than a regular polish with a matte top coat.

Can I make my nails shiny again without removing the matte polish?

Yes, you can temporarily restore shine to matte nail polish without completely removing it. Simply apply a regular, glossy top coat over the matte polish. This will smooth out the matte texture and add a layer of shine.

However, the shine likely won’t last very long before fading back to a matte finish. That’s because the matte polish underneath acts like a grippy base that causes the glossy top coat to wear off faster. So you may need to reapply the shiny top coat every 1-2 days.

To make your nails shiny for a longer period of time, you’ll need to fully remove the matte polish and replace it with a shiny color. Use acetone-based nail polish remover and cotton balls to take off all traces of matte color.

Then you can paint your nails with a glossy polish that will keep its shine for up to a week.


With the right products and techniques like adding top coat or buffing, you can easily transform dull, matte nails back to a glossy shine. Just be sure to properly prep the nails first and let any top coat dry fully before exposing nails to water.

Follow the tips in this guide, and your matte manicure can go from matte to dazzling in no time!

We hope this comprehensive guide gave you all the information you need to make your matte nails shiny and glossy again. With a little TLC and the techniques we covered, you can switch your nail look from matte to shine anytime. Happy nail makeovers!

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