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How to Apply a Nail Polish Top Coat

Learn how to apply a nail polish top coat like a pro from Spa Taxi owner Danielle Corbin Jaime in this Howcast nail tutorial.


Top coat is the final step in your at-home manicure. It gives the manicure a really high gloss, depending on the look you want. You also have the option of making it matte. Some companies have developed a matte top coat, so it removes the shine and it gives it a more sophisticated look. It actually looks nice if you're dressed up and you're going out.

I also always look for a top coat that dries fast. Because after you've done the base coat and two colors, two layers of polish, you want the top coat to help everything dry so that you can get out of the door quickly and avoid smudging your nails. This particular product, some of them say that they're fast-drying. But Bellissima has a top coat that literally dries in 60 seconds. I tested it and it really does work.

Seche UV and Butter LONDON also have fast-drying top coats. I love how quick they dry and I also love the shine. My favorite is their Debra Lippmann's matte. It gives it a really nice, elegant, matte look. Always apply the same way you would apply nail polish. Three to five strokes, seal the free edges. Always important to seal the free edge when you're doing the top coat because it's the last layer of polish that you're putting on your nail.

Top coat isn't clear polish. Even if you go to the salon and you ask them for clear nail polish, they should apply top coat. There's a big difference. Because, there are also top coats that have properties in it that will help strengthen your nail, make the nail polish last longer and actually re-hydrate your nail as well because your nails are porous. So, invest in a good-quality top coat. One that dries fast and one that's going to improve the health and quality of your nail.

If you're taking your time as you're applying your nail polish, by the time you get to the second hand, you can maybe sit like 30 seconds in-between each layer of polish to give your nails a chance to dry. Or you can always have a mini fan that will help your nails dry as you're working. Make sure it's on low, because you don't want your nails to dry too fast, but apply it right after you finish the second hand. And then, relax in front of the mini fan and let your nails dry completely.

Let's start off with the first top coat. Always apply it the same way you would apply nail polish. Three to five strokes, seal the free edge. Start in the middle, drag it down. And never drag it too fast and it's also important that if your nail is still wet, don't use a lot of pressure. Because what it'll do is it will the drag the wet polish along with it and then, you'll have to start over. Or, it will create bubbles. So, your top coat is really important in terms of finishing the manicure without having to do it over again.

Start in the middle. Not too much pressure. Be consistent with your touch and your flow. Your glide-in. And you always seal the free edge. So, that's our high-gloss top coat that dries in 60 seconds. Let's try the matte top coat. So, you see how shiny the nail looks without a top coat right now? You're literally going to watch it and it like, transforms. And once it dries, it'll dry to a matte look. Almost looks like suede.

This one, I used a high-gloss, quick-dry top coat. You can see the difference in the gloss. And this one has dried to a matte finish. So, this is what your nail will look like if you use a matte top coat. And this is what it'll look like if you use a high-gloss top coat. And those are a few tips on applying top coat to the nail.

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