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Matte Top Coats – Let’s Compare

Love it or hate it, Matte Nails are the big trend for Fall. With all the matte nail polish collections coming out, it will be a hard style to ignore. If you’re not ready to jump in feet first, why not try a matte top coat instead? Using them to mattify any polish in your arsenal makes it a more versatile and budget friendly way to embrace the look. Give your tried and true shades an update with a new finish.

From flat to satin there are a plethora of choices in the non-glossy top coat realm and I’ve tried them all so you don’t have to. Check out the results after the jump!

First things first. There are certain things you give up in using a matte top coat.

  1. These are not fast drying products so you have to be willing to put in the time to get the look.
  2. The more matte the top coat, the more unforgiving it is. Brush strokes or unevenness can plague you if your application isn’t perfect. As with all new things, practice, practice, practice.
  3. Matte top coats absorb oil and water as you go about your daily routine so the finish will become more satin over time.

Essie Matte About You ($10, and Rescue Beauty Lounge Matte Top Coat ($18, are the most mattifying top coats I’ve come across. If you desire that truly flat finish this is your best option. The cloudiness does lighten the shade a touch but not significantly.

Nubar V For Men Matte Finish Nail Protector ($8.99, comes in a close 2nd to Essie and RBL in terms matte-ness and I love that it’s more forgiving in terms of application. It applies smooth and even every time.

Now for those wanting a satin style nail, the next three options are ideal. They take down the gloss giving a more buffed look. Orly Matte Top Coat is actually discontinued but still available on for $4.95 so get it while supplies last.
Orly Nails for Males ($6.99, performs similarly to the Matte Top Coat in spite of its dark appearance.

Finally, Barielle’s Matte-inee Top Coat will be launching soon on

I received quite a few questions regarding InStyle’s June issue. One of the tips in the Summer beauty section was about matte nails. They suggested using “your base coat as a top coat to remove the shine from your lacquer.”

Here’s my problem with that. They showed butter London’s Nail Foundation ($18, as an example yet they neglected to explain that only ridge filling base coats dry matte. Using your clear or tacky base coats won’t achieve that look. Overly opaque or shimmery ridge fillers won’t get it done either.

Nonie Creme of butter London used her Nail Foundation over Yummy Mummy backstage at Alexander Wang to matte down the shine and in this instance using a base coat totally worked. She even sent me a pic from her iPhone to share with you (above).

However when I used it over my test shade, OPI No Room For The Blues, it didn’t turn out as well. The nude pigmentation in the base changed the color drastically. If you don’t mind that, it’s a simple mattifying solution but I still prefer a matte top coat.

So did this clear up a lot of your questions reagarding matte top coats? Which do you prefer… matte top coats or matte polish? Or do you wish this whole matte thing would just go away already? Sound off Fanatics!

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There Are 60 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Phyrra says:

    Do you have any experience with Essie's Man-e-cure matte top coat?

  2. rosarita says:

    I like the idea of a matte top coat the best – more versitility for the $. Really loving the satin finish of the Orly ones. Thanks for all the pics.

  3. garnetstorm says:

    Thanks for the informative post. I love the Essie and have the RBL matte top coat on order. I have also used Orly Matte top coat with good results as you have depicted.

  4. Jammies says:

    Have you tried the China Glaze Matte topcoat yet? I'm wondering if I should go ahead and order one, as it's $3.88 right now…

  5. gildedangel says:

    Thank you for this comparison! This post has solidified my decision to go with the Essie!

  6. beautyjudy says:

    I really love Essie's Matte About You, I really like the way it makes your nails feel. But I finally broke down and purchased an OPI Matte. I'm giving it a shot tonight.

  7. Susanna says:

    Thank you so much for doing this comparison! I have the Orly Nails for Males, but I think I'm going to get the Essie as well when it comes back into stock on H2T.

  8. kitty says:

    I picked up Essie's M.A.Y and wasn't loving how it wasn't forgiving. I definitely want to pick up Orly's version…maybe next time Ulta releases a coupon. thanks so much for this post, it was very helpful =)

  9. Jamie says:

    Thanks so much for this comparison. I've been trying to decide between buying Essie's and Nubar's topcoat, and this has really helped me decide!

    Love the blog — I check it every single day!

  10. Bev says:

    What polish are you using in these pictures? It's gorgeous.

  11. Solessence says:

    Great post! OPI also has Nail Envy in Matte, which is what I use. I haven't been able to get Essie's yet.

  12. Aline says:

    I've been going crazy with my two bottles of Essie's Matt About You. I sit down with 10 bottles at a time and try them all out.
    I had the best results with light, shimmery polishes. I revived a really old beige, shimmery Max Factor polish and turned it something really stunning, really unexpected. I usually change nailcolor every three days or so but I was wearing this manicure for a week. I also used the matt top coat over a blue, shimmer polish which is very simmilar to OPI's Russian Navy and it looked really luxurious. I often like the results of my own tries better than the matt polishes these companies come up with.
    I was disappointed in all the darker shimmers which just turned out flat. For example Lincoln Park at Midnight has no appeal to me as a matt.

  13. All Lacquered Up says:

    Phyrra – I haven't tried that one actually. It's more expensive than Matte About You so I didn't test it since M.A.Y. works so well.

    Rosarita – You're so welcome. Glad I could help

    Garnetstorm – Excellent! I wish Orly didn't discontinue their Matte Top but at least Nails For Males is still in production

    Jammies – When I met with reps from China Glaze in Vegas, they said the Men's Matte Top Coat isn't intended to be worn over polish so it's not a good choice for mattifying. That's why I didn't show it.

    Gildedangel – Great choice!

    Beautyjudy – Good luck! Which OPI Matte did you get?

    Susanna – Yeah, if you're looking for a really matte look you can't go wrong with the Essie or RBL.

    Kitty – You're so so welcome. You should also consider the Nubar. If you haven't tried their line before I highly recommend it.

    Jamie – So which one did you decide on? Don't leave us hanging. :D

    Bev – Thank you! It's OPI No Room For The Blues from the Paige Denim Bright Pair collection that was released earlier this summer.

    Solessence – Great to hear that you like Nail Envy. How matte does it make your polish?

    Aline – I couldn't agree more. I much prefer mattifying my own colors, especially shimmers. I posted a matte version of sparkly Zoya Roxy and I just love how it looks like the glitter is trapped behind frosted glass. Such a cool effect.

  14. yummy411 says:

    fab comparison post!! thanks a bunch!

  15. Lena says:

    This was so helpful! I have been waiting for a matte top coat comparison so I can figure out which to buy. Thank you so much!

  16. Fressine says:

    I usually like to follow new trends but I really don't think this one would look good on me.
    It seems that apart from applying the nail polish perfectly, you also need to have almost flawlessly shaped nails and even when I get a professional manicure, mine are never that perfect from my point of view, so I think a matte polish effect will draw more attention to that instead of making them look better like a regular nail polish usually does.
    But well, I think I will try anyway just to see ;-)

  17. plumsiren says:

    Ooh, good to know! I have a feeling I'll be picking up the Essie. Am I the only one who remembers matte as a trend from, like, 12 years ago? Granted I wasn't even in high school yet but I seem to recall owning quite a few matte polishes!

  18. Glosslizard says:

    Gotta say, I'm really liking the mattes with the moody, grayed-out fall colors! It's going to be hard to wean myself away from the ever-forgiving Seche Vite topcoat, but I think I'm going to give the Essie MAY a try!

    Thanks for the comparisons! :)

  19. Stef says:

    I have to admit that I am not a fan of the matte look, I like a shiny nail. But the matte look is sorta growing on me.

  20. Tavia says:

    I like how it looks with Barielle's Matte-inee Top Coat. I guess I will have to search it in shop after launching.

  21. Z' says:

    This was so helpful. Thank you! Can you please test China Glaze's matte top coat when available?

  22. Jammies says:

    Thanks for the tip on the CG matte along with the rest of the info.

  23. Solveig says:

    I really like Matte About You, but sadly I can't find it anywhere.

  24. Tval Skincare says:

    This was very helpful! Thanks! :)
    I do like the matte look, but I think a matte top coat is perfect since this look will probably only be here this fall. I think I will get either Essie or Nubar.

  25. Christina says:

    *Thanks* so much for this comparison! I didn't realize those Orlys give more of a satiny finish, that's kind of cool too. I can't wait to try these out.

  26. Andi says:

    Hi, I'm afraid this is unrelated, but you may not have seen it on the other post. Do you know if Dior Lemon Balm will be available in the UK?? Thanks very much

  27. Mandy in CO says:

    I'm actually wearing Essie greenport with Matte about you on top, as a pedi. I did this last night! First time doing any matte. I like it so far, and definitely think a top coat is the way to go to ease into the trend.

    My question is this: what about using a matte top coat on top of the matte polishes? Will this help protect and extend the wear at all, or do you think it would be overkill? I'm interested in some of the OPI "suedes", but I'm not sure I could totally give up a top coat. :-) thanks Michelle!

  28. Beana says:

    This was really helpful. I really want the Essie top coat now. That's the finish I have been looking for.

  29. naadii salaam says:

    I currently use Nail Tek Foundation II as my matte topcoat, and it works pretty well for me!

    Got the idea after reading an ALU post about Dr. Frankenpolish, and after checking her site, she's got a whole category dedicated to matte polishes that she frankens. check it out here:

    I too am partial to frankening my polishes matte, but i only do so in tiny 1/4 oz polish bottles, using Nail Tek Foundation II as the base, and then adding the nail color to the bottle and mixing. But in a clutch, foundation II on top makes a nice matte finish.

    I believe the best mattes are achieved by mixing foundation II with powdered pigments.

  30. naadii salaam says:

    btw, here's the link for the small size polish bottles:

    my bad, they're 1/8 oz, not 1/4.
    either way, this allows one to franken without having to sacrifice a lot of nail color.


  31. Jamie says:

    I was trying to decide between Nubar and Essie, and I decided I like the look of both of them, so I went with the more user-friendly Nubar.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I just started testing a new matte topcoat from china glaze and it is the best one I've seen yet!

  33. Meredith says:

    Thanks so much for this – I'm having a hard time finding any matte polishes or top coats, so this makes it easier when I have to order it online. Think I'll try the Essie.

  34. lacquerandlipstick says:

    what about nailtek II foundation used to matte? good or no?

  35. plumsiren says:

    Got the Essie yesterday and I couldn't have hoped for anything better! Yay!

  36. Jason says:

    Thnak you for this review! I was wondering what the difference was between them, but did not have the means or time to test them all.

    The matte finish is a great option for men who do not like the glossy look, but still wnat something that is 'better than bare'.

    Have you seen the new men's collection of polishes from BB Couture? Now that's a new trend we can really get excited about! And the colors are great for women who like that masculine 'edge' too! and you can get them at

  37. Celina says:

    Question, when using a matte top coat can you still use a regular base coat, or no base coat at all? Will using a regular or glossy base coat affect the matte finish?

  38. Celina says:

    Question: Can you use a regualr base coat, or will that affect the matte finish?

  39. Lena says:

    great review! now i'm not wondering anymore and can be at peace with my essie mattifier :D

  40. Lizzrd says:

    Re Essie's Man E Cure…I have it and it's finish is more of a satin than a true matte. The result looks like buffed naturals nails and is a wee bit shinier than natural nails in an unbuffed state. Hope that helps those who are curious! I'll be getting a bottle of Essie's Matte About You at Ulta this week myself…

  41. Kristen says:

    Essie's Matte about you >> OPI Nail Envy Matte. I thought they'd be comparable but the OPI didn't really do much. It was a satin at most but still shiny.

    Matte About You is definitely my favourite. I literally have twice as many polishes as before. I like the look on glittery/frosty polishes… not so much on cremes.

  42. Melanie says:

    has anyone tried knockout's flatte top? i just got it and i'm wondering how it compares…

  43. Shattered says:

    I think most of us have heard that mattes chip faster, but I had an idea.

    I used a base and top coat (Orly Nail Defense, in this case) with a regular polish (Misa, for the curious). Having not tried my Nubar V For Men out yet, I put a coat of it on over the dry Nail Defense.

    Four days later, there's been minimal chipping and tip wear, even with a job that is seriously hell on my nails!

    Have you tried this out yet? Would you be willing to try it out with a couple different base/top coat combos (Stickey, Vite, maybe Ridge Out and Poshe Super-Fast?) or the Matte About You? I think that a longer-wearing method might entice more people to dip their toes (and fingers!) into the matte trend.

  44. Janet says:

    I got my essie matte about you today! :) i tried all my fav polishes with it, heehee. I tried it over the china glaze platinum pearl and it turned out real pretty! my other faintly shimmery one all turned out pretty too~ i love the matte look!

  45. awesomevegan says:

    Color Club makes one as well. I don't know if it is available outside of the Dark Romance mini kit or not or if it is where to order if from but the Dark Romance kit may be good for people who are new to mattes since it has the matte TC, a matte black, matte white, and matte silver/gray. I have heard it referred to as more of a "satin" finish though (both the TC and polishes in the set) I ended up with "Dark Romance" (the black polish) instead of the black that is supposed to be in CC Master of Disguise mini kit and it is very nice but I layered a glitter over it so I can't say much about how it lasts or the finish lol! Mini bottles are great too for travel and because they are just so darn cute. I got my mini kit at a beauty store for $8 and I know you can get them online too at various retailers. CC has an assortment of mini kits too so I may collect them! I may try the Nubar or just get the CC Dark Romance kit.

  46. awesomevegan says:

    Shattered, did you use a layer of base coat, then a layer of matte top coat then the regular polish on top in that order? That sounds interesting. Does applying regular polish over these two give it a matte finish? I am a bit confused but intrigued LOL

  47. Sandi says:

    I hope the fad is waning because I think it’s just flat ugly (no pun intended).

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  49. Ali says:

    what will you choose? essie matte about you or china glaze matte magic? can’t decide

  50. Sasha says:

    What’s your experience using the Essie Matte polish over a finished Shellac manicure? Is the Essie polish a chemical reaction like OPI Shatter and required to have a “normal” polish coat in order to react….or is it just a top coat that is matte? Thanks so much :)

  51. Allie says:

    This is such a great post! This will definitely help me in picking out my next matte top coat :)

  52. Phyllis says:

    Thanks for the breakdown! Gave me the exact answers I was looking for!! :)

  53. David says:

    You stated, when referencing top coats, that these were slow drying products. I’ve find them to be very quick drying. So much, that I tend to start my application with an overly generous amount so I can quickly and smoothly cover my entire nail without having to return to the bottle for more polish because if i have to do so, the polish is already drying and I get an uneven finish….

  54. Chris says:

    I use the Nubar V for Men. It goes on well but is chipping off within one day. I’ve used OPI’s matte polish in the past and it stays on for days but causes a reaction at my cuticles, which I suspect is the formaldehyde in it.

    Are there any matte clear polishes which are formaldehyde free like the Nubar but have a bit of staying power like the OPI?


  55. emily says:

    Hey- thanks for the info, just ordered the Essie. What’s brand and style name of the blue polish you used in your demo? Thanks!

    • Michelle Mismas says:

      Hi Emily! I mentioned in my post that it’s OPI No Room For The Blues from the OPI Bright Pair collection of 2009.

  56. Sarah says:

    I noticed the Orly you were using is the satin finish option. There is one that isn’t a satin finish… :)