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The Best Base Coats for Every Nail Need

Best Base Coats for Nails

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When I put together my list of current Favorite Top Coats, many of you requested to hear about the Best Base Coats in my arsenal. I actually have more top coats than base coats and that’s because I tend to stick with my tried and true faves. I test new things, of course, but, for the most part, these have become my staples.

To make sure I have all your bases covered (pun totally intended), I am sharing my favorites for long-lasting wear, ridge filling, treatment and specialty polishes.

Long-Lasting Base Coats

Go into any nail salon in the country and you will more than likely find CND Stickey ($8.50, ULTA.com) being used and there’s a reason. When it comes to base coats, it is the queen. As the name implies, Stickey dries with a tacky feel that adheres to both the nail and your polish.

While Nubar Foundation Base Coat ($9, ByNubar.com) is not a tacky base coat, there’s something magical in its potion that makes my manicures last and last. Everyone I’ve recommended it to ends up loving it as well. The only downside is its lack of availability and the high cost of shipping on Nubar’s website but, believe me, IT’S SO WORTH IT!

Orly Rubberized Bonder ($7.99, SallyBeauty.com) is another great base coat, that I highly recommend but, I’m currently out of it and trying to use up products so I don’t have one to photograph.

Best Long-Lasting Base Coat - CND Stickey and Nubar Foundation Base Coat

CND Stickey and Nubar Foundation Base Coat

Ridge Filling Base Coats

Between my years of swatching polish and poor nail genetics (I call it my Danny Devito Syndrome), I have ridges and nail imperfections beyond belief. So, I rely on ridge fillers when I need a flawless finish.

Essie Ridge Filler (which I just ran out of) and Fill The Gap ($10, Nordstrom.com) are both excellent for this purpose as is Zoya Get Even ($10, Zoya.com). They are all creamy with a bit of opacity that really help camouflage those unsightly blemishes on my nails.

The main difference between Ridge Filler and Fill The Gap is, FTG contains additional treatment ingredients, nutra-kertain and bamboo extract.

Ridge Filling Base Coat - Essie Fill The Gap and Zoya Get Even

Essie Fill The Gap and Zoya Get Even

Everyday Treatment Base Coats

If your nails need a little extra love, these are the treatments I would turn to. Essie Millionails ($10, Nordstrom.com) actually contains kevlar fibers that you can see on the nail when dry.

And China Glaze Calcium Gel Fortifier ($6.40, Amazon.com) is what I use when I want to give myself an overnight nail-cial (nail facial). I rarely use it under polish as I find it doesn’t wear as well.

Finally, Sally Hansen Nail Rehab ($9.99, Drugstore.com) is a newer product that I’m utterly smitten with. I’ve been using it regularly for a month or so, when swatching, and I can see an improvement in the dryness of my nails. The bonus, it acts as a minor ridge filler and treatment product. I love a 2-in-1.

Nail Treatment Base Coat - Essie Millionails, China Glaze Calcium Gel Fortifier, Sally Hansen Nail Rehab

Essie Millionails, China Glaze Calcium Gel Fortifier, Sally Hansen Nail Rehab

Intense Treatment Base Coats

When all else fails, it’s time to bring out the big guns. If you have severely dry, damaged or brittle nails, you have to try NailTek Citra ($15, ULTA.com) or Dermelect Launchpad ($16, ULTA.com).

While the original NailTek has quite a legion of fans, I love the Citra line because it’s Formaldehyde Free (not all nail treatments are).

As I’ve mentioned before, Launchpad is a power player when it comes to nail treatment, with the first peptide-infused formula. It also wears beautifully under polish, which can be a challenge for treatment bases.

Best Treatment Base Coat - NailTek Citra 3 and Dermelect Launchpad

NailTek Citra 3 and Dermelect Launchpad

Specialty Base Coats

If you hate removing glitter, try a peel-off glitter base coat. While OPI Glitter Off ($8.57, Amazon.com) didn’t work for me on the first try (see video), I have found that if I use two coats it’s a bit easier to get off. I actually use it mostly for glitter swatching as it slides down the nail when not fully dried.

LCN Polish Strip Off Base ($11.90, LCNBoutique.com) is another peel-off option though you can always mix your own with some Elmer’s glue and a bit of water to thin it out.

Specialty Base Coats - LCN Polish Strip Off Base, OPI Glitter Off, Nfu Oh Aqua Base

LCN Polish Strip Off Base, OPI Glitter Off, Nfu Oh Aqua Base

Finally, if you’re a holographic polish fan, an aqua base is your best friend. I know other brands (like GOSH) make them but Nfu Oh Aqua Base ($12.50, Fabuloustreet.com) is the first and only one I need. As an alternative, you can apply a top coat, like Seche Vite, as a base coat and apply your holo on top.

Alright, now it’s your turn. What if your favorite base coat? Do you plan to try any of mine? What’s your miracle strengthening product?

Disclosure: Product samples were provided by reps for Dermelect, Essie, LCN, OPI, Sally Hansen and Zoya. Others may have sent samples in the past but I have repurchased on my own.  Affiliate links appear in this post. When you purchase through an affiliate link, you help support this site. For more info view my Disclosure Policy
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There Are 70 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Lisa N. says:

    Great recommendations! I’ll have to try some of these out then.

  2. Nicole says:

    I have heard really good things about the CND base coat! My favorite one at the moment is the Revlon base coat but I hear it is being discontinued :(

  3. My favorite base coat is Essie Grow Stronger. I have Millionails and Stickey but that’s just my tried and true. Glad to hear that Millionails has good stuff in it, since I used it to get my nails stronger/longer after acrylics!!

  4. Marcella Cervon says:

    How wonderfully comprehensive! Thank you for all this information. I’m always on the hunt for a good ridge filler that has just a bit of color. It looks the ones you mentioned fit the bill. Keep up the amazing work; love your blog!!!

  5. Manda says:

    My go-to is the Poshe 4-in-1 Treatment Base Coat. It dries quickly and does fill in some of my shallow ridges. I love CND Stickey as well (my other go-to). I’m going to try OPI Glitter Off and Nubar Foundation if I can find it. With the newer formulations of holographic polishes lately, I don’t find a need for Aqua Base – the holos apply smoothly over Poshe.

  6. Bite Buff says:

    This was really helpful!

  7. Florence says:

    Duri Rejuvacote all the way for me! It actually made my poor, sad nails grow and my polish stays on a really long time with it as well. Win-win!

  8. I loved Orly Bonder until it started to develop weird semi-dried rubber “boogers” inside the neck of the bottle that would end up on my nails. I am a fan of Nail Girls London Super Base as well. Now I’m currently loving Essie Fill the Gap, which is similar to Super Base but a lot easier to get :)

  9. Abbi says:

    I have both Essie Millionails and Orly Bonder based on your previous posts, and I am very happy with them (so thank you!) I love using the Revlon Colorstay base coat for their Longwear Nail Enamel Line because it is milky and thick, and works as a ridge-filler. I heard from another blog that they discontinued it, so I grabbed two bottles. One says, “Colorstay Gel-Smooth Base Coat” but the ingredients are the same.

    • Yes, sadly Revlon is riding the wave of the “gel” polish hybrids so they are phasing out the original ColorStay. It makes me sad as I love those polishes but I have hope that the new ones are just as good.

    • Anna says:

      I’m with you on that. Revlon ColorStay has been my favourite base coat. Revlon Quick drying base coat seems the same ;). Still available

      • Ashley says:

        Yeah i have been using the Revlon quick dry base for ages and i would say its my favourite for long wear. I rescently tried the essie millionails and it seems to make my nails a lot stronger but the wear of the polish is not nearly as good. Its a toss up. I wish there was something that did both…

  10. LaraLeaf says:

    In the very beginning of my nail polish obsession, I read about the Nubar Foundation basecoat. I ordered and received it. I love it and feel no need to try out any other basecoat. And I just found a local nail supply store that carries it!
    I have given up on any treatments. None have done anything for my nails. That Essie polish with the kevlar fiber sounds interesting, tho!
    Thank you for this wonderful post. It’s interesting to get your opinion of these products. You know nail junkies – we love seeing/hearing about nail products!

  11. Jessika says:

    My all time favorite base coat that does it all: heals, protects, nourishes, smooths, and holds on to nail color is Avon Gel Strength Base Coat. It’s on sale on Avon’s website for $3.99. I would really love it if you’d try it and let me know what you think. I’d even be willing to send you one of my backups for free, that’s how strongly I feel about it! Oh, and I’m not an Avon rep and never have been!

  12. Arathael says:

    Amazing post! Always wondered about the diff in some of these base coat choices, like all the Essie’s. I have a lot of these, but I have found Citra 2 works well for me, so I am back on it right now due to more peelies on a few nails…

    • Yes, it can get confusing when a brand puts out multiple base, top and treatment products. I get that they’re trying to cover every nail condition but it can be too much.

  13. Jen says:

    What’s the benefit of using an aqua base (or Seche Vite top coat) under a holo polish? I recently bought butter london’s nail foundation to help with a sheer holo polish that didn’t cover my nail line, but I’ve never heard of an aqua base.

    • Holos can go on streaky if you don’t have the right base/surface for them to glide over. Some of the more recent holos are better than those of the past but if you have one that streaks, an aqua base will rectify that.

  14. deerstop says:

    CND Stickey doesn’t protect nails from staining. :( And this, in my opinion, is the most important thing! I don’t care how long my blue polish lasts if I’m going to have blue nails afterwards.

  15. Dee says:

    Poshe Nail Strengthening Base Coat. Comes in a blue bottle and is great for peeling or sensitive nails.

  16. Kat says:

    I regularly use Essie Millionnails and the Ridge Filling Base Coat and they’re awesome! I use the Zoya Get Even too but it doesn’t seem to work as well for me.

  17. Stephanie Smith says:

    I usually use Orly Bonder, it wears well and it’s easy to find. However, lately I’ve been using OPI’s Nail Envy, a nail strengthener, and it’s been working really really well!

  18. Kate says:

    Zoya Anchor is my favorite base coat!

  19. Tina says:

    For over a year, OPI Nail Envy Matte has been my go-to base. Recently, though, I have had some major peeling on just a couple of nails. Now I use Barielle Fortifying Nail Builder on those under my Nail Envy and have seen huge improvements. I still use the Nail Envy Matte over the Barielle because it prevents dragging during application in addition to strengthening.
    Also, I discovered by chance that the Nfu-Oh Aqua Base makes glitter removal a breeze and now I use it all the time for those pesky particles!

  20. Patricia Casablanca says:

    I have been using Glisten & Glow Stuck on Blue base coat & HK Girl fast dry top coat & I’ve been converted! I have always used Seche Vite in the past, but always wound up with tip wear from my job as a data entry clerk. With the G&G, I have NO tip wear after 4 days!! So I will stick with G&G from now on! Seche who?!!

  21. allthepretties says:

    I’ve used Essie Millionails (and Essie Grow Faster), and suddenly my nails are peeling. Does this happen sometimes?

    • Wow, I’ve never had that happen. Are your nails in more water lately. Swimming, excessive hand washing or cleaning can expose nails to more water which causes peeling.

      • allthepretties says:

        Nope, no excess exposure to water or chemicals. It’s crazy because it’s not happening on my toes, and only five of my fingernails! I’ve had to somewhat nubbinize, so hopefully I can grow out the peeling.

        • Jessika says:

          I have to say that I have had the same happen with Essie Base Coats. It’s obviously not a good fit for our particular nail chemistries. It’s amazing how a product can work so well without issue for so many but not us! As I mentioned above, I have been using Avon’s Gel Strength Base coat and have not had a single peeling nail since (on sale at Avon’s website for $3.99). If you want something that’s easier to get your hands on (tbh I’ve only seen it at CVS but you can buy it from Amazon, too), Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Hard As Wraps with Acrylic Gel+Nylon was also really good with my nail chemistry. No peeling and excellent protection from staining. Good luck!

  22. Jill says:

    Do you have any recommendations for peeling, soft nails? I’ve tried a lot but thought maybe you would know of something that REALLY works.

  23. Anna says:

    This is probably a silly question but why is an aqua base good for holos? What does it do?

    • Hi Anna! Holos can go on very streaky if you don’t have a smooth base underneath. Aqua base provides that. It’s been specially formulated to keep holos from dragging on the nail.

  24. Holly Nelson says:

    Excellent post – I like the look of the intense nail repair base coats, my nails are always awful!

  25. Cindi says:

    Great post. This was very informative and helpful. I have been using Nailtiques Formula 2 or sometimes Formula 2+ as a base coat for over a year now. I started because of peeling nails that had no free edge due to them and this worked so well to heal my nails that I just never stopped using it. As a health care professional my hands and nails are exposed to too much soap and water and other anti-bacterial/anti-viral hand foams and this has given me long luxurious nails with no peeling or breaking. I would love to give that new Sally Hansen formula a try.
    I didn’t know you had to use a top coat or different base coat for a holo polish. I must have missed that post or forgotten it. Thanks for the tips!

    • A lot of holos can go on streaky if you don’t have a smooth base coat underneath. Some newer holos are better formulated to not need an aqua base, like the FACE Stockholm Athena shade I included in the TrendBox I curated for Nailbox but, older ones can be an issue.

  26. Thank you for the post !! This really helps adress concerns that I face regularly with my polishes not lasting long … I will be looking out for these products !!

  27. kel says:

    i love nail magic. really saves my nails from breaking and splitting!

  28. Erin says:

    Duri Rejuvacote. I keep nail polish on my nails 80% of the time and my nails were always fairly strong but I found my nails were becoming dicoloured (yellowish) and peeling from being dry…no amount of cuticle cream was helping. I started using Duri Rejuvacote and my nails are now white, shiny and even stronger. Great product!

  29. Cupcakesnpolish76 says:

    I also love CND Stickey, buy it in the econo-sized bottle at am just about out of it. Essie’s Feed Me is a good rejuvenating base coat but I think it might be discontinued. One of my newer favorites though is a little hidden gem at Sally’s that only costs a few bucks–Beauty Secret’s Ridge Filler base coat. I absolutely love it! It covers my ridges (and I’ve got lots since my nails peel at the tips) AND I’ve noticed it makes my manis wear for several days with minimal chipping! I haven’t had any yellow staining from it either. For a few bucks I’d recommend at least trying it, especially since Sally’s has a nice return policy. :)

  30. Kate & Zena says:

    I use butterLONDON nail foundation base coat religiously. A little expensive, but it works perfectly for all of the brands I use (which spans from butterLONDON to Zoya.)

  31. Heather says:

    Fantastic post! I enjoyed your top coat one too…personally I’m a die hard nail envy fan. I second your comment on two coats for glitter off..I found it shrank from the tips on the first coat and it took a second to extend coverage to the end of the nail. I wonder if this is why some women reported trouble with it. On the top coat front, I’m almost through a bottle of HK girl and contrary to what the blogosphere says mine has “gone bad” in epic fashion, so I’d warn others that it’s not a miracle product for everyone. I’m going to try some of the products in your top coat post instead :-)

  32. Deborah says:

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on American Classics Gelous. I read about it on a blog post about how to make manicures last longer, tried it, and not only does it work, my nails have stopped peeling and are much stronger. I use it for the base coat and the top coat. Also, I don’t know if it’s a cumulative effect of wearing polish most of the time now or something else entirely, but the shape of my nails has changed from being flat and yucky to having a nice curve (looking from the ends). I occasionally put a coat of Nail Tek I on the bare nail as well, so that could also be a factor.

  33. Gretchen says:

    I never had any issues with dryness and/or peeling until I used Millionails. My nails were in awful shape after that. I threw out my bottle and now I alternate between Nailtiques Formula 2 and Rejuvacoat. My nails are in the best shape they’ve ever been!

  34. Damn! Where was this review when I wanted to know the difference between Essie ridge filler and FTG! That said, thanks for such a comprehensive post. It will help me the next time I buy a basecoat. Till now, I have not been using one. Making do with just a peel-off one. I need to work out how to use a basecoat and a peel-off basecoat together. Any ideas? :)

    • I guess I’m not sure why you would want to use a peel-off and regular base coat together. I think putting any regular base under a peel-off would eradicate its ability to peel up

  35. ozlem says:

    What would you reccommend for preventing staining?

    • A ridge filler will give you protection against staining. I’d also suggest two coats of base coat if the polish is notorious for staining. If all else fails, pick up some Orly Cutique. Gets those stains right out!

  36. Cheryl says:

    I love the Nailtiques formula 2 nail protein. I have been using this faithfully for 10 years once I decided to stop wearing acrylic and gel nails. I love it. My nails are so strong and healthy. I file my nails down twice a month because they grow so fast. This is the best protein treatment I have ever worn.

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