Clear Nail Polish vs. Top Coat

by Shayah Georgakopoulos

There`s a distinct difference between clear nail polish and top coat. Clear nail polish is just that -- nail polish, which is prone to chipping and peeling off, and not meant to be worn as a top coat. A top coat, on the other hand, acts as a sealant or protector for the nail against chips and scrapes.

Clear Nail Polish

Clear nail polish can be worn alone or on top of colored nail polish. It can also be worn over a base coat or underneath a top coat. Clear nail polish is applied to add shine to the nail or nail polish, but will not protect against scuffs and dings.

Some clear nail polish is tinted pale pink or purple, or with embedded sparkles or glitter.


  • Apply polishes, top coats and base coats in thin layers for best results.

Top Coat

The top coat is the last step in a manicure; its purpose is to seal the polish and create a defense against scratches and cracks. Adding a top coat adds a pretty shine as well.

Some top coats can speed the drying time of your nail polish; these top coats dry faster and harder. Top coat formulas that are thick textured take longer to dry, but have more of a shine.

Read the labels on the nail polish. Look for a top coat formula that is quick-drying, adds shine and prevents chipping.


  • Apply a base coat before your polish and top coat. This preps the nail for polish application and helps stop the nails from turning yellow. Base coats give your polish staying power, and contain ingredients that promote healthy nails and help them grow stronger and longer.

About the Author

Based in the GTA, Canada, Shayah Georgakopoulos has more than four years of cosmetics experience. She has attended numerous training schools pertaining to makeup and skincare and has also received certification through seminars and online e-courses. Shayah has been writing beauty-related articles since 2013 and hosts and writes for her own blog as well.