Gel polish top coat and base coat look similar except that they are in differently labeled bottles. That is why when people run out of one or the other, they wonder whether they can use a topcoat as a basecoat or vice versa. 

Gel polish base coat is formulated to act as a transition between the natural nail plate and the gel polish color. It acts like a double-sided tape. Gel polish top coat is formulated to have a mirror-like shine and to protect the color under it. It works as a sealer. These two products are structurally and functionally different and not interchangeable.

Gel top coat and gel base coat are not the same

Similar to a regular base coat and topcoat, a gel base coat is a bridge between the natural nail surface and the gel color polish. It is formulated to adhere to the nail surface better than the color polish.

On the other hand, the gel top coat’s purpose is to seal the gel color polish and gives it a mirror-looking shine with superior scratch-resistant.

Can you use a base coat as a top coat?

Maybe you won't get the same shine, seal, and protection as a top coat. Your polish may also look dull.

The base and top coat have two very different functions, basecoat protects the natural nail from color stain, prepares it for better color polish adhesion, helps to prevent chipping, and provides an even canvas for better color polish texture. This polish is also generally thinner and somewhat matte.

Top coats are used for sealing the color polish, which helps to prevent

You need both topcoat and base coat to have a long-lasting gel manicure.

With these distinctive differences in application, if you switch gel top coat for a base coat or vice versa, you alter their purposes and your gel manicure will not last up to its two-week normal time or might not be shiny at all.

Can you use a gel base and topcoat alone?

If you just want a clear gel polish look on your nails, here is what you can do:

Prepare your nail surface the same way you do colors.

Apply one layer of gel base coat and cure for 30 seconds.

Apply a layer of gel top coat and cure for 30 seconds.

Apply a second of gel top coat, and cure for 30 seconds.

You are done if the gel top coat you use is non-wiping. Otherwise, you need to remove the residue layer with an alcohol-based cleaner.


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