can you use a regular top coat over dip nail powder

There’s a lot of confusion as to what a dip top coat is and why it is named differently than other top coat, such as a gel or matte top coat. Is a dip top coat really that unique from other top coats? Can you use a regular top coat on dip powdered nails? Yes and no. Let’s first go over the differences between each type of top coat, their ingredients, and how they interact with different finishes (such as gel, polish, acrylic).

What are Dip Top Coats and What are They Made out of?

Dip top coats are made out of different ingredients than your regular nail polish top coat. Many people don't realize this, but your dip top coat is the same exact liquid as the "Base" dip liquid that is used to apply your dip powder. Don't believe us? Look at the ingredients on your Base Dip Liquid and compare them to the ingredients in your Top Coat. They are the same exact liquid.

Your dip top coat and dip base liquids are typically made out of a combination of glue (similar ingredient used in nail glues) and UV reactive liquids. It's a very thick, viscous liquid so that your powder can properly stick.

So, you might be thinking, "how can I use this as a top coat? It's sticky!" well, that's where the UV curing liquid comes into play.

Dip top coats needs to be cured with a UV reactive liquid. Without this liquid, the dip top coat will not harden or dry properly.

Dip companies call this UV reactive liquid many different names. You may have seen this liquid called:

  • Activator
  • Sealer Dry
  • Dip Sealer
  • Curing Liquid
  • UV Cure

Nowadays, the two most popular types of dip top coat are 21-FREE top coats, or a top coat containing an ingredient called frequently referred to as HEMA (or Di-HEMA). 21-FREE dip top coats are created without 21 ingredients considered “harmful” to your health or ingredients that contain allergens (such as HEMA). HEMA dip top coats used to be more popular around 2016, but in the recent years many people have developed allergic reactions, such as itchy, red, and peeling skin, due to HEMA. This is why dip top coats such as 21-FREE top coats started gaining traction as a better alternative to HEMA.

This brings us to our next question.

Can You Use a Regular Top Coat on Dip Nails?

Yes, you can use a regular nail polish top coat over your at home dip nails, but it depends on what top coat you’re trying to use. Many gel top coats work over dip nails because they interact well with ACTIVATOR. Matte top coats on the other hand do not work as well and have a good chance of seizing up. If you’re trying to use a regular polish top coat over dip nails, you should skip the ACTIVATOR step. If you skip the ACTIVATOR step of the dip system, the top coat should work over the dip nails no matter what. Your nails may not last as long without ACTIVATOR but at least your top coat won’t seize up.

One of the reasons that the dip top coat is recommended for dip nails is because of how sticky it is. Dip powder nails do not have as smooth of a surface as gel or nail polishes so the top coat you use is even more important. If your top coat is too think, it will show all the tiny bumps and ridges from the dip powder's rougher surface.

You will find that your regular nail polish top coat starts to peel earlier than expected, and does not last as long as a dip top coat would. 

So if you want to wear your nails for a long time, I'd recommend using a dip top coat over a regular polish top coat, because it will last much longer and resist peeling. A better alternative to a regular polish top coat would be a gel top coat, which will last much longer than a polish, but not as long as a dip top coat.

QUICK TIP: If you want to test out your top coat with activator, try it out on a test swatch. Wait until it’s dry and then get the swatch wet. If your top coat doesn’t seize up, you’re good to go!

Can you use a gel top coat over dip nails?

You can absolutely use a gel top coat on your dip nails. Many people prefer gel top coats because they are glossier than dip top coats. In fact, our Fairy Glamor dip nail system uses both a dip nail top coat and a gel top coat. However, you need to be careful which gel top coats you use because they are prone to peeling, and you’ll need to prep your nails properly for gel. Here are a few things you can do to prep your nails properly.

  • If you’re applying glitter nail powder, be sure to encapsulate it with a clear dip powder and smooth out the surface.
  • Buff the surface of your clear powder so that it is slightly rough. The smoother it is, the more likely your gel will peel.
  • Apply a thin layer of dip base liquid to the surface of your clear coat, wait for it to almost dry, and then apply your gel top coat over it. The sticky surface will help to hold your gel polish firmly against the nail.

Conclusion: You can use a regular top coat on dip nails, but swatch it first.

There you have it! I hope you enjoyed learning more about dip nail powder. You can check out our tutorial on how to apply dip nail powder if you're new to dipping systems. Did you know Fairy Glamor’s dip top coat is 21-FREE? Yes, it’s awesome 😉 What was your experience trying a dip topcoat on dip nail powder? Was it good? Bad? Let us know in the comments!

April 09, 2021 — Fairy Glamor


Dawn Farr said:

I loved the info. on gel topcoats and regular topcoats when dipping powder!!! I loved the beautiful Fairy dip powers and the dipping system!!! I put my info. and email – for the free gift – I would love to sample anything- and write a review for others!!! From Dawn Farr.

Lori Nelson said:

I want to know if I can add more top coat to my already dipped nails. Because of my job, i wear the top coat off after a week and want them shiney again! Please tell me what I need and how to do it. If I need activator again and then top coat or just top coat. Do I need to buff or file or just go over whats there? Thank you!!

Elyse said:

When using a Velvet matte gel top coat (such as Pyramid) on dip powder, do you need to apply and cure a gel base coat first?

Susa said:

What do you mean by “seize up”? Thx!

Terry said:

Can you later uses another dip top coat on dip nail to freshen the shine? Sometimes cleaning stuff dulls the shine.

Tina said:

If you use a gel base coat do you have to cure the coat before applying dip powder

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Fairy Glamor designs unique 3-in-1 dip and acrylic nail powders in Galveston, Texas. We're a 100% family owned business that was founded in 2020 and went from making handmaking powders in our spare bedroom to shipping out of a big warehouse. We believe in both quality and affordability--that's why our powders are used by both professional nail technicians and in homes. Our unique colors are hand-designed to give you gorgeous manicures that'll make your nails feel magical.