Do This to Get a Flawless Top Coat for Dip Nails

This is the Secret to Achieving a Shiny Top Coat for Dip Nails

If you’ve struggled with getting a perfectly shiny top coat for dip nails, then you need to follow this simple approach. This technique ensures your top coat will cure properly. So you won’t get imperfections such as a gritty finish. It’ll also ensure your top coat dries quickly while preventing contamination that can harden your top coat brush.

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watch video: how to apply top coat for dip nails

This tutorial will show you how to apply top coat for dip nails.

If you’ve been struggling to get a shiny finish with your dip liquid top coat, don’t worry. You are not alone.

The top coat for dip nails can be finicky. But luckily, this simple technique will iron out your top coat application. Allowing you to achieve a flawless top coat finish with ease!

Products Needed for Top Coat Application

All you need for this step of dip powder application is a good top coat. Here are some recommendations:

  • Dip Liquids Set – You’ll need a dip liquid set that includes your base liquid, activator and top coat. Here are some of my favorite dip liquids to use:
    • Makartt Dippies Kit – For those looking for an affordable DIY nail kit, this one is the best for the price point. Better yet, these dip liquids apply very well – even for beginners!
    • Sparkle & Co – These dip liquids are also a great beginner-friendly option. Plus, they offer great wear and a gorgeous top coat shine.
    • Kiara Sky – These dip powder liquids are fantastic! They offer a thin application and amazing shine with the top coat. Note: these liquids are a faster-drying formula so I often recommend them for intermediate DIYers, or those who are comfortable applying their base liquid quickly.
  • Lint-Free Wipes (optional) – You will need to wipe the excess activator before applying top coat. Lint-free wipes are helpful for this step.

How to Apply Dip Powder Top Coat for a Shiny Finish

Before you apply your top coat, you’ll need to apply your dip powder using the base liquid. Once you’re done applying each layer, apply your activator and then buff your nails smooth.

To learn how to do dip nails at home, click here to see the full tutorial.

Once you’ve buffed your nails, you can begin the top coat application.

Step 1) Finish Buffing Your Nails & Cleanse

When you’re done buffing your nails to remove any lumps, bumps and imperfections, cleanse your nails with water.

I like to use a nail brush to ensure all of the dust and debris is removed from every crevice of the nail. This will create a clean surface for a perfect top coat application. Be sure to dry your nails thoroughly before moving on to the next step.

Step 2) Apply Activator to Each Nail

Your top coat requires a second coat to properly cure.

apply activator before applying top coat for dip nails

Once your nails are dry after cleansing, apply activator to each nail.

Then use a lint-free wipe (or paper towel if that’s what you have on hand) to wipe away excess activator.

cleanse excess activator before applying top coat for dip nails

Leaving behind activator on the nail can contaminate your top coat brush. When contaminated, your brush will harden. It can also leave streaks in your top coat finish.

Step 3) Wait for the Activator to Dry

Once you’ve wiped away the excess activator, wait for the activator to dry before applying your first layer of top coat. Exact wait times can vary between brands. While most take 1-2 minutes, it’s helpful to refer to your brand’s specific instructions to be sure.

IMPORTANT: Top coat requires activator to cure properly. If you wait too long, your top coat may not cure. Leaving a sticky and unpleasant finish. Just as waiting too long can cause problems, it’s also important that you don’t apply your top coat too quickly. If you apply your top coat before the activator dries, you may get streaks in your top coat finish.

As mentioned above, waiting at least 1 minute (but no more than 2 minutes) is a safe sweet spot for most dip liquids.

Step 4) Apply the First Layer of Top Coat

To prevent contamination, it’s helpful to limit the contact time the brush has with the nails during the application of the first top coat layer.

apply first layer of top coat on dip powder nails

For the first layer of top coat, apply 3 quick strokes to each nail. It’s okay if it’s not applied perfectly here. You will fix it up during the second layer.

Step 5) Immediately Apply the Second Layer of Top Coat

Once you’ve applied your first layer of top coat to each nail, go back and immediately start applying your second layer.

To prevent a flooding cuticle, use this push-back technique when applying your top coat. This will also avoid getting product on the skin that can lead to unwanted lifting.

cap edges when applying second layer of top coat on dip powder nails

This time, you can carefully apply to ensure full even coverage.

TIP: To promote a long-lasting manicure and prevent your dip nails chipping, make sure you cap the edge of each nail like this. Simply run the brush lightly over the free edge. This will seal the nail and make it more resilient to daily wear and tear.

Once you’ve completed this second layer, allow your nails to dry. For most dip liquids, the dry time should be less than 2 minutes.

When your nails are dry, be sure to apply your favorite cuticle cream to nourish those nails!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do dip liquids require a UV lamp to cure?

Nope! Your activator is the only product required to cure your top coat. This is why you need to apply the second coat of activator before applying the first layer of top coat.

My top coat has a matte and/or grainy finish. Why?

The most common culprit for a matte or grainy top coat is a timing issue. If you apply your top coat too early, it may be contaminated by activator. This is why it’s important to wipe away the excess before top coat application. However, if you wait too long after activator to apply your top coat, it may not be able to cure properly. That’s why you need to follow these guidelines for timing your top coat application.

It’s also important to cleanse the nail after buffing and then completely dry before applying the second activator. This will provide a clean surface when you apply the top coat.

How long does the top coat for dip nails take to dry?

One of the biggest advantages of top coat for dip nails is that it dries quickly! Most dip liquid brands dry in under 2 minutes. Allowing you to quickly go about your day after finishing your dip powder manicure.

Why did my top coat brush harden?

If your top coat brush has hardened, it’s been contaminated. This is caused when it comes into contact with activator that hasn’t fully dried.

You can use a brush saver liquid to fix your top coat brush. Be sure to fully wipe all product from the brush using a lint-free wipe or paper towel before placing in the brush saver bottle. For most brands, it takes about 15 minutes for the brush saver to work. Once completed, wipe the brush again before returning to your top coat bottle.

How do I prevent my top coat brush from hardening?

To prevent contamination that leads to a hardened top coat brush, make sure you wipe the excess activator from the nail before applying your first layer of top coat. You should also allow enough time for your activator to dry. This is generally 1-2 minutes for most brands.

It’s also helpful to limit contact time with the brush during application of the first layer.

How do I prevent my dip nails from chipping?

To prevent your dip nails from chipping, you should always begin your application with a proper routine to prep nails for dip powder.

You should also cap the edges when applying your second layer of top coat. To do this, simply run the brush lightly over the free edge of each nail.


Following this technique when applying top coat for dip nails will make it easy to achieve a flawless finish. For more tips on how to apply dip powder, I’ve shared ideas here on Pinterest.

Ready for More DIY Dip Nail Recommendations?

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