Base Coats Vs Nail Primers

Two concepts that women at the nail salon are often confused about are base coats and nail primers. Many people think that the terms are interchangeable, but they actually have separate purposes and mechanisms to accomplish their job. Although the purpose of both base coats and nail primers is to make manicures last longer, they are used in combination with different products. 

How Nail Primers Work

Nail primers typically work in one of a few ways. One way they work is by stripping moisture and oil from the surface of nails in order to make polishes and acrylics stick better. Another way they work is by creating a thin, very sticky layer on the surface of the nail which functions like a glue to better hold on to polishes and acrylics. Nail primers are typically used before applying acrylics but can be used before ordinary gels or nail polishes. 

How Base Coats Work

Base coats are actually similar to ordinary polishes in that they contain plasticizers. However, they also contain high levels of cellulose which makes them more adhesive. They are also typically clear and used before ordinary nail polishes and gels as opposed to acrylics. 

Advantages Of Each 

Nail primers are much better at making gels, polishes and acrylics stick to your nails when compared with base coats but don’t provide extra elasticity like base coats. Base coats also provide a better foundation for your second layer nail products to stick to but are better at prolonging the life of your manicure by making the second layer nail products more flexible which prevents chipping and breaking. Base coats can also prevent the unintended staining of nails. If you’ve ever noticed a yellowish tinge on your nails after removing polish or gel, it’s likely that your nails were stained. Finally, base coats promote stronger, healthier nails by forming a protective film over nails. Some base coat brands even contain vitamins and nutrients to nourish nails

Can You Use Both At The Same Time? 

While it is possible to use both nail primers and base coats together, nail technicians generally recommend against it unless your nails are prone to chipping and lifting. 


By understanding the difference between nail primers and base coats, you can ensure that you are always using what is most appropriate for your nails. Remember, if you are going to put on acrylics, you want to use a top notch primer. A primer is also appropriate if you find that your gels and polishes aren’t lasting as long as you would like. However, if your focus is more on strengthening your nails and protecting them from staining, a base coat is better.