Product Reviews and Swatches

What’s The Best Matte Top Coat? Product Review

As a personal preference, I always like to have glossy nails, so I never paid much thought to the matte top coats that I saw on the market. However, in recent months I have seen matte nail designs everywhere and started to see the appeal. Combining matte glossy top coats into your manicure can add a touch of elegance and really make the design “pop”. Alternatively, matte top coats can be used over all nails (whether it’s just a single colour or a nail art design) to provide a more subtle effect or just to make your mani look a little more classy. Matte also work well with formal attire, whether you are in the office or at a business meeting and want to tone down your nails so that they aren’t dazzling the people around you.

When it came to purchasing my first matte top coat, the issue I had was knowing which one to chose. Some brands were more affordable but had mixed or poor reviews. Others had better reviews but were a little pricier. Not knowing which brand to trust, I decided to buy three of the most popular top coats on Amazon, so that I could test them myself and provide my own honest reviews.

These are the three products that I chose:

Matte Nail Paint by Barry M (10ml) – £2.99
Maybelline Color Show Matte Top Coat (7ml) – £3.99
Sally Hansen Big Matte Top Coat (11ml) – £7.06


The first product I tested was Maybelline’s Colour Show Matte Top Coat. The Amazon reviews for this product were quite good, with most of them rating 4 or 5 stars. Generally, the reviews stated that the product did what it was supposed to, dried quickly, and lasted for around three days. Others said that while the matte effect was okay, it could have looked better.


This top coat applied easily and evenly, leaving the nails fully matte without any patchiness. The product is clear when you first apply it, but the matte effect starts to show after around 1 minute.

Drying Time

After applying the top coat, my nails were dry enough to lightly touch after 3-4 minutes. However, I recommend waiting around 30-35 minutes before carrying on with your everyday activities in order to prevent any smudging or denting.

**Disclaimer: total drying time was based on having completely dry nail polish prior to adding the matte top coat. I recommend allowing extra drying time if you have recently painted your nails and especially if you have applied multiple layers, or if the nail polish used is particularly thick.**

Appearance and Durability

Once dry, the nails were definitely matte. I”m not sure how they could have “looked better” as the Amazon reviews suggested. it may just depend on the colour of the nail polish used, and/or the brand and texture of the polish. For this product test, I used a combination of khaki greens, a dark green, and a beige. The photos below show the matte nails from day 1 through to day 5.

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The first thing I noticed once the top coat had dried was the texture; it felt almost like velvet to touch and took a while to get used to after wearing gloss for so long.

Some of the Amazon reviews suggested that the matte effect would last only around three days, and I definitely felt that some of the “powdery” matte texture on the nails had worn off throughout the second day. Although the nails still looked matte, I did notice that they started to reflect more light than they did on day 1.

On day 3, I noticed that the polish at the bottom of my nails had started to chip, even though I had wrapped the tips of my nails with the base coat, colour polish, and the top coat. This technique usually prevents my manicure from chipping for at least a week when I use my glossy top coat. I also noticed that the matte top coat tends to scratch or scuff a little easier than the glossy top coats I have used. As you can tell from the day 3 picture in the slideshow above, the nails are clearly reflecting more light, but can still pass as matte. I found this to be more prominent on my forefinger and thumbnail, as these nails are used more often in my daily activities and so the top coat gets worn down quicker.

Throughout day 4 and 5 the matte wore down further and the nails started to feel slick to touch rather than “powdery”. From a distance, the matte effect is still visible, but not as prominent as it was on days 1 and 2. When looking closely at the nails on day 5, you can start to see cracks and wrinkles in the polish, but it wasn’t really something that would be visible to others.

**Note: It is worth mentioning that all photos shown above were taken of my nails on my left hand. I tend not to show nails on my right hand, as they recently broke while I was cleaning and I am still waiting for them to grow out again. However, I noticed that the matte effect wore off on my right hand considerably faster than it did on my left hand since I’m right-handed and use it more when doing chores. If you don’t do too many activities that involve contact with your nails throughout the day, then the top coat may last much longer. On average I would say that the top coat lasts around three days before the matte starts to fade and look patchy. If you wish for your manicure to last longer, then an easy fix would be to just add another layer of top coat after the three day period to get the matte effect back.**


Overall, I’m going to rate this product three and a half stars. It applies easily and has a decent drying time; the matte effect looks good, and I am yet to find one that “looks better”, as the reviews suggested. This product was also very affordable compared to some of the alternative brands. I only dropped stars because of how the matte effect wore down after a few days. This would be perfect for someone who wants matte nails for an event, party, or a night out etc, but as someone who likes to wear the same mani for at least a week, it was a little frustrating.

Sally Hansen

Due to it being the most expensive of my matte top coat haul, I expected it to come out tops in all aspects. At the time of purchase, there were only three reviews, but all were positive (between 4 and 5 stars). The only negative comment made was that it was a little pricey for a top coat.


The product applied very similarly to the Maybelline top coat – It covered the whole nail evenly and was clear upon application but turned matte in around 2 minutes.

Drying Time

I was able to lightly touch my nails after 4 minutes without leaving any fingerprints or dents, but I had to wait over 30 minutes before I could use my hands without causing the polish to scuff, dent or scratch off.

Appearance and durability

Once dry, the matte effect of this top coat looked pretty good. The nails both felt and looked “chalky”, rather than the “frosty” appearance that the Maybelline top coat had. I tested this top coat over Miss Sporty’s “Blue Pencil” and Colour Club’s “French Tip”. You can see below the pictures from day 1-5.

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The only thing I didn’t like was that it tends to enhance any unevenness or brush stroke marks on the polish underneath. This is more noticeable on the white feature nail, as Colour Club’s “French Tip” is known for being very thick and opaque in just one coat (I always use two coats just to ensure there’s no transparency under bright lighting). Due to the thickness, this white polish tends to leave brush strokes after it has been applied; this isn’t so much of an issue normally, as my glossy top coats always seem to level these out and make the polish look perfectly even. however, the matte top coat looks to have the opposite effect and accentuates the imperfections even more.

**I need to make a note to test whether this is the case with all matte top coats or if it is specific to Sally Hansen’s.**

On day 2, the matte effect was very much the same as it was on day 1. I did notice a slight shininess on my forefinger and thumbnail, but that may have just been from natural oils or grease that my nails piled up throughout the day.

** Note: I have still been applying cuticle oils to my nails throughout the day, and while it does counteract the effects of the matte top coat, as soon as all the oil is absorbed or wiped off, the nails still look just as matte as before.**

On day 3 my nails were slightly shinier, but still clearly matte. The main issue I had was that my nails polish started showing a cracked or creased effect (similar to the effect you would get if you bent clear plastic or a credit card). This is hard to see on the pictures, and probably won’t be noticed by other people from a distance; however, it is very noticeable when you take a closer look yourself, particularly on the forefinger nail, middle fingernail and thumbnail, and especially at the points on the nail where the nailed ends. When you have long nails, you want them to bend when they come under ay pressure, rather than break or snap; although, when they do bend you don’t usually see any evidence of iron your nail polish when using a glossy top coat.

I did start to see this effect on the fifth day of wearing Maybelline’s matte top coat, but it wasn’t as bad or as noticeable as the cracks that I saw on the third day of wearing Sally Hansen’s. It also isn’t something that only happens on long nails either, as the nail polish on the short nails on my right hand was also showing cracks. It seems that this matte top coat starts to split slightly under any small amount of pressure. I also found that the white polish on my feature nail was starting to look a little off-white from where the matte was slowly picking up dirt and wouldn’t go away even after scrubbing it. This also made the imperfections and brush strokes stand out even more.

By day 4, my nails looked hideous and I was constantly fighting the urge to take the polish off. The cracks had spread across the nails and had also started collecting dirt, making it really noticeable. When I first saw the cracks on day 3, I suspected that the Miss Sporty “Blue Pencil” polish was at fault. It was very sheer and so I had to apply around 5 coats to make it fully opaque; therefore, I thought it may be the thickness of the polish, rather than the top coat, that was causing it to crack and split under pressure. This theory went out of the window, however, when on day 4, the same cracks started to show on the white feature nail. I know I mentioned that the white polish was very thick, but I only applied two thin coats, and it tends to dry very thin on the nail; especially compared to the blue.

As you can see from the day 5 picture below, the nails were really looking cracked and dirty and I couldn’t wait to take it off. It’s also worth mentioning that the nails on my right hand looked considerably worse since they get used and knocked around more during the day. In the pictures below I have magnified some of the worst cracks so that you can see the full extent of how bad it is.

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**I have decided to rate this product two stars. Although it applies well and has a good matte effect, I was disappointed by its durability. While I know that Maybelline’s matte top coat also only lasted three days before the matte effect started to wear off, Sally Hansen’s just started to look really gross and dirty – something that I definitely don’t want to associate with my nails. I also don’t see the logic in paying almost double the price for Sally Hansen’s top coat when you can get pretty much the same matte effect from using Maybelline’s and have your mani last a little longer. I honestly expected better from Sally Hansen.**

Barry M

The last matte top coat that I tested was Barry M’s. I have quite a few of their regular nail polishes and have never really had any trouble with their products before. A lot of the Amazon reviews were very mixed, with a majority of people saying that the matte effect was good, but started to wear off and become shiny after a few days. This is something that I am starting to think as being normal for matte top coats, but I will keep testing other brands and hopefully find one that lasts longer than the three day period. There was also review which claimed that the polish started to become cracked after a few days, so I went in prepared to have the same issues as the Sally Hansen top coat.


The product wasn’t too bad to apply, but I found it a little more difficult than the others to spread across the nail. In some cases, I had to go over the nail twice because I could still see shiny patches of polish where the top coat had missed the first time. It makes it more difficult to see what kind of coverage you initially have with the top coat applying clear and then turning matte in around 1-2 minutes. This is the same case as the other two matte top coats that I tested, but they applied much more smoothly and covered the nail completely with just one coat.

Drying Time

My nails were okay to lightly touch without denting or leaving fingerprints after around 3-4 minutes. However, I found that it took much longer to dry completely than the other two products that I reviewed. After two hours, I thought it would be okay to do some light cleaning around the house, but I ended up smudging the polish on the nails on my right hand. Therefore, if you do decide to use this product, I recommend that you have quite a few hours to spare for the drying time.

Appearance and Durability

As the reviews suggested, the matte effect does look good. It has a slightly “frosted glass” appearance to it compared to the “chalky” effect that the Sally Hansen top coat had. The only downside was that I found that some of the matte had flaked off around the side of my nails, leaving small, shiny patches. I didn’t find it too much of an issue though, as it is something that you only really notice when looking closely, and so it’s not exactly visible to others. You can see below the pictures from day 1-5.

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On day 2, I didn’t see much of a difference in the matte effect. The nails still looked “frosty” as they had on day 1, and the top coat didn’t appear to have flaked off any more.

On day 3, at first look, the matte nails didn’t look much different than they did on day 2. You can see the slight shininess start to show by the tips of the nails, but that was to be expected based on the reviews and my past experiences with matte. When I looked more closely under bright lighting, I could see areas on the surface where the matte had been scuffed or scratched. I could also see the cracks start to appear on my forefinger and middle fingernail, as it did with the Sally Hansen top coat. This isn’t something that is really visible in the photos and is something that I could only see under bright lighting due to me using the top coat over a dark coloured nail polish. If I’d have used pale colours as I did with the Sally Hansen’s review, the cracks may have been more noticeable.

More cracks did appear throughout day 4 and 5; however, there didn’t seem to be as many as with the Sally Hansen top coat. I am planning on trying all three top coats again over just white polish, as it makes the cracks more noticeable and will provide a more equal comparison.

The matte effect on day 5 didn’t look too bad in the photographs, but it did look considerably shinier in person. The matte had almost completely worn off from my nails on my forefinger and thumb on my right hand, but this is something I have found with all the matte top coats that I have tested so far.

**I am rating this product three stars. It loses points for not being very long lasting, with just a three-day life-span – the same as the other top coats. I don’t like the way that some of the matte flaked off on the first day of wearing it, and the way that the polish cracked after three days. Another reason I have deducted points is because of the drying time – it took around two hours longer than the other top coats to dry; and when it did finally dry, the finished effect didn’t look any more special than the other two and wasn’t any more durable. The only reason I rated this product higher than the Sally Hansen matte top coat is that the cracked effect didn’t seem as bad on day 5, or look as scuffed. The product was also the cheapest out of the three, and since none of the top coats tested seems to last longer than three days, you may as well go with the affordable.**

✩ Overall Winner – Maybelline Color Show Matte Top Coat 

Other Products Used

Maybelline Review

F.U.N. Lacquer: Premium Nail Treatment “Triple 5” base coat.
Rimmel London: Rita Ora 904 “Gothic Garden”.
• Rimmel London: Rita Ora 464 “Urban Chameleon”.
Barry M: Gelly Hi Shine 806 “Matcha”.
Avon: Gel Shine 42549 “Barely There”.

Sally Hansen Review

F.U.N. Lacquer: Premium Nail Treatment “Triple 5” base coat.
Color Club: 24 “French Tip”.
Miss Sporty: Can’t Stop The Color 040 “Blue Pencil”.

Barry M Review

F.U.N. Lacquer: Premium Nail Treatment “Triple 5” base coat.
F.U.N. Lacquer: Iparallaxe “Cassiopeia”.

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