Which One Should You Use: Nail Primer Vs Base Coat

Whether you are a nail polish newbie or a seasoned pro, it can be difficult to know which one is better to start with when it comes to the traditional base coat and the modern nail primer.

Whilst both do an amazing job at prepping the nails for color application, it all comes down to what you want to have done next. 

Which One Should YouUse Nail Primer Vs Base Coat

So, without further ado, let us take a look at what both the base coat and nail primer are, and why they are useful depending on the process you choose to have.

What is the Base Coat?

A base coat is something you can buy at the local drugstore to use before you apply a colored polish. It means you can use it on your nails in the comfort of your own home, and it is usually inexpensive to buy.

It has two main jobs. They are to stop the color from staining your nails and to keep the color on for a lot longer than if you were just to paint polish directly on top of your natural nail. 

Whilst you do not have to use a base coat, it is always recommended. It can help to make your nails look great because the polish will appreciate the smoother surface to paint on.

Plus, as well as protecting your natural nail from staining, it also protects the nail from any stronger ingredients within a colored polish.

What is the Nail Primer?

A nail primer is multi-use and can be used to prep nails for an acrylic extension, as well as before gel or regular nail polish. It also looks like a base coat, in texture, and in bottle shape.

It is available in two different forms: acidic and acid-free primers. The acid-free type (which does actually include acid) is rather sticky and acts a little like double-sided adhesive. 

Nail Primer Vs Base Coat

Even so, the acid primer is normally the top choice for adding acrylic nails due to its strength of dehydrating the nail and stripping it of any oils it may have, ready to add the nail upon it.

The acid-free primer is commonly used alongside gel or regular nail polish because it helps the color to stick on the nail better, a little like how primer on the face helps the foundation to stay put all day.

Why Are They Different?

Even though you could point out that they are pretty much similar, they do have their differences, despite both being used to prepare the nail for the next step in the nail care process.

As stated previously, a base coat will help the nail polish stay on the nail for longer and stop it from chipping straight away. It provides a smooth coating and stops nails from being damaged from the polish. 

You can also wear it alone as a clear polish to give your natural nails a manicured look without the bright color. As well as having the product protect the base of your nails, it stops them from breaking so easily. 

Which One Should You Use Nail Primer Vs Base Coat

It also dries quickly and allows you to easily apply colored polish over it without any stickiness or movement of the base polish. 

A nail primer is best used before applying acrylic nails, though it can be used before a gel or regular nail polish application, though it is not as common. 

It is much stickier and can be less smooth to paint over if you are not experienced with using a primer. 

Positives of the Base Coat

Not only does a base coat protect the nails and help with the color application, but it often it includes a lot of benefits such as calcium and vitamin E. This helps to protect the nails and make them stronger.

They can be nourishing, and even work to look after the nails the more you use it, a little like a moisturizer.

So whilst you use ‘toxic’ nail polish, the base coat will be doing more than just protecting the nails from color stains.

Disadvantages of Using a Nail Primer

A primer is sticky, and for good reason too. Even so, they stick to the surface of the nail rather than just being placed on top like a base coat and can cause issues with the nail over time.

One thing you really do not want is a dry and brittle nail, and a nail primer is a good way to make that happen if you overuse it. 

Which One Should You Use Nail Primer Vs Base Coat

When it comes to acid primers especially, they can cause the most damage to a nail plate such as thinning and reactions to the chemicals used. 

Keeping this in mind, when it comes to a nail primer, less is certainly more – whether that is in the application itself, or how many times it gets applied to your nail. 

An acid-free primer will not cause the same damage and can be handled by the nail a lot easier. 

Base Coat vs Nail Primer

Unlike a nail primer, base coats contain plasticizers that help to keep the nail flexible. This means that your nail can withstand day-to-day snubs without causing any damage. 

The cellulose chemicals within the makeup of the product make sure the base coat can ‘stick’ to the nail, without being sticky once dried. This means you can easily apply nail polish on top without it being difficult to do so.

This particular chemical is what helps the polish to stay put, so without using a base coat, your nail’s color is likely to chip away faster.

Base Coat vs Nail Primer

A nail primer on the other hand is much more useful when used alongside acrylic nails. Whilst you can use it before gel or regular nail polish, you might as well just use a nourishing base coat that is smoother to paint on top of.

Applying a nail primer before acrylic nails will create the perfect base to help the plastic nail to set and adhere well. It means your new full set of acrylic nails will last much, much longer.

Despite not being recommended to be used before a gel or polish, it will make the manicure last a lot longer than a base coat, especially if you get it done professionally. 

However, never use a base coat as a primer for acrylic nails, it just will not work.

Final Words

So whilst a base coat and nail primer might seem similar, they do have different reasons to be used at the beginning of nail care.

If you are looking to get acrylic extensions, then a nail primer will suit the job well. If you are applying nail polish at home, then a base coat will be your go-to choice.

Miranda Cole
Latest posts by Miranda Cole (see all)