Within the last two decades, the field of nanomedicine has not developed as successfully as has widely been hoped for. The main reason for this is the immense complexity of the biological systems, including the physico-chemical properties of the biological fluids as well as the biochemistry and the physiology of living systems. The nanoparticles’ physicochemical properties are also highly important. These differ profoundly from those of freshly synthesized particles when applied in biological/living systems as recent research in this field reveals. The physico-chemical properties of nanoparticles are predefined by their structural and functional design (core and coating material) and are highly affected by their interaction with the environment (temperature, pH, salt, proteins, cells). Since the coating material is the first part of the particle to come in contact with the environment, it does not only provide biocompatibility, but also defines the behavior (e.g. colloidal stability) and the fate (degradation, excretion, accumulation) of nanoparticles in the living systems. Hence, the coating matters, particularly for a nanoparticle system for biomedical applications, which has to fulfill its task in the complex environment of biological fluids, cells and organisms. In this review, we evaluate the performance of different coating materials for nanoparticles concerning their ability to provide colloidal stability in biological media and living systems.