I don't know about you, but these uncertain times have taught me an important lesson: I'm a lot more self-sufficient in the beauty department than I thought. Now, I'm not brave enough to cut my own hair, but I've taken the plunge with at-home facials, chemical peels, and even eyebrow lamination (sort of) without any disasters to speak of. I have to admit that this hot streak has got me feeling cautiously optimistic that I can take on the next treatment on my wish list: an at-home gel manicure.
Typically, having this shiny, chip-resistant varnish applied to our fingernails means spending lots of time and money at the nail salon. But now that visiting such places has been complicated by events outside our control, it's high time we get familiar with carrying out this task at home. Traditional nail polish is great (and, in fact, I've been more partial toward it for a while now), but I have to admit that my increased handwashing takes a serious toll on any regular paint job I try to perform on my nails. The thought of perfectly painted, long-lasting enamel that will stay put for weeks on end is too enticing to ignore.
Thankfully, there are tons of at-home gel manicure kits to address any and all nail goals. Ahead, check out the eight best sets on the market to get started on the path to professional-looking manicures from the comfort of your home.
For the Nail-Health Advocate: Zoya Gelie-Cure Foundation Travel Kit
This nail repair system isn't exactly a gel manicure, but it does offer the same kind of salon-quality mani while also improving your overall nail health. It employs a pre-treatment serum, a special base coat, and a Gelie foundation, all of which you cure under an LED light, just like gel nail polish. Once the system is locked into place, you can wear the clear, shiny, chip-free coat as is or go in with your favorite traditional nail polish to add a pop of color. The kicker is that you can remove said nail polish as many times as you want for up to seven days, and the gel-like foundation will remain in place, keeping your fingernails protected from any drying effects of repeatedly applying and removing lacquers. The foundation can be removed by soaking it in polish remover, just like your average gel polish. Pretty cool, right?
For the Beginner: Red Carpet Manicure Essential Starter Kit
If it's your first time attempting a gel manicure at home, you might need some training wheels. This starter kit offers just that. It comes with all the fixings you'll need for a long-lasting, at-home glaze, along with extensive instructions (which many reviewers say should be followed precisely for best results).
"I work in dental care, so between multiple hand washes and glove changes a day, I needed something I could [do at] home that would last and this is it! My manicures last at least 2 weeks, sometimes 3," one Ulta reviewer notes.
For the Glitter Fanatic: Vishine Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit
Your at-home gel manicures may not be quite as pristine as the ones administered by the pros (not yet, anyway), but this glamorous kit is here to make sure they're just as snazzy. If jazz hands are your thing, this kit that contains everything from nail-shaping tools to a curing LED light and an assortment of six gel polish colors (including a couple of striking glittery ones) is the choice for you.
"[Six] colors, base, no-wipe top coat, lots of manicure accessories, and strong [UV/LED] light. This light cures it perfectly! The polish is also very good quality. Paints on evenly, no streaks. I highly recommend this set," one enthusiastic 5-star Amazon review reads.
For the Drugstore Maven: Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Starter Kit
Sally Hansen has been shaking up the at-home nail game for decades, and this salon-quality gel polish kit is just as impressive as its trusty nail-strengthening base coats. This set delivers up to 10 fast, easy gel manicures. Reviewers agree that the mini LED curing light is sufficiently powerful to get nails dry and cured without issue.
"I'm a low maintenance kind of gal and more likely to keep my nails clear rather than paint them a color, and I can't even tell you how gorgeous my nails look! SO strong, too! My favorite part is that with the light, they dry SO fast," reads one glowing Amazon review.
For the Nail Art Enthusiast: Modelones Gel Nail Starter Kit
If you're ready to up the ante on your next nail job, give this kit a try. Not only does it come with everything you'll need for a classic gel manicure, but you'll also be outfitted with nail stickers and studs to add some extra flair to your phalanges.
"Absolutely love this kit. It has everything you need to do gel nails plus more! Cuticle oil, nail art bits and metal tools," raves one reviewer.
For the Minimalist: Orly Gel Fx Starter Kit
Nail-industry lore has it that Orly is the brand responsible for creating the ever-famous French manicure, but its more recent innovations span into the gel manicure game, too. Back when salon manicures were a thing (you know, three months ago), you may have chosen an Orly gel polish color for your professional service. This comprehensive kit brings that same salon experience into your living room with everything you'll need to treat and adorn your nails, and even the supplies to remove your polish when you're ready.
"I am a tailor and tear my nails up in one day at work with other products. Even the pricey OPI Nail Envy would only make my nails last a few days at my job, but this stuff easily lasted 2 weeks and may have lasted longer but I wanted to change the color," a recent review states.
Over 3000 five-star reviewers agree: This UV/LED nail polish curing lamp is a winner. It's got 33 lamp heads, a smart sensor, and timer to help get your gel polish drying down to a science. Snag this light to cure any brand of UV or LED gel nail polish in your arsenal.
For the At-Home Pro: Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Train Case
This top-notch kit is spendy, but it has all your gel manicure bases covered. Along with all the supplies you'll need for the best at-home varnish session of your life, it all comes neatly packed in a chic train case that will keep your beauty operation organized.
One reviewer says, "If I could give this ten stars I would! I've tried EVERYTHING! I spent so much money at nail salons because nothing worked. The first try and my manicure looks amazing!!! Worth the investment!"
For the Salon-Brand Purist: Gelish Mini Soak Off Professional Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit
Gelish is a brand name you've likely spotted on everything from priming gel base coats to vibrant polishes and LED curing lights in professional salons. Now, you can use all those trusted items at home with this mini starter kit. One standout feature to note is the domed bristle brush you'll find on each of the included polishes. They make for a smooth, even lacquer application that will make all the difference in your final results.
"I can’t stop staring at my nails! They took a while but wanted to make sure I did them right. Very impressed! Even better than the last time I got them done professionally! Well worth the money," one reviewer writes.
Not ready to commit to an at-home gel manicure? Check out these natural nail-enhancing finds instead:
This liquid latex polish barrier is like painter's tape, but for your nails. Simply apply a light layer on the skin around your nails to catch any errant nail polish and peel it away once you're finished painting. The result is a precise, professional-looking manicure.
These nail strips are the perfect solution for those who don't have the time or patience for painting their own nails. These stretchy stickers adhere to your nails and leave them looking perfectly polished. Kiss accidental smudges and lengthy dry time goodbye forever.
Whether you're prepping your nails for a manicure or sanding down stubborn gel enamel, this all-in-one tool is a must. It's not like the ultra-powerful and sometimes hurtful sanding bits used in professional salons, but it's a game changer for at-home manicures. It has five interchangeable attachments including a shaping tool, precision shaper, cuticle pusher, buffing tool, and emery tool to address every nail grooming need.
This luxe cuticle oil will help keep your hands moisturized and your manicure intact.
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated.