Whenever I visit my local nail salon, the nail tech always asks me if I prefer regular or gel polish on my toes. I don't have to take a moment to ponder it—I always go with regular polish, even if the gel is recommended for a longer-lasting pedicure. My reasoning? I have absolutely zero patience when it comes to soaking off a long-wearing gel formula from my nails. That type of time commitment just isn't my vibe.
So when I had the opportunity to give Essie's fan-favorite Gel Couture line a try, I was curious but also a little overwhelmed. (I assumed I'd have to cure the polish and eventually soak it off.) However, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized the gel-inspired polish could be removed without any soaking, just regular ole nail polish remover. There's no equipment and no curing.
But can a gel-like polish you can use at home without all the salon extras really be long-lasting? I wanted to find out, so I put the two-step system to the test. Keep reading to get the deets on how my experience went.
The impressive shade range. The brand explains that each and every hue is inspired by "haute couture fashion," and you have your pick of more than 60 color options!
A creamy, easy-to-apply formula. This stuff glides effortlessly onto your nails for a completely painless and professional-looking paint job. Plus, the swirl-stem brush is the perfect size and proportion, so you can be precise regardless of your polishing skill set. The finish also gives you that even, ridge-free "bouncy" look that's synonymous with expensive salon jobs.
It's a breeze to remove. Despite the fact that the formula is long-wearing and resistant to color fading and chips, it comes off just as easily as regular polish.
The formula is eight-free. You won't find formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, or triphenyl phosphate lurking in your bottle of polish.
There's no intimidating or time-consuming curing process. In fact, you won't even need a base coat! Essie's Gel Couture is a two-step system. All you have to do is apply two coats of the polish to nails and then apply the topcoat for gel-like color payoff and shine.
There's still a potential for chipping. Depending on how hard you are on your nails, the life expectancy for your chip-free finish can fluctuate.
Comparatively, it's a little bit pricey. Everyone has different budget bandwidth when it comes to their nail polish wardrobe. Essie's regular polishes are $10 a pop, while the Gel Couture collection runs $13 each. The topcoat, which is essential, is $11 to $13 depending on where you shop. All that aside, it still is significantly cheaper than a gel manicure at your local nail joint.
About Essie Gel Couture
When I see the word "gel" paired with "at home," my gut reaction is no. For starters, removing a salon gel application while maintaining the health and integrity of your nails is a tedious task. Secondly, there is no way I'm going through the process of painting my nails, cleaning them up, and then placing them under a UV lamp to cure them. I don't have time for that! It's just way too many steps for a beauty minimalist like me.
So I was happy to see "no lamp required" and "easy removal" in the product description for Essie Gel Couture. It's like they read my mind! Instead, this two-step system is said to offer a long-lasting result with a chip- and fade-resistant color that looks like a gel polish but removes like regular nail polish. Oh, and the color range is abundant at over 60 hues. Looking for skin-matching nudes? They've got them. Want to go moody and dark? No problem. Leaning into reds? The brand offers a range from cherry red to deep berry.
My Testing Experience
Because I have Aprés Gel-X extensions on my hands, I opted to use the two-step system on my toes. Honestly, it was a breeze. The formula glided onto my nails effortlessly, and at first brush, I noticed the gel had a little more weight than traditional polish, mimicking the gel lacquer salons love.
I tried the shade Tassel Free, a light-gray hue with subtle red undertones. It gives cozy but with a hint of surprise, which I really loved. I added one coat and knew I'd need a second brush to get the color payoff I was after. (The brand recommends always applying two coats of Gel Couture polish.) After that, I added the topcoat.
Tip: Let your polish dry down for a few moments before adding your topcoat. I told y'all I don't have a lot of patience for polishing my own nails, so I was kind of rushing through the process.
After I was done, I walked around my house and let it dry. After about five minutes, I took my fingers to my toenails, and they were dry. I was genuinely amazed. We've all left the salon with regular polish, and 20 minutes later, it's still not dry.
The final result was a gorgeous gray pedicure with a stunning sheen. I would show you my feet, but I'm a little self-conscious about my toes. I also don't want to end up on WikiFeet.
All in all, my at-home Essie Gel Couture pedicure lasted 10 days before I removed the polish. This says a lot because I'm hard on my feet with all my walking and cycling. This might look different if you're applying this formula to your fingers, and some reviewers have noted that chips happen well before the 14-day marker that the brand projects. (It should go without saying, but follow the directions!)
I have tried a lot of nail polish, and this line is impressive. It will be a part of my nailcare lineup from here on out.
Shop my fave shades of Essie Gel Couture: