I Quit Gel Nails—5 Polish Alternatives That are Just As Good

So here's the deal: I recently developed an allergy to gel nail polish, which as a beauty journalist, came as a bit of a blow. If you've landed on this story, you might be in the same predicament and considering some gel-nail alternatives.

I love having my nails done, and I've always appreciated the longevity of gel treatments for making my beauty admin far more streamlined. Nail polishes chip way too quickly for my liking, not to mention I'm too impatient to let it dry in the first place and will inevitably smudge all of my hard work. 

However, every cloud has a silver lining, so I've taken this as an opportunity to explore some alternatives to gel nail polish. And honestly? I'm really blown away by some of the gel-effect nail polishes that are around right now.


(Image credit: @betinalooney)

Nail polish formulas have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and whilst gel-effect nail polishes might not last for weeks on end like their salon counterparts, I've found some seriously long-lasting ones that have made my manicures stay in place for between seven to 10 days of wear—with minimal chipping.

Plus, removing regular nail polish is way easier than gel (which makes switching up your nail colour more frequently far easier), and doesn't pose the same risk of damage when taking off gel nails at home. 

Scroll on to find the best gel-nail alternatives I've switched to and now swear by.

1. Chanel


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden for Who What Wear UK)

When I recently sat down with celebrity manicurist and nail expert Harriet Westmoreland, she introduced me to Chanel's newly formulated Le Vernis nail polishes (the new shades are so chic), and my new favourite top coat, Le Gel Coat, which Westmoreland finished my pictured mani with. No joke—this French manicure lasted all week, and only started lightly chipping thereafter. As someone who is heavy handed, I found this to be seriously impressive. It adds a thick, glassy layer to the nails that really resembles gel and locks in the polish underneath. 

2. CND


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden for Who What Wear UK)

CND is one of my favourite gel-polish brands, and it also has a range of at-home nail polishes which are equally as good. I discovered this loved-by-nail-technicians top coat back when I used to work for a nail magazine. It encases nails with a protective layer that genuinely locks in your polish for a chip-free finish for a good week. Apply ever other day and you can probably make it last for even longer.

3. OPI


(Image credit: @iramshelton)

Celebrity manicurist Iram Shelton has long influenced me with OPI nail polish, which in my opinion, has the best range of pink and nude shades going. Bubble Bath is one of the most-loved, which offers a sheer wash of pink and suits everyone. The formulas are seriously long-lasting and glossy, so I always keep a few different shades in my roster.

4. Nails Inc.


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden for Who What Wear UK)

Nails Inc. has some of my favourite nail finishes for when I want to switch up my usual neutral mani. The Glowing Somewhere nail perfector is my go-to for replicating the chrome powder effect (which only works with gel polish) without the need for the actual powder. It has a milky finish and a subtle iridescence that makes it so pretty. Plus, Nails Inc. polishes have long-wearing formulations, so you can trust they'll last.


(Image credit: @eleanorvousden for Who What Wear UK)

Beauty editor Eleanor Vousden wearing Nails Inc. Glowing Out Nail Polish.

5. Manicurist


Mind = Blown. @manucurist is the salon-grade French nail brand fashion people love! #manucurist #nailtutorial #gelnails #nailtech

♬ original sound - Angelina

When Who What Wear UK shopping editor Remy Farrell tried the Manucuritst Green Flash Kit, I was immediately influenced. This might look like a gel kit, but this polish is in fact formulated without methacrylate monomers and HEMA, which are the molecules that can cause allergies in normal gel polish. Simply paint your nails, set them under the LED lamp and enjoy a chip-free mani for up to 10 days. It's a great option if you like the ritual of gel nails with professional results. It also removes like regular polish, too.

Next Up: These Are the Only 2023 Nail Trends That You Need to Know

Eleanor Vousden
Beauty Editor, Who What Wear UK

Eleanor Vousden is the beauty editor for Who What Wear UK. She was previously deputy editor at Hairdressers Journal, health writer at Woman & Home and junior beauty editor at beauty website Powder. She has also contributed to Wallpaper and Elle Collections with written and styling work.

Working as a beauty journalist since 2015 after graduating in fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion, she has been highly commended at the BSME Talent Awards for her work on Powder and also contributed to the title winning Website of the Year at the PPA Awards.

Eleanor’s journalistic focus is to provide readers with honest and helpful beauty content. Through words, video and live broadcast, she has interviewed several celebrity makeup artists, hairstylists and top dermatologists throughout her career, as well as celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Scarlett Johansson. She has a particular interest in finding solutions for acne and eczema, which she has experienced firsthand. She has also amassed a large collection of fragrances and can never say no to a new candle.

When she’s not writing or testing the latest beauty product or treatments, she’s on the seafront in her hometown of Brighton and Hove, where she lives with her partner and her miniature dachshund.