In recent years, many have become improvised at-home nail technicians. Some experiment with presses, polishes, or designs, while others focus on improving overall nail health. One thing is certain: frequent manicure appointments can be time consuming and expensive. Luckily, there’s a budget-friendly alternative: the best at-home gel nail kits can be used regularly or between professional services, and are a great way to keep your nails looking fresh. Plus, they basically pay for themselves after a few uses. Unlike regular nail polish, which always manages to chip as soon as you step out of the salon, the gel version is virtually shatterproof thanks to the use of an LED or UV light between each coat to harden the polish and s to ensure that the color stays in place.
Whether you’re a pro or a beginner, or looking for something portable or affordable, there’s an option for you. Read on for our top gel nail kit picks, plus expert application tips.
Best gel nail kit overall
A professional quality set
Best gel nail kit for beginners
An easy-to-use gel manicure set for regulars and beginners
Best Professional Recommended Gel Nail Kit
A salon quality set that’s easy on the nails
Best self-adhesive gel nail kit
An affordable choice with a host of fun color options
Best portable gel nail kit
A travel-friendly manicure kit
Best Value Gel Nail Kit
An economical set that has everything you need
Best Herbal Gel Nail Kit
A manicure without chips without chemical smell
How to choose an at-home gel nail kit
Choosing the best at-home gel nail kit depends on what you hope to achieve and how often you plan to use it. Are you just looking to treat yourself to a manicure or a touch-up between two appointments at the salon? Then you might just need the basics. Do you really plan to be a home technician? Then it helps to have a fully stocked kit. The main essentials, as recommended by Gurung and James, include a UV or LED lamp to cure the polish, a gel base and top coat, a nail tint you like, a nail file, a buffer , a cuticle pusher, rubbing alcohol and acetone.
How to use gel nail kit at home?
Start by filing and shaping the nails to the desired length and shape. From there, lightly buff the nails to smooth out the ridges and push back the cuticles. Then wipe with rubbing alcohol “for a clean, dry canvas,” says James. Then apply a thin layer of the base coat and cure under the lamp for 60-90 seconds. Follow this with two coats of your favorite nail shade, curing after each coat for the same amount of time. During this step, James says, “You can use a cleaning brush dipped in acetone while combing to remove any gel polish that’s on the skin or cuticles.” Finally, apply a no-wipe topcoat and cure.
Gurung adds that if you’re using a regular topcoat, it’s essential to wipe it off with alcohol after application “so it doesn’t get sticky.” She recommends topping it all off with cuticle oil on each nail for a little extra shine and moisture.
Is gel bad for your nails?
Gurung and James both agree that the gel polish itself is not bad for your nails, the problem usually lies in how users or professional manicurists prepare in advance and then remove the gel. Gurung says, “If you or a nail technician file a lot before application, it’s not good and it can thin the nails.” The same goes for the deletion process. “File the top layer of gel with an electric file — a regular file would be fine depending on the gel — forcefully scraping gels, or even picking or peeling them off is bad for your nails,” she says. Guring also recommends taking occasional breaks between gel manicures to give your nails a break.
How to remove a gel manicure?
Start by lightly filing the top layer of your gel polish. Next, dip a cotton ball in acetone, place it on the fingernails, and wrap the fingertip and the cotton ball with foil. Repeat this process for each nail and let them soak for 10-15 minutes. “Gel polish is ready to be completely removed when you are able to gently push the polish away from the nail with a pusher or cuticle stick,” James explains. “If not, add a little more acetone to the cotton and soak for a few more minutes.”
How long do gel nails last?
Most gel polishes last 2-3 weeks, depending on the person’s lifestyle. However, a shellac manicure may not last as long, closer to 1-2 weeks, but the upside is that it’s kinder to the nails.