The 6 Best At-Home Gel Nail Kits of 2022, Tested and Reviewed

Our best overall pick is the Morovan Poly Gel Kit

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At-Home Gel Nails Kit Test

Byrdie / David Carr

Trying your hand at a DIY gel manicure might seem daunting, but with the right tools and products, we promise it's totally doable. Moreover, doing your nails at home will save you significant time and money.

Byrdie Tested & Approved

Overall, we liked the Morovan Poly Gel Kit the best. This DIY nail set earned perfect scores for drying time, finished look, staying power, and ease of removal, and taking the extensions off won't ruin your nail beds. For something a little more affordable or user-friendly, we highly recommend Essie Gel Couture Longwear Nail Polish. The two-step system doesn't need to be dried with a lamp and offers professional-looking results.


"You have everything you need for a gel manicure at your fingertips, literally, and you don't need to leave the comfort of your home," says manicurist Syreeta Aaron. "It's a little expensive at first, but once you have the kit and any additional supplies you need, it's cost-efficient over time."

We tried several kits ourselves, complete with files, buffers, nail preppers, gel lacquers, top coats, and LED drying lamps. After testing nine sets in The Lab, we narrowed it down to the user-friendliest options that offer the best-looking results.

These are the best at-home gel nail kits tested by Byrdie.

Best Overall: Morovan Poly Gel Nail Kit

4.8
Morovan Poly Gel Nail Kit

Amazon

What We Like
  • Shiny, solid finish

  • Long-lasting

  • Easy to remove

What We Don’t Like
  • Learning curve

The Morovan Poly Gel Kit earned perfect scores in most categories, including drying time, finished appearance, longevity, ease of removal, and nail integrity after removal. We only marked it down for ease of use since there was a slight learning curve to applying the gel nails. That said, the directions were thorough yet concise, so we knew what to do each step of the way.

This manicure kit comes with eight gel colors, including two ombrés and six solids, plus a nail dehydrator, a primer, a base, and top coat, various grooming tools, and a drying lamp. You'll also get extension gel and foil for shaping your nails. Once our tester got the desired shape and length, the drying process was a breeze.

She said her nails were a little tacky after placing them under the lights for the recommended two minutes. However, they were definitely cured and felt durable. She used the purple-to-white ombré hue and loved the overall results. With some practice, she thinks they'll continue to look even better.

With the exception of two extensions falling off, our tester's nails looked just as good two weeks later—still shiny and vibrant without any cracks or chips. She said the removal process was a piece of cake too. After soaking them in acetone, the gel scraped right off. And while her nail plates were somewhat brittle, they weren't completely wrecked.

Price at time of publish: $49.99 for All Seasons Kit

Included Shades: 8 | Dry Time: 2 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

What Our Testers Say

"The gel extensions felt very durable and solid after they fully hardened. I used the purple-white ombré poly gel, and the final color was beautiful." Danielle Ransom, Product Tester

Best Budget: SensatioNail Gel Starter Kit

3.5
SensatioNail Gel Starter Kit

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Dries quickly

  • Shiny finish

What We Don’t Like
  • Confusing instructions

  • Chips after a week

On a budget? The SensatioNail Starter Kit might be your best bet. Since the directions are somewhat confusing, you'll want to read through all the steps before getting started. But while this wasn't the most user-friendly set we tested, we think it'll be easier after the first go-around.

Our tester said the gel dried quickly with the included lamp and was satisfied with the finished results. (And she thinks her manicure would look even better if she used thinner coats of lacquer and took her time with the application.) Though the brand promises up to 14 days of wear, it began chipping after about seven days. While it may not last as long as a salon mani, you can expect it to hold up longer with regular polish.

Price at time of publish: $29.99

Included Shades: 1 | Dry Time: 3 minutes | Cruelty-Free: No

SensatioNail Gel Starter Kit

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

What Our Testers Say

"This is a good kit for a solid week of use." Meg Lappe, Product Tester

Best Portable: Le Mini Macaron Le Maxi Deluxe Gel Manicure Set

4.4
Le Mini Macaron Le Maxi Deluxe Gel Manicure Set

Ulta

What We Like
  • Compact

  • User-friendly

  • Fun to use

What We Don't Like
  • Not long-lasting

  • Only two polish colors

Need something for on-the-go use? This portable kit earned perfect scores for ease of use, drying time, overall look and nail integrity post-removal. Our tester called it a "little party in a box," explaining that it's fun and user-friendly, even for a beginner like herself. Since the lamp is so small, you'll need to dry your thumb separately. Still, we were pleasantly surprised by how quickly the gel dried and hardened.

The smooth, shiny results exceeded our tester's expectations. However, the gel started peeling within a couple of days, and it was entirely gone shortly after. (You might get better results if you properly prep your nail plates and apply thinner coats.) Her nails weren't damaged afterward, though, and while the longevity was disappointing, we still think Le Mini Macaron is a great choice for travel.

Price at time of publish: $60

Included Shades: 2 | Dry Time: 1 minute | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Le Mini Macaron Le Maxi Deluxe Gel Manicure Set

Byrdie / David Carr

What Our Testers Say

“Cheeky packaging can sometimes be meant to distract from a poorly made product, but that definitely isn't the case here. This little macaron-inspired device creates a gorgeously cured, durable gel manicure that lasts just as long as in-salon gel manis. You just need a little patience and a steady hand." —Holly Rhue, Senior Editor

"From the adorable packaging to the instructions, this kit is fun and not intimidating even to me, a not-very-good self-manicurist. It's like a little party in a box." —Alicia Dennis, Product Tester

Best for Beginners: Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Gel Nail Color Starter Kit

3.7
Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Starter Kit

Ulta

What We Like
  • Dries fast

  • User-friendly

  • Smooth, hard results

What We Don't Like
  • Not long-lasting

  • Only one polish color

For gel nail novices, we recommend Sally Hansen. The brand's beginner-friendly starter set clocked a perfect score for ease of use, thanks to the exceptionally simple three-step process and 30-second dry time.

Once cured, our tester said her nails were hard and smooth without any tackiness. The pro-level polish and top coat deliver extra-shiny, streak-free results, though she noticed one small bubble. While it promises up to two weeks of wear, the gel started peeling when our tester cleaned her kitchen. Her nail beds were slightly brittle after it all came off but not entirely damaged. 

The other thing to note is that the set comes with only one shade, but you can buy more individually. Although it might not be ideal for folks who work with their hands, we still think it's a good choice for those interested in exploring at-home light-cured nails.

Price at time of publish: $59.99

Included Shades: 1 | Dry Time: 30 seconds | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Starter Kit

Byrdie / David Carr

Best Value: Gellen Gel Nail Polish Kit

3.6
Gellen Gel Nail Starter Kit

Amazon

What We Like
  • 12 gel colors

  • Several grooming tools

  • Smooth, shiny results

What We Don’t Like
  • Chips after six days

For a more comprehensive set, go with Gellen. The brand's starter kit earned a perfect score for ease of use, thanks to the straightforward instructions. It comes with a base coat, 12 bottles of gel lacquer, a top coat, several grooming tools, nail embellishments, and a UV drying lamp. While it says to dry each coat for one minute, our tester found that leaving her nails in a little longer allowed them to fully harden without any tackiness.

She was pleased with the results of her gel nails, commenting on the stunning color and smooth, exceptionally shiny finish. Unfortunately, they didn't last the full two weeks and ended up chipping after about six days. While we wish it had better staying power, this feature-rich set is an excellent value.

Price at time of publish: $33.99 for Classic Nudes Kit

Included Shades: 12 | Dry Time: 90 seconds

Gellen Gel Nail Starter Kit

Byrdie / David Carr

What Our Testers Say

"The finish is extremely shiny, and the color is beautiful." —Lina LeGare, Product Tester

Best Polish: Essie Gel Couture Longwear Nail Polish + Top Coat Kit

5
What We Like
  • No lamp needed

  • Professional-looking results

  • Easy to remove

What We Don't Like
  • Minimal instructions

  • May require three coats for opaqueness

Essie's Gel Couture Polish was also a hit in The Lab. It's not exactly a kit, though the two-step system only works with this specific polish and top coat. Our tester said the lacquer applies evenly and sets without dripping. After swiping on two coats of polish followed by the top coat, she let her nails dry for the recommended 15 minutes—no lamp needed.

Once dry, our tester said she looked like she was rocking a professional manicure. And at the two-week mark, her nails were still evenly coated and looked perfect from a distance. The gel also came off easily with a regular drugstore acetone remover and didn't damage her nail plates in the process.

Price at time of publish: $19.50 for Rock the Runway Kit

Dry Time: 15 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Essie Gel Couture Longwear Nail Polish + Top Coat Kit

Byrdie / David Carr

What Our Testers Say

"I am so, so impressed. I had a salon-quality look for two+ weeks with almost no chipping and no damage to the nails. I was able to easily remove the polish in my own home instead of having to go to a manicurist. I would have never thought a simple kit like this could perform so well." —Lucy Silberman, Product Tester

Final Verdict

Overall, we liked the Morovan Poly Gel Kit. This DIY nail set earned perfect scores for drying time, finished look, staying power, and ease of removal, and taking the extensions off won't ruin your nail beds. For something a little more affordable or user-friendly, we highly recommend Essie Gel Couture Longwear Nail Polish. The two-step system doesn't need to be dried with a lamp and offers professional-looking results.

How We Tested

We chose nine gel kits to try in The Lab, our Manhattan product-testing facility. Our in-house testers carefully followed the directions to see how well the formulas, lamps, and finished results performed in a real-life setting. Each set was assessed for drying time, ease of use, overall look, longevity, ease of removal, and nail integrity after removing the gel.

While we planned to wait the full 14 days before removing it, most gel formulas we tried began peeling off prematurely. Since several kits had disappointing staying power, we ultimately selected easy-to-use options that delivered professional-looking results.

At-Home Gel Nail Kits Test

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Other Options We Tested

Red Carpet Manicure Pro Gel Kit 

Though this user-friendly set offered quick results, it was missing a few essential pieces. Our tester said the LED lamp seemed cheap and wished it plugged into a regular outlet instead of only through a USB adapter. While the results looked decent, some of the gel peeled off after a couple of days.

Red Carpet Manicure Pro Gel Kit

Byrdie / David Carr

Gelish Mini Basix Complete Starter Kit 

Since this set didn't come with instructions, we had to look up the steps online, and even then, they weren't very clear. Beyond that, the gel layers never seemed to fully dry, which resulted in a clumpy effect. And the polish didn't last more than 24 hours, leaving our tester's nails slightly damaged in its wake.

Gelish Mini Basix Complete Starter Kit

Byrdie / David Carr

Zoya Gelie-Cure Foundation Pro Travel Kit

The instructions were somewhat confusing at first, but once she got it figured out, our tester said this kit was easy to use. She appreciated that it came with all the essentials for an at-home gel manicure, but the polish itself wasn't dry after the recommended 60 seconds under the light. Not only that, but it didn't seem to adhere to her nail beds and peeled off completely within two days.

Zoya Gelie-Cure Foundation Pro Travel Kit

Byrdie / David Carr

Meet the Expert

Syreeta Aaron is an educator for LeChat Nails, the company behind cutting-edge products such as the Gelée Powder Gel System, Perfect Match Gel Polish & Nail Lacquer, and thermal-activated Mood changing polishes.

What to Look for in At-Home Gel Kits

Gel lamp

When choosing the right at-home gel kit, Aaron first says to check whether or not the contents of the kit require a gel lamp—and if they do, check whether the kit contains one or if you'll need to purchase one separately. If you're just starting, it's best to opt for a kit containing all the tools you'll need, plus a gel lamp.

Quality polish

If you’re fully committed to at-home gels and looking to cut back on salon visits, Aaron recommends investing in a kit that contains quality, professional polishes, such as the LeChat Perfect Match Gel Polish. On the other hand, if you’re simply testing the waters between your usual salon appointments, she doesn’t think it’s necessary to invest too much money into the process.

Good color offering

Finally, Aaron recommends looking for a kit that comes with colors you’ll want to wear. Some kits will only come with one or two shades, while pricier ones may contain an entire set. There’s no need to invest in a larger kit if you won’t wear most of the shades, so look for one that contains a variety of colors you love. 

FAQ
  • How do you use an at-home gel nail kit?

    Start with clean, washed hands, then prep your nails by wiping them with an alcohol pad to help remove the natural oils. Apply one coat of primer, then the base coat. The base coat usually needs to be cured for 30 to 60 seconds, depending on the brand, says Aaron, but your best bet is to follow the instructions of the particular products you’re choosing. Apply two coats of color, curing in between coats, and finish with one layer of topcoat. If the topcoat leaves behind a sticky residue, simply wipe it off with another alcohol pad, suggests Aaron.

  • Is gel bad for your nails?

    In short, no. “The application and use of the kit are safe, but what isn’t always safe is the removal process, which needs to be done properly,” cautions Aaron. "Don’t peel the gel off your nails—when you do this, you’re removing layers of your nail along with it. This will make your nail thinner and weaker. What can also be damaging is if you don’t use a removal product that fits quality standards and may contain harmful chemicals.”

  • How do you remove gel nails?

    As mentioned above, Aaron stresses the importance of not peeling off the polish, as this will peel away layers of the nail plate and end up damaging the nail. Start by filling the top of the nail until you see a white, chalky color, she says; this indicates you’ve filed through the topcoat. Then soak your nails in pure acetone for seven to 10 minutes, finishing by scraping off any polish with a cuticle pusher. She says that you should keep in mind that you may need to re-soak several times.

  • How long do gel nails last?

    If applied properly, Aaron says that gel nails typically last up to two weeks.

What Is Byrdie Verified?

Did you notice the Byrdie Verified seal of approval at the top of this story? This seal means that our team has researched and tested every product on this list using a unique methodology that’s designed to focus on what our readers really want to know—and to deliver insights that you can’t find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands and PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are fully our own. If you visit links within our content, we may receive commissions from your purchases, but we never receive any compensation or consideration for the content of our recommendations. In short, the Byrdie Verified seal stands for product recommendations you can trust.

Why Trust Byrdie

Theresa Holland is a product reviewer and commerce writer specializing in cosmetics. A decades-long DIY nail painter, she's tried multiple at-home gel formulas and drying lamps over the years. Of the above brands, she has personally used products from Sally Hansen, Gellen, Gelish, and Essie. Theresa has been covering nail care, makeup, skincare, and lifestyle products at Byrdie since 2020. You can read more of her stories on People and Travel + Leisure.

Updated by Jill Di Donato

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