Love Gel Manicures But Hate the Price? Try These 10 At-Home Gel Nail Kits

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Sally Hansen At-Home Gel Nail Kit

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Our Top Picks
This manicure system gives weeks of gorgeous color in minutes and comes complete with LED light, polish, and soaking gel.
Get everything you need—polish, and cuticle oil—for the perfect gel mani with this at-home kit.
This tiny gel mani set makes it easy to get perfect nails on-the-go.
With color that lasts up to two weeks, this polish stays super shiny and comes off easily—no soaking or filing required.
With 31 different tools, this kit has everything you need to create amazing gel nails at home.
Grab this easy-to-use kit, containing all manicure essentials, before splurging on expensive nail products.
If you're going for a more dramatic effect, meaning DIY designs, this gel kit is for you.
Touch up your gel manicure easily with a comprehensive gel removal kit, instead of peeling off polish and damaging nails.
Keep damaged nails strong with this kit containing nail serum and other essentials.

While it can admittedly seem like a daunting DIY beauty task, giving yourself an at-home gel manicure really isn’t as hard as you might think. Particularly when there’s a whole world of gel nail kits available that can make the process that much easier.

 “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 and salon owner Syreeta Aaron, an educator for LeChat Nails. “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,” she adds. (Not to mention it saves you the time you’d spend in and traveling to and from the salon as well.) Really good manicure kits come with easy-to-follow instructions, essential tools, and a few nail color shades and base/top coats to get you started. If spending a lot of time DIYing is your concern, look for home kits that have larger lamps, so you're able to cure more than one or two nails at a time. And as for the choice between LED versus UV light? One is no better or worse than the other for getting sleek mani results.

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.

So which kit is the right choice for you? Read on for our favorite at-home gel nail kits, below.

Best Overall: Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit

Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit
What We Like
  • Includes all essential tools and nail care

  • LED Lamp features auto shut-off at 45 seconds

  • Includes gel remover

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

This stand-out set comes complete with everything you need for a flawless gel mani (and (has the added benefit of coming with a bottle of remover, as well). The bottles are a bit small but keep in mind that gel manis last the longest when you apply thin coats of polish, and reviewers rave about how long this lacquer lasts. The size and shape of the lamp are best suited for doing only a few fingers at a time, but the entire process is still fairly quick and efficient.

Shades: 1 included with kit | Dry Time: 30 seconds to 2 minutes

Best Drugstore: Gelish Complete Starter Kit

gelish complete starter kit
What We Like
  • Includes all essential tools and nail care

  • Innovative nail brush ensures streak-free, full coverage

  • Includes gel remover

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

One of the category’s best-sellers, this kit has all the essentials. It comes with an LED lamp (which cures polish in 45 seconds), though the polish can also be cured under a UV lamp, should you happen to have one of those on hand. You will need to buy the color separately—the brand has over 200 hues to pick from—but there is a primer, base coat, topcoat, and cuticle oil included, all of which have unique laser-cut, domed bristles to make smooth swiping a breeze.

Shades: 2 included with kit | Dry Time: 45 seconds to 2 minutes

Best Portable: Le Mini Macaron Gel Manicure Starter Set

Le Maxi Deluxe Gel Manicure Set
What We Like
  • Charges with USB

  • Cures in 30 seconds

  • Great for travel

What We Don't Like
  • Can only cure one nail at at time

This itty-bitty option is so small and streamlined that you could even take it with you on your travels; the lamp has a USB cord so you can even charge it through your laptop. It takes only about 30 seconds to cure a coat of polish, a major plus given that you will need to do one finger at a time. The lamp comes in three colors, each of which comes with polish in a corresponding shade.

Shades: 2 included with kit | Dry Time: 60 seconds

Best Polish: Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish

Essie Gel
What We Like
  • Doesn’t need to be cured

  • No base coat required

  • Easy removal

What We Don't Like
  • Not as long-lasting as traditional gel

For those who want to skip the curing step, this swipe-and-go polish is ideal. It goes on exactly like any other nail lacquer—the only difference? There’s no base coat needed. Simply swipe on two coats of any shade you choose (there are tons and tons to pick from, in true Essie fashion), then top that with the special topcoat. The color lasts up to two weeks and stays super shiny that entire time, yet still comes off extremely easily, no soaking or filing required.

Shades: Each color sold separately | Dry Time: 30 to 60 seconds

Best All-in-One Set: Vishine Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit

Vishine Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit
What We Like
  • Includes 31 different tools for gel manicures and nail art

  • Large lamp can fit full hand

  • Very affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Lamp gets very hot

Yes, this comes with a curing LED lamp and six colors of polish (plus base and top coats), but it also has the distinction of coming with 31 different tools. There’s everything you need for basic manicuring—think files and a brush—along with unique tools to help you create nail art, too. Aaron notes that it’s another great option for beginners, and is great for anyone looking to master the at-home gel mani.

Shades: 6 included with kit | Dry Time: 30 seconds

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

sally hansen salon pro gel nail starter kit
What We Like
  • Includes all essential tools and nail care

  • Easy-to-follow instructions

  • Provides up to 10 manicures per kit

What We Don't Like
  • Lamp is relatively small

A true juggernaut in the at-home nail care space, it should come as no surprise that this brand offers an excellent gel mani kit. It boasts an LED lamp, one color, top and base coats, plus all kinds of manicure essentials, think a file and buffer, cuticle stick, and more. The simple and easy-to-follow instructions make it a great pick for beginners, and you can score up to 10 manicures per kit, making this a great value, too.

Shades: 1 included with kit | Dry Time: Up to 3 minutes

Best for Pros: Young Nails Professional Gel Kit

Young Nails Professional Gel Kit
What We Like
  • Includes all essential tools and nail care

  • Includes tips for adding length

  • Includes sculpting gel

What We Don't Like
  • Lamp must be purchased separately

This option is choice for expert DIYers, as well as for those who are going for more of a dramatic effect. Because it also comes with tips, it’s great for anyone who’s looking to add extra length to their nails, says Aaron.

Shades: 2 included with kit | Dry Time: Up to 3 minutes

Best for Removal: Red Carpet Manicure Remove Kit

RC Red Carpet Manicure Remove Kit Nail Gel Polish Removal Kit
What We Like
  • Mess-free removal

  • Includes essential removal tools and foil wraps

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Foil strips are very large

In case you missed the memo, peeling off a gel manicure, as tempting as it may be, is a major no-no. Proper filing and soaking is imperative for keeping your nails strong, and this kit makes it easy to do exactly that. Credit the included buffer, remover, foil wraps, and orangewood stick, all the essentials you need to correctly and safely take off that gel polish once it’s time to do so.

Shades: 0 | Dry Time: N/A

Best for Damaged Nails: Zoya Gelie-Cure Foundation Pro Kit

Zoya Geli-Cure Foundation Pro Kit
What We Like
  • Travel-friendly lamp

  • Includes reparative serum and base coat

  • Includes gel remover

What We Don't Like
  • Color polish must be purchased separately

While this set doesn’t come with colored polish, it does come with everything you need to ensure your tips stay strong, no matter how many at-home gel manis you give yourself. Namely, the brand’s reparative nail serum and base coat, along with a clear polish that can be used to seal those in. Add the Zoya hue of your choosing or not; either way; your nails are guaranteed to look great.

Shades: 1 included with kit | Dry Time: Up to 3 minutes

Final Verdict

You can’t go wrong with the Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit, a complete system that reviewers say can be used quickly and efficiently to score a shiny, chip-free mani that will last for weeks. If you’re a beginner, the Sally Hansen Gel Polish Gel Nail Color Kit is an easy-to-use (and affordable) pick, with clear instructions; a wide range of colors also work with the included lamp. For those who want to go light-free, Essie Gel Couture Polish is essentially the same as a traditional lacquer, just with a much longer-lasting, super-shiny color. Regardless, when it comes time to take off your gel mani, it’s worth picking up the Red Carpet Manicure Remove Kit to make the process easier than ever.

What to Look for in an At-Home Gel Kit

Does It Contain a Gel Lamp?

When it comes to 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 out, it's best to opt for a kit that contains all the tools you'll need, gel lamp included.

Does It Contain 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.

Does It Have a Good Color Offering?

Finally, Aaron recommends looking for a kit that comes with colors you’ll actually 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.

Meet the Expert

Syreeta Aaron is a nail artist and LeChat Nails educator based in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. A devoted gel manicure kinda girl, she prefers the professional route over the DIY options. Still, because she knows what’s important to look for in a good gel manicure, she knew how to figure out which at-home products were best.

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