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We should start by saying that giving yourself a gel manicure at home isn’t as hard as you might think. A whole world of gel nail kits, polishes, and accessories are readily available to help you get the nails of your dreams—and keep them even longer than you thought possible—without ever leaving the couch. Using a gel nail kit at home not only reduces the amount of time you have to spend getting manicures, but it also saves you the time you’d spend in the salon as well, making the investment in a good at-home gel nail kit more than pay for itself over time.
So which kit is the right choice for you? These are our picks of the best at-home gel nail kits to try now.
Best Overall: Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit
This manicure system gives weeks of gorgeous color in minutes and comes complete with LED light, polish, and soaking gel. While the bottles are small, reviewers say that they last and last (especially as gel polishes cure best when applied with extremely thin coats anyway) and the primer, base coat, and topcoat really replicate the look and feel of a gel manicure at home. The lamp works best a few fingers at a time, with the thumb done separately, but it’s still a relatively small add-on to a surprisingly fast and effective process.
Discover our top tips on how to make a manicure and pedicure last longer.
Best Budget: Le Mini Macaron 1-Step Gel Manicure Kit
This miniature kit is a perfect way to dip your toe (or, ahem, finger) into the world of at-home gel. This dessert-inspired nail kit includes a macaron-shaped LED light that matches the 3-in-1 gel polish, a cuticle stick, a mini nail file, and 10 remover pads.
A single coat of the polish cures in about 30 seconds, and it comes with a USB cord and adapters so you can use it anywhere, including plugged into a laptop, which makes it perfect for traveling. It’s more versatile than its tiny size would indicate, too: The top of the macaron pops off so that you can use this little LED light on your toes.
Best Drugstore: Gelish Complete Starter Mini Basix LED Gel Nail Kit
The Gelish Complete Starter LED Gel Nail Polish Kit is one of the best sellers in this space, and the package has everything you need to get started with gel polish. Gelish applies like regular polish and cures under an LED lamp in 45 seconds, or under traditional UV lamps in 2 minutes. Reviewers say it stays on nails for up to 3 weeks with no chipping or peeling and soaks completely off in only 10 to 15 minutes. Results are better with the LED curing lamp, which comes included in this kit, so give it a try for a true at-home salon experience.
Want to take a look at some other options? Read our guide to the best drugstore nail polishes.
Best Polish: Essie Gel Couture Polish
Essie’s Gel Couture line immediately changed the game for gel fanatics, as the legendary Essie shade range was something that was hard to give up when making the switch from regular polish. There are a huge number of signature Essie colors available anywhere Essie polishes are sold, and they make an at-home gel manicure as simple as painting your nails. Just two coats of the lacquer applied with the platinum grade finish top coat last for up to two weeks, and the formula is paraben- and phthalate-free. Essie invented a whole new brush shape to make coverage easy when painting your own nails, and it glides on beautifully, as does the top coat that gives an authentic gel-like glossy shine.
Take a look at some more options in our best nail polishes article.
Best for Beginners: Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Starter Kit
The nail experts at Sally Hansen have put together the perfect starter kit for at-home gel manicures. One kit comes with an LED lamp to cure your manicure, base coat, top coat, and gel polish, along with other essentials like nail cleansing pads, acetone remover, cuticle sticks, files, and buffers. Reviewers praise the instructions for being clear and easy to follow, and they’re happy with the array of colors available that work with the LED lamp.
Best for Travel: Gelish Mini Bottles 5 Color UV LED Starter Kit
Gelish polishes are also available in a convenient travel size, if you’re going away for more than 2 weeks or if you need a quick touch-up while you’re on the road. The set includes a battery-operated UV lamp, three base coats, one finishing coat, and five polish shades, which all last as long as traditional get polish. They’re matched to the Gelish LED lamp, so don’t forget to pack some extra batteries, but once it’s powered up the handle shape makes it easy to hold over fingers and toes.
Best for Removal: Red Carpet Gel Manicure Removal Kit
The gel polish that goes on must eventually come off, and that's where this gel manicure removal kit comes in clutch. It includes a buffer, liquid remover, foil wrap, and an orangewood stick—everything you need to remove gel polish safely and effectively.