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Doing gel nails 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. Using a gel nail kit at home not only reduces the amount of time you have to spend getting manicures—it 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 in every category:
Best Overall: 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.
Best Budget: Le Mini Macaron
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, mini nail file, and ten 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 with Light: 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 top coat 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.
Best Drugstore Option: Essie Gel Couture Polish & Topcoat
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, but these kits that include a topcoat 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 lasts 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.
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. You’ll get up to ten manicures per kit (about 20 weeks of manicure time tota) and be nicely set up to buy additional polish now that you own The LED lamp to cure your manicure, the basecoat, topcoat, and gel, and 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 Nail Art: Gelish Artistic Rock Hard Gel Starter Kit
If you’ve already got an LED lamp available to you, this starter kit is your chance to experiment with gel nails on a whole new level. The kit comes with five brush-on gels, three building nail gels, an oval gel brush, and 100 nail forms, which are thin mylar forms on which you can build up layers of gel for that classic high-gloss shine. The gel polish applies like regular polish and cures in a LED lamp in 30 seconds and stays on nails for up to 3 weeks. Don’t be fooled by the name—your starter five brush on gels include primer, clear, white, natural pink, and bright pink so they’re super wearable and fun to play with.
Best for Travel: Gelish Mini Bottles 5 Color UV LED Starter Kit
Our best overall 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.
Our writers spent 2 hours researching the most popular at-home gel nail kits on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 15 different kits overall, screened options from 12 different brands and manufacturers, read over 40 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 0 of the kits themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.