The at-home manicure is a notoriously tricky endeavor. There's a lot that goes into it, between having to paint a small area with your non-dominant hand, impatiently waiting for the polish to dry, and then accidentally smudging it. Once your nails are done, you go do the dishes, and suddenly they're chipped.
A long-lasting manicure doesn't just exist underneath the UV lights at a nail salon. We're talking about these UV-less gel nail polishes. They're formulated to be ultra-durable and withstand chipping for at least a week, and they come in really pretty colors.
Keep scrolling to see the best gel nail polishes.
Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish
Goes on smoothly
Wide range of shades
These polishes boast both display-worthy packaging and a stellar formula that goes on without streaking or bubbling. The best part: It really does last up to two weeks.
Price at time of publish: $13
Shades: 43 | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Finish: Shimmer, shine | Cruelty-Free: No
Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro
Made with high-quality ingredients
This polish is infused with ingredients that are good for your nails, like green tea extract, biotin, and omega-6 fatty acids. The formula applies smoothly, dries quickly, and is long-lasting.
Price at time of publish: $20
Shades: 18 | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Finish: Shimmer, shine | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Shade Range
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish
Smooth polish coagulates upon application, keeping it neater
Flat, angled brush
Wide shade range
Takes hours to fully set
This polish has a slightly thick formula that distributes well thanks to the wide brush. It also comes in a wide range of colors (we're talking really, really wide), from light neutral pinks to bold blues. When combined with the corresponding top coat, it can sustain up to a week of chip-free wear.
Price at time of publish: $11
Shades: 64 | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Finish: Shimmer, shine | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
"I'm a big fan of the shiny top coat—it's thick, easy to apply, and similar in texture to a professional gel. If your polishing skills are on point, you can definitely achieve a glossy gel manicure that looks professional-grade." — Kelsey Clark, Product Tester
Dior Vernis Gel Shine & Long Wear Nail Lacquer
Not a wide shade range
Vibrant and glossy are the top adjectives that come to mind for this lacquer. Reviewers are also fans of the wide brush that makes for a streak-free application. Once dry, expect it to far outlast your regular mani.
Price at time of publish: $30
Shades: 10 | Size: 0.3 fl. oz | Finish: Shimmer, shine | Cruelty-Free: No
OPI Infinite Shine Nail Polish
Beautiful neutral shades
Can be difficult to apply evenly
This polish is a non-streaky, super-shiny lacquer that comes in more than 60 shades and stays looking fresh for up to 10 days. We are particularly big fans of the nude and neutrals range for a clean and classic mani.
Price at time of publish: $14
Shades: 11 | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Finish: Shine | Cruelty-Free: No
Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Polish
The smell could bother some people
This budget-friendly polish combines base coat and color in one application so you can achieve a salon-quality mani at home even on a time crunch.
Pro tip: Apply this nail polish in thin layers to minimize drying time. Follow with the accompanying top coat for a manicure that stays shiny and chip-free far longer than its regular polish counterparts.
Price at time of publish: $10
Shades: 7 | Finish: Shine | Cruelty-Free: No
Butter London Patent Shine 10X Nail Lacquer
Rich, glossy shades
Free of formaldehyde and other ingredients
Nice shade range
A little expensive
This polish comes in a range of super-pigmented, high-shine shades that look freshly painted for over a week. Like all Butter London polishes, this one is formulated without formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, DBP, toluene, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, or TPHP.
Price at time of publish: $18
Shades: 35 | Size: 0.4 fl. oz | Finish: Shimmer, shine | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Top Coat
OPI Infinite Shine ProStay Gloss Top Coat
Works with any base color
Can be messy to apply
Turn any nail color into gel polish with this natural light-activated top coat. It imparts a glossy, high-shine finish that's chip-resistant for up to 11 days.
Price at time of publish: $14
Shades: Clear | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Finish: Shine | Cruelty-Free: No
Nails Inc Gel Effect Nail Polish
Brush makes it easy to apply
Must be used with base and top coat
This high-shine polish is long-lasting and conditioning. It's formulated to mimic the effects of a salon gel manicure and is made with a rare flower extract that works to strengthen your nails.
Price at time of publish: $15
Shades: 4 | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Finish: Shine | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Wet n Wild 1 Step Wonder Gel Nail Color
Two coats of this long-lasting polish are all you need—no top coat or base coat required. In the hallmark of a truly good nail polish, it dries really quickly.
Shades: 8+ | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Finish: Shine | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Brown Nude
Triple O Polish Benin-GEL
Requires UV light
Okay, so this polish does require a UV light, but it was too good not to mention, and you can purchase this at-home UV lamp to cure the polish yourself! If you have brown skin, then you know the traditional implication of the word "nude" doesn't always apply, so this long-lasting brown nude is a gem. With a mission to diversify nail care, you can always feel confident that OOO Polishes will look great on dark skin.
Price at time of publish: $13
Shades: 1 | Finish: Shine | Cruelty-Free: Yes
How We Researched & Tested
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
What to Look for in Gel Nail Polishes
The aesthetic and color range
As is the case with regular, non-gel polish, look for a brand that offers a variety of colors and finishes that will work with the type of manicures you gravitate towards, says nail expert Tina Wang, owner of Lunula Nail Salon in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. “Since each bottle will last many manicures, it’s a good idea to invest in polishes that you really love and can see yourself wearing for many occasions,” she says.
If it needs a special top & base coat
Certain at-home gel polish brands require a base and/or top coat that works best with the color and are necessary to use all together in order to get the promised longevity and wear. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure you have a complete set, but that’s also something to factor into when you’re thinking about price, Wang notes.
Whether it needs a light or not
While the ones on this list are all ones that do not need a lamp, many others do. If it’s a gel polish formula that needs to be cured under a light, make sure you have the correct lamp at home. “Gel polishes are generally compatible with any UV lamp since UV lamps emit a wider spectrum of wavelengths that will cure all types of gel polish. But if you have an LED lamp, check that the polish is compatible with an LED light,” says Wang.
Does at-home gel nail polish need a light?
Some, but not all. For example, the ones on this list are all ones that can be applied just like any regular polish, sans light. However, many true gel polishes do, says Wang. This can be either a UV light or LED light. The latter are more expensive but will cure polish (essentially dry it) faster, she points out. If you don’t want to deal with a light then the ones on this list, which are light-less are the way to go.
How do you remove gel nail polish at home?
Gel nail polishes that haven’t been cured under a light can be removed the same way you’d take off any other nail polish, simply with a nail polish remover. Soak a cotton ball in the liquid, hold onto the nail for a few seconds, then simply wipe away the color.
However, gel polishes that are used with a lamp require a different removal technique, and making sure it’s done correctly is important for maintaining the health of your nails, points out Wang. Gently file the top of the nail until the color no longer looks shiny. Apply a cotton ball that’s been soaked in an acetone-based remover, wrap each fingertip with aluminum foil, and leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. “Essentially, this creates a chemical reaction that loosens polish and allows the product to be removed with a cuticle pusher. It’s not a difficult process, but you do have to wait until the polish rubs off easily,” says Wang. While it can be tempting, resist the urge to peel-off this type of gel polish, as it’s one of the worst things you can do for the long-term health of your nails, she adds. If you’re prone to peeling, stick with gel polishes like the ones on this list that can be removed easily and don’t have to be soaked off.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15 percent of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough gel polishes from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.