Most of my favorite beauty recommendations come from the internet's "skincare fairy godmother," Charlotte Palermino. I'd trust her suggestions in any category, especially since her skincare line, Dieux, is heralded as an industry darling. When I heard her talk about Le Manoir's Gelcare Starter Kit on the Breaking Beauty podcast (and her tip about applying SPF before using the kit), I was intrigued. Then, I heard Soft Services co-founder Annie Kreighbaum hype the product on her podcast, Eyewitness Beauty. There were too many skincare stars aligning for me to wait any longer to try it.
The kit arrived in a box larger than I expected, with a veritable rainbow of shades for whatever gel manicure I could dream up. Sadly, I'm a red-only manicure wearer, but I relished the chic shades. The kit contained everything I needed to become my own nail artist, including step-by-step instructions. Ahead, read about my experience using the Le Manoir Gelcare Starter Kit.
Meet the Expert
What Does Le Manoir's Gelcare Starter Kit Include?
At $201, Le Manoir's Gelcare Starter Kit isn't exactly a steal. That is until you start considering the cost of multiple gel manicures. The kit includes everything except for polish. However, you can choose from dozens of shades on the site.
The kit contains a LED lamp, base coat, top coat, cuticle remover, cuticle oil, gel remover, gel removal tool, hook tool, cuticle nipper, curved file, and a buffing block. Some of the tools might feel intimidating, but luckily, the brand's YouTube channel has tons of tutorials.
I was nervous about attempting my first manicure with my Gelcare kit. On the one hand, I'm used to painting my nails at home since spending an hour at the salon every other week isn't realistic for me. On the other hand, I adored getting a gel manicure for special occasions and was reluctant to give up the ritual. After lots of trial and error, I discovered I could recreate the parts of a salon manicure I loved the most without the steep price.
The instructions included in the kit were easy to follow, and the setup couldn't be more straightforward. All I had to do was remove the Gelcare LED Lamp from its packaging and plug it in. The lamp also functions without a cord, which means you can do manicures anywhere in your house. However, it's important to avoid sunlight when giving yourself a gel manicure since it can work against the curing process.
Once I filed my nails to their desired shape, I washed and dried my hands. Then, it was time to paint my nails their signature red color. My painting could use some improvement, but like any new hobby, I'm excited to get better.
It's realistic to expect a gel manicure to last anywhere from 10 days to three weeks. "Gel manicures are designed to last around three weeks. Because of natural nail growth and wear and tear, anything beyond that usually does not look great," Totty says.
After two weeks of wearing the polish, I followed the kit's detailed removal instructions. Unlike other gel removal incidents (where things got a little messy), this process was simple and left my nails feeling healthy. The second time I did a gel manicure using the kit, I felt more confident, which resulted in a smoother application.
There are several other at-home gel manicure sets on the market. For example, powerhouse nail brand CND offers a Basic Gel Kit for $200. It includes a lamp, base coat, and top coat. What sets the Gelcare kit apart is the inclusion of every tool you need for the process. Instead of having to source something like a buffing bar elsewhere, it's all inside the box. Plus, the kit's top coat and base coat are a total lifesaver.
Are Gel Manicures Safe?
Even though doing gel manicures can be fun, it's important to consider the ramifications. "[Many of these] lamps emit UVA rays, which are the same longer ultraviolet light wavelength that contributes to skin cancers and photoaging, especially sun spots and wrinkles," Dr. Marchbein explains. "While gel manicures may be OK occasionally, repeated exposure to UVA rays from the drying lamp can cause cumulative damage to the skin over time."
That's why Dr. Stern recommends applying sunscreen before beginning your gel manicure. "Be sure to use sun protection before going under the UV light," she says. "Sunscreen should be broad-spectrum and applied 15 minutes prior to exposure. Alternatively, use a fingertip-less glove or pedicure sock to protect the surrounding skin."
Beyond the potential impact of repeated UVA exposure, frequent gel manicures can also lead to nail damage. "Most of the damage from gel manicures relates to the removal process," Dr. Stern explains. "Prolonged acetone soaks are required for removal (i.e., soak-off gels) and will dehydrate the nail and cuticle, making the nail more prone to brittleness, peeling, and breakage."
If you've been looking to establish a nail routine but can't justify a trip to the salon every few weeks, Le Manoir's Gelcare Starter Kit is your answered prayer. Sure, there's a learning curve. And yes, one hand will always look more even than the other, but that's ok. Taking time out of your day every few weeks to paint your nails might be the break you've been looking for.
Safety of LED nail lamps. Harvard Health.