Thick top coat that's similar in texture to salon gel
Smooth polish starts to coagulate upon application, keeping it neater
Flat, angled brush
Affordable and accessible
Good substitute for in-salon gel manicure
Lots of shades to choose from
Takes hours to fully set, leaving time for accidental smudging and denting
Doesn't last as long as a salon gel manicure (obviously)
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel
We purchased Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel nail polish so our writer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.
To say that the pandemic has changed our approach to health and beauty is an understatement. From maskne and bold eye makeup to indulgent skincare and virtual yoga classes, our entire health and beauty routines have shifted over the past year to match these unprecedented times.
Of course, our nails are no exception. With most salons having closed for the majority of last year, many turned to at-home manicure kits, travel foot spas, and salon-level gel polish to maintain their manis (and a much-needed sense of normalcy).
While years of trial and error have taught me to leave nail care to the experts, the pandemic certainly highlighted my need for a solid backup option. My search for a top-rated and affordable gel polish inevitably led me to Sally Hansen’s Miracle Gel — an inexpensive two-step system that boasts impressive reviews across Target, Ulta, Amazon, and more. Per the brand’s website, this product goes on like a regular polish and comes off with standard nail polish remover, but boasts the same hardened, long-lasting sheen of a salon gel manicure (sans UV light).
Uses: Affordable, gel-like manicures without a trip to the salon.
Clean?: No; contains Methylparaben, Propylparaben, and PEG-10.
Potential allergens: N/A
About the brand: Sally Hansen founded her eponymous beauty brand in New York in 1946, and it’s been a household name ever since. While the brand is primarily known for its affordable nail care products, it also produces a trusted line of tweezers, eyelash curlers, wax strips, self tanner, and more.
About My Nails: Short and brittle
I’m not exaggerating when I say that my nails are a nail artist’s worst nightmare. Thanks to years of subconscious picking in reaction to every minor inconvenience, they’re short, brittle, and may or may not be bleeding at any given time. My nail techs typically cringe when I lay my hands on their table and ask what happened, whether I bite my nails, or simply say, “Ouch.”
With that being said, I thoroughly enjoy the experience of getting my nails done and go to the salon every two weeks during non-pandemic times. I usually get a basic gel mani and call it a day; I’ve actually never gotten acrylics in my life for fear of further weakening my already frail nails.
Suffice it to say, I have my work cut out for me every time I attempt a DIY manicure. The condition of my nails, coupled with minimal practice and zero patience, has resulted in countless botched paint jobs over the years, so I typically skip polish altogether if I can’t visit a salon. With the pandemic having significantly prolonged that time away, I decided to try out Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel in hopes that it could tide me over.
How to Apply: Two coats of color, one top coat, and ample dry time
Since I knew I was going to be photographing my nails afterward, I put more time into this at-home manicure than ever before. I even brought out my seldom-used nail file, clippers, and cuticle pusher in an attempt to recreate the true salon experience from my kitchen counter.
I followed the application instructions on the Sally Hansen website to a T: a brush of nail polish remover to clear any residue followed by two thin coats of Miracle Gel color, five minutes of dry time, and one layer of Miracle Gel Shiny Top Coat. The site didn’t specify post-mani dry time, but I laid low for a good 45 minutes to avoid smudging.
The Results: A solid, gel-like manicure, once you've let it set
Overall, I was decently impressed with my Sally Hansen Miracle Gel manicure. While I wouldn’t put it on the same level as a salon mani, I was able to achieve a more glossy, professional look than I have in the past. It’s definitely a good quarantine beauty save, and I love that it doesn’t require a UV light. 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.
With that said, the polish took hours to fully set. While it was dry to the touch within 45 minutes or so, I could easily dent, smudge, or chip the thick coat for hours afterwards. I did my nails around 6 p.m., and didn’t feel like the polish was 100% smudge-proof until I woke up the next morning.
This extra-long dry window left plenty of time for accidental dents and smudging—especially if you plan to go about your life afterwards—and my manicure ended up looking *very* amateur. Basically, unless you have eight-plus hours to paint your nails and carefully wait for them to set, expect some imperfections. Considering that zero post-manicure dry time is one of the defining (and coveted) features of a gel mani, this was a bit of a let down. Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel stops short of being a true salon gel replacement, though it still has more promise than many other polishes if you're stuck at home or otherwise need to go DIY.
Finally, my manicure lasted five days maximum before chipping. Again, I pick my nails, so I often incite chipping sooner than the average person. But I don’t think this manicure would’ve lasted a full 14 days, even if I left my nails alone.
The Value: Well worth the affordable price
While Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel nail polish may not be perfect, you can’t beat the price. At just $6 to $10 per bottle depending on the retailer, it’s significantly cheaper than a single in-salon manicure and most at-home gel systems (especially those requiring a UV lamp). At this price point, you can easily pick up a few colors from their impressive shade range (91 and counting!) and not think twice.
Similar Products: You've got options
Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish and Top Coat Kit: Much like Miracle Gel, Essie's at-home gel kit ($19) doesn’t require a UV lamp and can be removed just like regular nail polish. It’s a bit more expensive, but customers claim it’s worth the price—reviewers rave about the long-lasting formula and the ease of application. If you’re an Essie lover, it may be worth a try.
Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Pro Kit: To upgrade your at-home gel mani game for the long haul, consider investing in a complete kit. Red Carpet Manicure’s starter kit ($80) is a top-rated buy that comes with a UV lamp, base coat, top coat, polish, cuticle oil, prep adhesion sanitizer, a pre- and post-application cleanser, and a nail polish remover.
Butter London DIY Gel Nail Kit: You currently have to buy Butter London's gel manicure components—a drying lamp ($20), a base and top coat ($12), and a shade of polish ($18)—individually, but sometimes it's available in a mini set. The brand's gel-like system boasts impressive reviews across the internet, and even with its peel-off capabilities, it won’t damage your nails over time, which is good news for anyone who prefers at-home manicures or still wants to wait a while for heading back into the salon.
While I’ll definitely be resuming my salon gel manis, Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel is an accessible, easy, and affordable at-home option for those looking to save money. I’d definitely consider it more of a gel-polish hybrid than a full-on gel, but it gets the job done—especially if you have the skills, precision, and patience to let your polish set. My stubby nails definitely require a professional’s touch to look halfway decent, but if you have long, strong nails and a knack for polishing, this could work for you for the long haul.
- Product Name Miracle Gel
- Product Brand Sally Hansen
- Price $10
- Weight 0.5 oz.
- Full Ingredient List Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Tosylamide/Epoxy Resin, Polyethylene Terephthalate, Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Stearalkonium Bentonite, Silica, Triphenyl Phosphate, Bis(Glycidoxyphenyl)Propane/Bisaminomethylnorbornane Copolymer, Glycidyl Neodecanoate/Phthalic Anhydride/Tmp Crosspolymer, Aqua/Water/Eau, Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol/Trimellitic Anhydride Copolymer, Isosorbide Dicaprylate/Caprate, Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Diacetone Alcohol, Etocrylene, Kaolin, Acrylates Copolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Ipdi/PPG-15 Glyceryl Ether Copolymer, Polyurethane-11, Acrylates/ Dimethicone Copolymer, Corallina Officinalis Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Phosphoric Acid, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Lithothamnion Calcareum Extract, Tin Oxide, Dimethicone, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Mannitol, Aluminum Hydroxide, Polyvinyl Butyral, Solum Diatomeae/Diatomaceous Earth/Terre De Diatomees, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Butylene Glycol, Zinc Sulfate, Macrocystis, Pyrifera (Kelp) Extract, Hydrolyzed Conchiolin Protein, Methylparaben, Propylparaben. May Contain: Mica, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Aluminum Powder (CI 77000), Ultramarines (CI 77007), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, Ci 77492, CI 77499), Manganese Violet (CI 77742), D&C Red No. 6 Barium Lake (CI 15850), D&C Red No. 7 Calcium Lake (CI 15850), Fd&C Yellow No. 5 Aluminum Lake (CI 19140), D&C Red No. 34 Calcium Lake (CI 15880), Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide (CI 77510), FD&C Blue No. 1 Aluminum Lake (CI 42090), D&C Black No. 2 (CI 77266), D&C Red No. 28 (CI 45410), D&C Yellow No. 11 (CI 47000), D&C Violet No. 2.