Even with the health hazard claims, such as the LED lights used causing cancer (among others), gel manicures don't seem to be going anywhere. And why would they? The extra-glossy manicures last a minimum of two weeks with little to no chipping. So it seems that the DIY versions may be the holy grail of manicures: affordable and durable. To find out of the at-home versions live up to their marketing hype, I stress-tested three top-rated kits. To find out which one was torture and which was worth the hassle, read on.
SensatioNail Invincible Gel Polish Starter Kit Application is pretty easy—base coat, cure, coat of polish, cure, coat of polish, cure, topcoat, cure. But be careful with the base coat. I applied too thick a coat and the nail polish didn't blend nicely. Instead, it started streaking. Thin coats are key. Another problem—removal. Although the polish did last the full two weeks, I had to scrub the nails with acetone for 30 minutes to get all of the product off. Salon trick: soak a cotton swab in remover, place it on the nail and cover it with aluminum foil. Let it sit for 20 minutes and then swipe the nails again with acetone remover.
Would I use it again? No, I'd much rather leave gel to the professionals. The polish was very thick so after only a few coats, it looked streaky and amateurish.
Sally Hansen Salon Insta-Gel Strips This isn't your traditional gel manicure because it actually uses nail stickers instead of polish. After applying the strips, you paint on the gel topcoat and let it cure. This creates that long-lasting shine. The application was easy, but because the lamp is so small it look a while—you can only cure one nail at a time. The biggest plus was removal. Gel manicures are known for making nails brittle if removed improperly. Because they're strips, they peeled right off.
Would I use it again? Yes. Not only was it easy to apply and remove, but it's a simple answer to enjoying nail art without the use of tools…or skill.
Kiss Everlasting Gel Polish French Manicure Kit French manicures are making a comeback and this kit helps you get the look at home. A little harder (and more time consuming than the others), you apply French appliqués to the tips of the nails with glue. Then you add the gel topcoat and cure. The manicure lasted two weeks, although one tip did fall off because I didn't use enough glue on the tip. A simple remedy is applying more glue over the gel polish and reapplying it.
Would I use it again? Maybe. The whole process took about an hour and removal was simple using the Kiss All or 1 Artificial Nail Remover where you can soak your fingers in acetone. But do I really want a French mani for two weeks? I think I'd rather switch it up with bright neons and nudes.
Would you do gel nails at home? If so, check out these and other top-selling kits in the gallery above.