7 Best Gel Nail Kits for a Salon-Worthy DIY Manicure

Chloe Burcham

From Women's Health

If you're missing your manicure, you're not alone. Sure our nails might have had a (much needed) break over the last few months, but let's not lie… we're ready to get our shiny gels re-done now, please and thanks.

The good news is: at-home gel nail kits exist. The even better news? They're really easy to use. The key is to make sure that you invest in one of the very best gel nail kits (more on that below) and then ensure you follow every single step as directed… no cutting corners.

Ready to get enrolled in beauty salon school 101? Consider this your crib sheet.

Are home gel nail kits worth it?

First things first, are at-home gel nail kits actually worth it? Some can be expensive and if they're just going to chip, peel and damage your nails then we'd be better off waiting for the salons to open back up, thank you very much.

But we're here to tell you that actually— at home gel nail kits are worth it, as long as you know which are the best ones to buy. A great gel nail kit can quickly upgrade your every day polish into that super-shiny, slick, hard-as-nails mani that you thought only possible at a swanky salon.

Invest your money now and save in the long-term. After all, once you become an at-home mani pro you'll have your friends queuing out the door for DIY salon sessions.

How to give yourself a gel manicure

When it comes to getting down to business, each step will vary depending on your individual manicure kit — so it's always worth following the instructions that come with your pack.

As a general rule, there's usually a four-step process to remember: cleanse, paint, cure, clean.

1/ Cleanse

Most kits come complete with an alcohol wipe, so that you can cleanse your nail bed and ensure that any oils are removed before starting. This will help the polish bind to your nail, making it last longer and prevent chipping or peeling.

2/ Paint

Then comes the painting process. Some gel manicure kits contain a few different steps here (e.g. they might have a base coat, a colour and then a top coat - whereas some have 3-in-1 polishes) so it's always best to refer to your individual kit.

3/ Cure

Now for curing. Gel nail varnishes are set in place by an LED lamp, which helps to target teeny-tiny molecules within the polish, causing them to harden and dry — fast.

4/ Clean

Once you've set your gel nails, you'll need to clean them off. This is usually done with another wipe, that removes any residue that's not set properly from the lamp. Don't be tempted to skip this step as gel nail polishes won't 'dry' like regular varnishes. If you don't clean the nail afterwards you'll likely end up with sticky nails that attract dust and dirt onto your polish — not chic.

What is the best gel nail kit?

1/ Best for: a professional finish

This all-encompassing gel nail kit contains everything you'll need to get your mani looking salon-worthy in no time. Of course you get the LED lamp to cure your nails, the gel polish itself and a base and top coat— but you also receive everything from cuticle oil, sanitiser, remover and cleanser meaning you can give yourself a full-on start to finish manicure, from the comfort of your couch.

2/ Best for: fool-proof application

If you're worried about your DIY mani skills, then this little kit is perfect. The polish has a 3-in-1 formula, so you won't have to mess around with top or base coats. Plus the LED lamp is only big enough for one finger at a time, which means that you can make sure every finger is finished and dry — before moving onto the next. No smudging, smearing or ruining all your hard work in between.

3/ Best for: using with any nail polish

If you're put off from buying an at-home gel nail kit because you like your existing nail varnish colours (and don't like some of the ones that come with the DIY kits) then this is the one for you. The clever top coat and LED light combo works with any of your existing nail varnish shades and brands, meaning you can transform your favourite Essie, OPI or Rimmel shade to gel in no time at all.

4/ Best for: a long term investment

This kit is not messing around. Within it, you've got four Bluesky gel polishes, as well as a snazzy LED lamp, top and base coats and wipes to tidy your nails up.

5/ Best for: the non-committal

Transform your existing DIY mani into a gel effect situation. As well as coming complete with fun nail art, to layer onto your previous polish, you can remove your gels easily, taking the entire gel away in one peel, using a hoof stick.

6/ Best for: long-lasting results

A less expensive option, because you use your own polish, rather than buying them in the kit. Complete with a professional-looking LED lamp, the effects should last up to 14 days.

7/ Best for: colour choice

With six colours to choose from, there's got to be a shade that sings to you in this nifty kit. Plus, there's embellishments and nail art a plenty, if you're more creatively inclined.

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