It may seem like an intimidating project to try to give yourself a salon-quality manicure or pedicure at home, especially if you prefer the increasingly popular, durable gel polish treatments. With the right products and a little patience, though, you can treat yourself to an at-home spa day that’s easier than you expect!
Gel polish works differently than regular nail polish thanks to its unique chemical composition and curing method. Instead of simply drying out in the open air, the photoinitiators in gel polish will react with certain wavelengths of light—usually provided with a special LED or UV lamp—to start a polymerization reaction, which produces gel polish’s signature hard, “plastic” feel.
You don’t have to be a chemistry whiz to understand that gel polish is unusually durable and beautiful to look at! Try your hand at home manicure treatments with these options.
Gel Nail Kits
If you want to give yourself the closest thing possible to a salon experience at home, then a gel nail kit may be your best option. These premade kits include several different products designed to replicate the salon process; they typically include the special gel polish, which cures when exposed to certain types of light rather than simply air (like regular polish), nourishing nail treatments, and a UV or LED lamp to cure the polish properly in order to achieve that smooth, sturdy finish that gel polish fans love.
Le Mini Macaron offers an easy introduction to at-home gel manicures with their 1-Step Gel Manicure Kit. Available in eight different shades of red, pink, and white, the kit includes all the most necessary items: a nail file, a cuticle stick, polish remover pads, colorful gel polish, and a portable LED lamp to dry one nail at a time.
For a more complete, sophisticated approach, the Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit is a bit of an upgrade. Instead of simple items like nail files, the kit emphasizes what actually needs to be applied to the nails. There’s a cleanser and a gel polish remover to get your last manicure off, a base coat, color coat, and top coat, and an LED lamp to cure the nails on your whole hand at once.
If you really want to expand your horizons and try something fancy, the AzureBeauty Dip Powder Nail Kit is for you! “Gel” manicures achieved by using dip powders and a unique base and top coat combination are increasingly popular, and they’re worth experimenting with at home. The kit includes 10 different colored powders, which are alternated with layers of AzureBeauty Base & Top Coat and Activator for a glossy, chip-free finish.
AzureBeauty Dip Powder Nail Set
A unique method of getting shiny, colorful nails that won't chip.
UV-Free Gel Nail Polish
Some at-home gel polishes don’t require a UV light, as they’re formulated with specialized top coats to create a similar, durable effect without the extra curing step. These typically consist of two-step polish systems designed to work together: a colored polish (which usually requires two coats) followed by a specially formulated top coat for the gel finish.
Essie’s Gel Couture polish is a favorite of beauty geeks everywhere. Available in more than 20 beautiful colors—plus new specialty colors seasonally—the polish is a simple way of getting gel-quality nails at home without needing the light-sensitive chemical reaction that cures out traditional gel polish. Simply apply a double coat of color, then finish with a layer of Essie Gel Couture Top Coat for a durable gloss.
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel polish is another popular brand, beloved by salons and at-home consumers alike. The color selection is unmatched: over 70 shades in every color you can imagine, including shimmer and glitter polishes. Like the Essie polish, it’s super easy to use at home, with no UV or LED curing lamp required—just two coats of your chosen color and one of the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel 3.0 Shiny Top Coat.
Nail Recovery Treatments
If you frequently get your nails done, you probably have noticed that your nails and cuticles may dry out more than they do when your nails are unpolished. Gel polish in particular is hardy and beautiful, but it can wreck your nails if you’re not treating them right. To maintain the health and strength of your nails, you don’t have to keep the polish away, but you should definitely look into a couple of easy products that can make a big difference.
This Onsen Secret Cuticle Cream is a must-have treatment for your nails before you polish. Formulated with nourishing, natural ingredients like aloe vera and shea butter, the treatment is applied to your nail beds and cuticles to replenish the moisture that gets sucked out with repeated polish and removal cycles.
Now that you’re properly prepared to do at-home gel names, there’s one last thing to add to your shopping cart: a remover. Why? Because removing gel polish at home can be a tricky process: The very formula that makes it so long-lasting also makes it difficult to remove.
That’s why you need this Nails Inc. Gel-Less Gel Nail Polish Remover Kit. While it’s tempting to just pick at it and peel it off, that creates long-term damage by peeling off the top layer of the nail along with the polish. Instead, look use a kit that has all the tools and products you’ll need.