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Many of us have been all about DIY beauty in recent months, myself included: I've turned to tinted masks (opens in new tab) to color my hair, used ingredients from my kitchen (opens in new tab) as makeup removers and hydrators, and even attempted a personal pedicure or two (opens in new tab). It's been empowering, really. Instead of turning to my typical pros (opens in new tab) that keep me looking decent—think hairstylists, facialists, and nail techs—it's nice to know I'm capable of doing these things myself. But despite my newfound primping independence, one thing still seems more intimidating that it should: a DIY gel mani (opens in new tab). In my head, these treatments have always been salon affairs exclusively. My hands are shaky! I can't help it! But times have changed, and more and more of my friends and colleagues have been ordering kits offline to try the treatments themselves. It's inspired me to do more research, and I'm now reconsidering my set ways.
Luckily, at-home gel kits have gotten better and better over the years. Now, doing a gel mani from the comfort of your own couch is as easy as it's ever been, and I now find myself wondering why I haven't been pampering my nail beds myself all along. Even better, these gel formulas mean weeks of pretty hands that won't chip like some more temporary polishes I've been known to reach for, and the equipment couldn't be easier to use. Here, we've rounded up the best at-home gel nail kits on the market, for your consideration.
Best Custom Pick
If press-on nails make you very, very afraid, it's time to conquer your fears with this easy, and supremely cute option. Submit a few quick snaps of your nail beds and a few days later, custom stick-on gels arrive in the mail. A word to the wise: The process is quicker than any of the paint-on options, but that doesn't mean taking your time isn't still highly advisable.
Best Starter Kit
This effective little set contains all you need—read: no extra junk—for a solid, shiny manicure in about a minute and a half of curing time. What's great is that when you tire of the neutral pink that comes with, you can re-up with a simple trip to any ol' drugstore (no special orders required).
This kit is as adorable as it is effective: it's shaped like a macaroon, for God's sake. Simply clean the nails with acetone, and then use the LED lamp to cure the gel polish in between coats for up to 10 days of wear. And it's got a USB cord, so you can plug it into your laptop during a WFH lunch break...or just about anywhere.
For Damaged Nails
Butter London's kit focuses on a low-impact mani that still stays put. The quick-drying LED light means less dry time, exfoliating nail scrubbers remove old polish and imbue nail beds with Vitamin E, and the peel-off polish fills ridges and comes off easily—but only went you want it to.
What looks like an awful lot of bells and whistles is actually a complete and effective collection of everything you need to groom, prepare, and polish your nails. Don't believe us? 2,800 Amazon reviews can give you a more thorough endorsement. (Also, the UV light folds down for flat, convenient storage.)
For A UV-Free Manicure
For those who can't be bothered with firing up a lamp, this duo is an easy one-two punch. Apply two coats of pigmented longwear formula, then seal it in with the high-shine top coat that'll dry down to a gel finish.
Best Press-On Set
Are you the gal who was fine to spend upwards of two hours in the salon having an artist do an install on your nail beds? Color Camp are the gel nails for you. After doing an at-home try-on to make sure the pieces fit, you'll receive a completely custom set truly as good as in-salons session. Extra points awarded for the wide range of ever-changing styles. Oh, and NB: Just like real gels, these need to be removed with an acetone soak—not the intermittent picking method favored by many.
Not only does the kit come fully stocked with everything you need for 40 (!) manicures—which is about two years of great nails, according to our calculations—but it's also equipped with one of the stronger LED lamps out there, meaning quicker wait-times and a sturdier finish than most.
For Extra-Long Wear
This kit promises a whopping 21 days of wear from its salon quality polish. Layer the base, color, and top coats in thin layers for a no-chip treatment.
For A Five-Minute Mani
Two weeks of wear is a long time to rock polish without the assistance of an LED light, but Sally Hansen's pair delivers. Apply two coats of any of the bold shades, and finish it off with the gel top coat.
Taylore Glynn is the Beauty and Health Editor at Marie Claire, covering skincare, makeup, fragrance, wellness, and more. If you need her, she’s probably roasting a chicken, flying solo at the movies, or drinking a bad Negroni at JFK.
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