Gel manicures feel like a special, fuss-free treat: Walk into a salon and walk out shortly after with glossy, smudge-proof nails that will last for weeks. Gel nails are different than traditional types of manicures because instead of waiting for your nail polish to air dry, a UV or LED light is used to cure or harden the gel lacquer in seconds. Gel manicures also tend to last longer than regular polishes. But gel manis aren't a luxury exclusive to salons — thanks to at-home gel nail kits, they can be done in the comfort of your own house.
While all different types of at-home nail kits virtually pay for themselves after one or two uses, the options can range from professional quality to beginner-friendly. To find the best gel nail kits, the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab pros vetted the most popular products on the market, ensuring our recommended picks have clear ingredient labels that follow the FDA’s Cosmetic Labeling Requirements. We reviewed each product’s packaging, including ingredient and warning labels, giving preference to products that clearly advise avoiding skin contact to prevent irritation caused by methacrylates, a known allergen and skin sensitizer included in every gel polish.
Note: All gel nail polishes use methacrylate polymerization technology to obtain the long lasting, chip resistant coating. While the 2005 Cosmetic Ingredient Review Report ruled methacrylates “safe as used in nail enhancements products when skin contact is avoided,” the study concludes that these ingredients are known to be skin sensitizers, so skin contact should be avoided.
Here are the top gel nail kits you can buy, according to reviewers and vetted for safety by our experts.
Reviewers love the professional-looking results this Red Carpet Manicure kit gives, saying not only does the polish in this kit stay on nails, it's also fast and easy to apply. "The detailed instructions are very helpful and the products that come in the kit are easy to use and seem to be good quality," a reviewer reported. "I've done two manicures now and they've lasted me a whole two weeks (and could have lasted longer)." Reviewers say it's perfect for beginners, too, since "it has everything you need," including a polish essentials like base and top coats plus nail color, nail prep must-haves like cuticle oil and cleanser and tools like nail wipes, wood pushers, cuticle stick, buffing strips and nail file, plus remover and foil wraps to take off your manicure.
Reviewers do warn that the color pictured may not be the one you get in the box, but still say the well-stocked kit is worth the coin. Our Beauty Lab evaluations confirmed it has a clear ingredient label that follows FDA’s Cosmetic Labeling Requirements, although the label does not clearly state to avoid skin contact and the set contains acrylic acid, an ingredient that has minimal health and safety information in cosmetics/nail products, so use with care to avoid skin contact.
Red Carpet Manicure
2) Salon Pro Gel Starter Kit
Beloved nail polish brand Sally Hansen's gel kit is budget-friendly, fast and efficient, according to reviewers. The included LED light is compact but "super convenient, even though I was hesitant about getting a smaller lamp," one reviewer notes. "It's the perfect size," which makes this kit ideal for anyone who doesn't mind drying their nails one by one in exchange for a smaller footprint.
Heads up: This kit isn't as well-stocked as others on the market and only comes with cleanser pads, a base coat, nail polish and top coat, polish remover, cuticle stick, buffer and alcohol cleaning pads, so you might need to buy extras if you're just getting started. The brand claims the three-step manicure kit lasts more than 10 manicures, which means under $5 per mirror-shine, glossy gel mani. Our Beauty Lab pros appreciate that the kit's ingredient label follows FDA’s Cosmetic Labeling Requirements and that the packaging also clearly states to avoid skin contact, making this a user-friendly pick when it comes to safety as well.
3) Gel Basic Kit
This basic kit has exactly what you need and nothing else, making it perfect for DIY pros who may already have nail accessories. The muted neutral tones are on trend and reviewers like that this brand "does not damage the nail," saying, "you can easily remove it." This kit is minimal with just a base coat, top coat and polish included, so it's best for anyone who already has a full nail kit at home, but you're looking to expand your gel polish arsenal, though, our pros say this is your pick — there are tons of colors to choose from. It also comes with a UV lamp and various converters for different areas of the world, making this a great pick for travel too.
Our GH Beauty Lab appreciates the transparent labeling that clearly lists ingredients and states to avoid skin contact, though application directions are not included in the kit and the formulas contain several ingredients that only have minimal health and safety data for use in cosmetics.
4) Pro Kit
Gelish has a wide range of gel nail polish colors to choose from (over 200!), and this kit comes with everything you need to get started. The brand claims that the polish cures under the included LED lamp in 45 seconds and removes in under 10 minutes with the included artificial nail remover. This kit comes stocked with helpful extras, from base and top coats to cuticle oil and polish remover and more. Reviewers say this is the ultimate beginner-friendly buy; "This kit had everything needed to apply gel polish at home. It comes with a foundation polish, colored polish, a top coat and cuticle oil," says one. "They even give you nail sticks with sand paper to smooth and prep the nails."
The kit comes with the full suite of Gelish must-haves, from its prep formulas pH Bond (which removes excess oils from the nail for a longer-lasting finish) and Foundation (an adhesive base coat that the brand claims protects the nail). It also comes with Top it Off, Gelish's high-shine top coat that the brand claims "will not dull, chip or peel," a cleanser to remove any lingering sticky residue and Nourish cuticle oil to finish it all off. Reviewers swear, "it looks like professional gels when applied," but "unlike salon polish, it is very easy to remove without damaging nails." The tradeoff, they say, is that this polish only lasts 1-2 weeks instead of 3-4 weeks, as some salon gel polish might. Our Beauty Lab experts appreciated the clear ingredient label that follows FDA’s Cosmetic Labeling Requirements and that the instructions clearly state to avoid skin contact, however some components of the kit contain ingredients that only have minimal health and safety data for use in cosmetics.
5) Miracle Gel Nail Polish
Get a glossy gel-like finish — no LED or UV light needed — with this top-tested polish from Sally Hansen. With over 80 shade options available, it won a GH Beauty Award and in our Beauty Lab tests, we found that it dries quickly, resists chipping and lasts longer than normal nail polish while also avoiding the production of curing under lights. You won't get the fast-drying, crack-proof finish of traditional gel, but the learning curve is nonexistent.
One of more than 16,000 five-star reviewers on Amazon claims this polish lasts a week without a single chip or peel. "The polish lasted exactly 8 days before it chipped (as advertised) and that whole time it looked shiny and beautiful," said another reviewer. "What also makes this the perfect polish is that it goes on easily and dries quickly too." Our Beauty Lab pros love that it omits methacrylate altogether!
The best professional-quality and UV gel nail starter kits for the perfect DIY gel mani, even for beginners, from brands like Sally Hansen and Gelish.