Home Investing 8 best gel nail kits for salon-quality manicures at home

8 best gel nail kits for salon-quality manicures at home

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There’s few things that can make you feel put together as fast as a freshly painted manicure. It can also be one of the few times to enjoy some alone time, sitting in a comfortable salon seat, flicking through a magazine.

There are, however, plenty of kits you can find online that allow you to achieve a new manicure from home, but it does take a bit of practice and patience to get neat nails, so don’t worry if you don’t see perfect results the first time. It will also make you much more appreciative of your favourite nail technician.

Most kits come with a UV, LED or UV/LED lamp, a top and base coat along with one or more gel polishes. Typically UV and UV/LED lamps require longer curing time, while LED lamps are much quicker and less damaging to nails.

Once you’ve got all your tools together, there’s a few ways to ensure your paintwork looks good and lasts as long as possible.

Preparation is key, so firstly file your nails so they’re a uniform shape, push back your cuticles and buff your nail bed for a smooth base. Then you want to ensure you only apply the gel colours in thin layers, doing three at most to avoid them looking clumpy. You can add an extra pampering step once your top coat is set with a cuticle oil and hand cream.

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How we tested

We’ve spent weeks testing gel nail kits and have found the very best, rating each on price, ease of use and staying power, to help make picking one for yourself much easier. Whether you love a classic red, chic, glossy black or natural looking nude, these are the sets that will have your nails looking shiny and new within minutes.

The best gel nail kits for 2021 are:

Best overall – Mylee the full works complete gel polish kit: £129, Mylee.co.uk Best for vegans – Manucurist green flash gift set: £85, Manucurist.com Best for a speedy manicure – Bluesky starter kit: £44.99, Blueskycosmetics.co.uk Best fool-proof kit – Semilac starter set try me with 36W led lamp: £59.90, Semilacshop.co.uk Best for long lasting results – Gellux gel polish starter kit: £67.99, Justmylook.com Best for aspiring nail techs – The Edge gelover soak off gel kit: £49.50, Edgenails.co.uk For nail protection and nourishment – Red Carpet Beauty fortify & protect pro starter kit: £79.95, Redcarpetbeauty.co.uk Best top coat for normal varnish – Leighton Denny complete top that! gel system: £41.99, Lookfantastic.com

Mylee the full works complete gel polish kit Best: Overall This is an extensive kit, containing everything you need for an at-home salon experience. Complete with an LED lamp, a bottle of nail prep solution and gel remover, lint-free cloths, base coat, top coat, cuticle sticks, a glass nail file, buffing block and eight gel colours, Mylee has created a thoughtful kit that’s brilliant for those used to regular gel manicures and don’t want to wait months for beauty salons to reopen. We loved how much choice in shades there was, which allows you to create a multi-coloured manicure if you like. Our favourites were Hollywood twist and gold digger – silver and gold shimmery shades that felt festive but not tacky. The consistency of the gel is quite thick, which took some getting used to, as only a thin layer is required, cured under the lamp before another layer is added to build colour. The lamp is roomy too, and allowed us to fit our whole hand comfortably under it with ease. While the most expensive on our list, it’s well worth the investment thanks to the variety of gel shades it includes and all the tools you could ever need. The hand cream, cuticle sticks and cuticle oil also mean once you’ve finished curing your top coat, you can still enjoy a pampering treat that will simultaneously keep nails and skin healthy while minimising any damage. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Manucurist green flash gift set Best: For vegans Small but mighty, one of the main appeals of this set is its compact size, which easily fits into a bedside drawer, and isn’t bulky or heavy either. However its main selling point is that it’s plant-based, with vegan formulas that sit between a traditional polish and a gel. They give a glossy finish and can swiftly be taken off using nail polish remover. As a result they’re less damaging to nails and don’t come with a time-consuming removal process that can take up your whole Sunday. In this kit you’ll find a UV lamp, nail polish remover, base, topcoat and two colours of your choice. There’s an extensive 25-shade range available to chose from – our favourite is anémone, a brilliant raspberry red. It’s not quite as speedy as other kits we tried, because you can’t comfortably fit all five fingers under the lamp, so we resorted to four fingers and then our thumb separately, which of course adds on time. That said, it didn’t detract from how easy it is to use. The more careful you are with your hands, the longer your manicure will last, and we got a full seven days out of ours, before chipping one while opening boxes. Sign up for email alerts to be notified when this set is back in stock, which will be mid-April. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Bluesky starter kit Best: For a speedy manicure This compact kit contains all the essentials for a fuss-free gel manicure at home. It comes in a neatly packaged box containing a LED/UV lamp, top and base coat, a 20 pack of cleanser wipes, a nail file and buffer and three full size gel polishes – a bright red, glossy black and dusty pink. Our favourite part of this kit was its speediness, requiring only 30 seconds of curing under the lamp for the base coat, then 60 seconds per coat of paint, and finally 60 seconds once you’ve applied the top coat. The instruction booklet is clear and easy to follow, and the cleanser wipes do a great job of tidying up the cuticles before you put your hand under the lamp, which meant the end result was a lot neater. This is ideal if you want to invest in a gel nail kit without spending a huge amount, and we think for under £50 it’s quite reasonable, as the three colours it comes with are full size. Just be careful to ensure you only apply a very thin layer, the first time we tried this we made the mistake of applying one that was too thick, which meant keeping it tidy was tricky. You can’t, however, fit all five nails under the lamp comfortably, so make sure you’re careful not to touch freshly applied gel polish, which would ruin your handiwork when moving hands about. We opted for the pillarbox red, which resulted in a beautiful glossy finish that lasted a full 10 days. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Semilac starter set try me with 36W led lamp Best: Fool-proof kit We loved the thinner consistency of the trio of gel shades that came in this kit, with one full size and two minis. It’s incredibly simple to use – a fool-proof kit you can’t go wrong with. Our only gripe is that it’s not immediately clear how long to leave nails under the UV lamp for, but once we’d read over the FAQ’s on Semilac’s website and found it was 120 seconds for the 36 watt machine, the rest was easy. Don’t be put off by the small size of the minis, which include the base and top coat, the brush picks up a lot of product but doesn’t require a huge amount to coat the entire nail. We were very impressed with the results from this kit, with glossy, smooth nails that lasted nearly two full weeks. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Gellux gel polish starter kit Best: For long lasting results Another compact kit is this one from Gellux, which comes with four shades; white, pale pink, dark pink and red, along with a cuticle oil, two nail files and a buffer, a base/top coat, a fast bonding clear solution, prep solution and remover. While the shades themselves are easy to apply with a wide brush that easily coats the nail, it doesn’t come with a lamp, which you need to buy separately, thus creating an added expense that would have been more convenient to include with the kit. We tried using it with the Gellux mini LED lamp (£53.90, Justmylook.com) which was incredibly small but required only 30 seconds of curing time. Due to its small size, you can’t fit all five fingers in it, but it only has one button setting – which is for 30 seconds – and then it will turn off, so you don’t need to remember how long your nails have been under it for while you scroll through TikTok. The fast bond is a coating to be applied before the base coat, and helps the gel polish stay on the nail for longer with less chipping, and we did notice a difference, getting a full 12 days out of them before we saw any sign of wear. If you’re prepared to spend more to get the LED lamp and the starter kit, this is an excellent set that’s easy to use and delivers long-lasting results. Unfortunately this one is out of stock at the moment, but you can still sign up to be notified via email when it becomes available again. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} The Edge gelover soak off gel kit Best: For aspiring nail techs One for aspiring professionals, this is a great kit for perfecting your gel application and removal. While you need to buy the LED/UV lamp separately (£39, Edgenails.co.uk), altogether it provides you with the tools you need for the entire process. Containing two gel colours, a peachy orange and a classic red, along with a top and base coat, acetone for removal, nail prep solution, two nail files, cuticle sticks, lint free pads and soak off bandages, it’s a well thought out set that has everything you need. We used two coats of the peachy orange colour, which was enough to create an opaque finish, and the brush distributed product evenly across the nail. This left a lovely glossy finish and lasted very well without chipping for nearly two weeks (we were very careful not to scuff our nails). The removal process of gel nails is a time-consuming process, and many gel nail kits often don’t include the tools you need to take the colour off. One of our favourite aspects of this kit is the 40 soak off bandages, which enable you to remove a full set of gel nails four times. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Red Carpet Beauty fortify & protect pro starter kit Best: For nail protection and nourishment Each step in this kit only takes 30 seconds under the LED lamp, and while you cannot fit five fingers in it at a time, it dramatically reduces the time we used to spend waiting for our nails to air dry. This too comes with the tools to create a salon-quality manicure, as well as everything you need to remove them safely. In it you’ll find the LED lamp, top coat, base coat, cuticle oil, purifying prep solution, buffer block, accessories kit with nail buffers, files, lint-free wipes and cuticle sticks, removal wraps and a miniature pale pink shade. While we would have liked to see a full size gel colour, or more selection of shades for the price, it’s easy to follow the instructions, and the set provides a speedy way to achieve a high quality finish. The removal wraps are foils with an attached piece of cotton so removing them is a simple process too. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}} Leighton Denny complete top that! gel system Best: Top coat for normal varnish This genius little kit comes with a compact LED/UV lamp, nail cleanser, buffer, hoof stick for pushing back cuticles and a gel top coat. It doesn’t come with any gel shades as you simply apply your normal nail varnish as usual, wait 30 minutes for it to dry, then apply the gel coat and set under the lamp for 30 seconds and voila, you have a gel-looking manicure. While the lamp doesn’t fit five fingers very comfortably, we found it easier to place our four fingers under it, and then our thumb, which works quickly to give you the glossy shine and long-lasting finish we love from a gel manicure without the need for gel polishes. It’s a great way to get the most out of your existing nail varnishes, and we found it to be simple but effective, with none of the usual chipping with regular polish. It doesn’t have the same thickness that gel shades offer, but it’s the perfect compromise between the budget-friendly nail polishes and the high quality effect that gel nails deliver. We used Barry M Cosmetics gelly hi shine nail paint in lavender (£3.99, Lookfantastic.com) and were left impressed. It is currently out of stock, but more kits are expected soon so, sign up with email to be notified when it’s available to buy again. {{#hasItems}} Price comparison {{/hasItems}} {{#items}} {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now {{/items}} {{#hasItems}} {{/hasItems}}

The verdict: Gel nail kits While all the ones we tried left us impressed, it was Mylee the full works complete gel polish kit that pipped them to the post, mostly due to the spacious LED lamp that could easily fit five fingers, but for the extensive shade range too, which gave us ample amount of choice. We were also very impressed with The Edge gelover soak off gel kit, as it was clear that equal amount of thought had been put into both the removal and application process. It made taking our gel polish off simple and speedy, leaving no signs of damage behind. Voucher codes For the latest discounts on nailcare and other beauty offers, try the below links: Treatwell Discount Codes Feelunique Discount Codes To keep your nails looking and feeling healthy in between manicures, read our review of the best nail treatments and strengtheners

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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