Updated December 2021
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Buying guide for best gel coat manicure sets

Do you feel refreshed every time you get a manicure? As revitalizing as it is, the cost of regular manicure maintenance can add up fast and detract from the experience. An affordable solution is to give yourself the salon treatment at home with your very own gel coat manicure set.

Gel coat manicure sets come with the polish, lamp, and an assortment of the manicure accessories you need. Gel polish has a high-pigment, high-gloss finish that won’t fade or dull. That’s why it’s the preferred formula among nail aficionados — it’s here to stay. UV/LED lamps activate the gel formula to make it dry hard and dry quickly. Unlike regular polish, gel lasts up to two weeks without chips, all thanks to its unique formula and curing process. 

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Keep a classic, professional shade of polish in your collection. Opt for nudes, pinks, or coral tones.

Key considerations

How to give yourself a gel coat manicure

Before choosing a gel coat manicure set, it’s important to understand the process and tools involved. Since it’s more involved than simply painting and drying your nails, here’s a brief overview of the steps:

Prepare your nails: Before beginning any manicure, it’s important to wash your hands. You can then clean up your cuticles, trim nails, and file and shape them accordingly. You might need to buff your nails to create a flat surface to ensure the polish applies evenly. Turn on the curing lamp so it’s ready after the next step.

Polish: Begin with a base coat of polish. Let it cure under the lamp, and then follow it with the gel polish. With some brands, you need to apply two or three coats. Once the gel cures, you add the top coat and cure that under the lamp.

Cleanup: Once your gel manicure is completely dry, wash and moisturize your hands. It’s also important to clean up your manicure station and sanitize your tools before putting them away.

Types of gel coat manicure sets

Polish only: In these basic sets, you get just the gel nail polish. Most sets have between 6 and 12 shades, though larger sets can have as many as 40. Read the packaging carefully when looking for polish sets because not all sets include full-size bottles. It’s not unusual for large assortments to be made up of mini bottles. It might not seem like a big deal given the variety, but you’ll burn through a mini bottle after two or three manicures

Polish and lamp: There are a number of starter sets available that include a few bottles of gel polish and a curing lamp. With these, you’ll usually get the top coat and base coat as well, which don’t always come with basic polish sets. These are considered the best middle-of-the-road sets with all the basics. One is ideal for someone who is just getting into home gel manicures and doesn’t want to shell out big bucks for a premium kit.

Curing lamp

A curing lamp is required for gel coat polish to dry and harden. These lamps have either UV or LED lights, though some models feature both. LED lights are often preferred to UV lights, especially since they limit the amount of radiation exposure. LED lights also have a faster curing time, less than a minute, compared to the eight to ten minutes for UV lights. LED bulbs also last much longer and are far more energy efficient.


Deluxe gel manicure sets include an assortment of polish, a curing lamp, and a variety of manicure tools. Surprisingly, these can cost as little as sets with just polish and a lamp, but that usually means the lamp or tools aren’t the best quality. To get the best bang for your buck in a deluxe kit, it’s worth spending more for a premium, salon-quality set. The lamp and tools will last much longer, and you’ll still end up saving hundreds of dollars on salon manicures.



Colors: Gel coat polish comes in a rainbow of colors. When sold in sets, the polish often features seasonal themes or an in-season color palette. In addition to solid colors, gel coat polish also comes in sparkle, glitter, and iridescent finishes.

Formula: Each manufacturer has a unique formula for its gel polish, so there’s a variety of ingredients. For the most part, gel polish contains a combination of polymers that are hardened and dried by the curing lamp. Formulas sometimes contain butylated hydroxyanisol (BHA), which has been identified as a carcinogen. Since not all gel polish contains BHA, definitely compare ingredients to be on the lookout for it.

Essential accessories

Electric nail file set: Pure Enrichment Electric Nail File Set
To get smooth, professional-looking nails, you’ll need to clean up your cuticles and nails first. We like this electric nail file set that comes with seven attachments that handle natural as well as acrylic nails. The set comes in a molded travel case that secures each piece. There’s even a built-in LED light, so you can focus on the finer details during your manicure.

Nail curing lamp: Diozo LED/UV Quick-Drying Lamp
Gel coat manicures need a quality curing lamp to set the polish. We like this one from Diozo, which has multiple timer settings and a low-heat mode. Its wide-mouth design is large enough to cure all the nails on your hand at once, including your thumb.

Gel coat manicure set prices

Gel coat manicure sets cost between $18 and $300, which mostly depends on the type and number of included accessories.

Inexpensive: If you spend $30 or less, you can find a broad range of gel coat polish sets with six to twelve colors. In some sets, you also get the top and base coats.

Mid-range: If you spend between $30 and $75, you can get a starter kit that comes with a curing lamp, a limited selection of polish, and a few manicure tools. Curing lamps are decent in this range, but they don’t have the longevity and performance of a salon lamp.

Expensive: If you’d like a salon-quality manicure, expect to spend between $100 and $300 on a deluxe gel coat manicure set. Not only is the polish in these sets of better quality, but the curing lamps are close to professional quality. These often come with premium manicure tools as well as polish remover.


  • Research the ingredients. If you have any contact allergies, make sure you research the ingredients in gel coat polish before investing in a whole set.
  • Invest in quality manicure tools. Since you’re working to achieve a professional-looking manicure, you need high-quality manicure tools as well. Metal tools can be expensive, but they last the longest and are the easiest to sanitize.
  • Store your set appropriately. Not all gel coat manicure sets come with a quality storage case, so get a box or case to keep your set dust-free and protected from other items in drawers and closets.
  • Think twice before packing your set in a carry-on. Gel coat polish might not be allowed beyond the TSA checkpoint, especially if it’s in a glass bottle. If possible, pack bottles and accessories in your checked baggage.
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Even if you’re not a fan of the colors included in a gel coat manicure set, it’s worth investing in it if the UV/LED curing lamp is of high quality.


Q. Is it really safer to do my own gel coat manicures instead of going to a salon?
Yes. When you go to a nail salon, even though nail stations and tools are sanitized, they’re still previously shared by other people. If they’re not properly sanitized, fungus and bacteria can grow on the tools and cause a nail infection. By using your own tools at home, you minimize contact with others, and you can control your own sanitization process.

Q. Will I end up saving money switching from salon to at-home gel coat manicures?
Yes. In fact, the price of a starter kit with a curing lamp could cost the same as a single gel coat manicure at a salon. In terms of ongoing costs, you’ll need to replenish the polish as well as top and base coats, which tend to be more expensive than regular nail polish. Even then, depending on the number of manicures you get, you’re still potentially saving hundreds of dollars per year on gel manicures.

Q. Can gel coat manicures damage my nails?
Yes, especially if you continually put on gel polish without taking periodic breaks. At the end of the day, even nontoxic formulas contain ingredients that can damage nails. Another thing to be aware of is your hands’ UV exposure under the curing lamp, which could damage the skin on your fingers and hands. If you’d like to enjoy gel coat manicures but don’t want the damage, limit your exposure to minimize long-term effects.

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