High shine and pigment. 21-day wear with proper application and nail care. 48 watt LED lamp has 3 timer settings. Manicure tools are superior to those in competitor starter kits. Almost no odor from polish.
Starter colors are a bit too bold or dark for those with more neutral or toned-town taste.
Matches affordability with ample accessories. Includes 5 colors, base and top coats, tools, and a portable UV and LED lamp. Has everything you need to create attractive, long-lasting gel manicures.
Color change polishes don't always work as expected, but the colors are still pretty. Some reports of polish being either too thick or too thin.
A collection of gel polishes that offer pretty colors and hold up fairly well. A 6-piece set that features subtle, pastel colors. Finished results create glossy shine when used with base and top coats. Polish has been known to wear for up to 2 weeks when applied properly.
Polish consistency is fairly thick. Doesn't include a UV LED light or base and top coats. Some customers received the wrong colors.
Color selection is versatile enough to include a balance of classic shades and edgy ones. Colors are displayed on bottles and tend to be accurate. Packaging is nice enough to give the set as a gift.
Mini as opposed to full-size bottles. Some colors may last longer on nails than others.
48 watt high-power lamp capable of curing all gel polish types. Polish formula is toxin-free, low odor, and free of harsh additives that strip and damage nails. Comes with high-quality top gel and base gel.
Chip-free polish only lasts around 5 days. Color accuracy isn’t always there, so expect some changes as polish dries.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
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.
If you’re ready to bring the salon home and handle your own manicures, it’s time to invest in a gel coat manicure set. Here’s our comprehensive buying guide, plus some of our favorites, to help you compare sets and find the best one for your nails.
Before buying 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.
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 buying 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.
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, 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 value 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.
Take your time with a gel coat manicure. If you rush the preparation or painting, you could end up with a shoddy manicure that requires soaking the color off and starting all over again.
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.
Store your gel coat polish in a cool, dark place. This will limit the bottle’s light exposure, which protects the shade from changing consistency and color.
Gel coat polish remover: Bobo Magic Nail Polish Remover Gel
When it’s time to change your nail color, you’ll need to remove your existing gel coat polish. We like this soak-off gel remover whose paint-on formula starts removing polish in less than three minutes. Polish quickly peels off, so there’s no tugging or scraping.
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 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.
Avoid picking up your phone while your manicure is drying. If you get a dollop of gel coat polish on the screen or the case, you’ll have your work cut out for you to remove it.
We found a couple of other products you might prefer to those in our matrix. We also like the cool shades in the BTArtbox Gel Nail Polish Set. This springtime-inspired set of six shades also comes with base and top coats. Polish lasts up to two weeks with proper application, and the pigment is consistently vibrant. The fuschia and ruby shades are especially popular among wearers because they’re versatile enough for everyday wear.
We’re impressed by the Vishine Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit. It comes with five neutral pink shades, as well as a glitter pink one. The LED lamp has a seamless design with a small footprint that lets you set up for a manicure anywhere. The set also comes with premium tools, including a metal cuticle pusher and high-quality files.
Q. Is it really safer to do my own gel coat manicures instead of going to a salon?
A. 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?
A. 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?
A. 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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