The sad state of summer manicures
Sand and water can take a toll on typical nail polish. Between the chlorine in pools, the grittiness of sand accompanying a day at the beach and the four hundred hand washings necessary due to sunscreen application, your basic manicure doesn’t stand a chance. If you don’t want Monday’s manicure to fall apart by Wednesday, consider a gel manicure. The light-cured polish lasts much longer, and savvy moms can achieve a gel manicure at home — with a few fabulous products.
Salon quality at home
If you’ve been loving your salon gel manicures and can’t wait to bring the process home, the Gelish Basix Kit is a fabulous choice (Sally Beauty Supply, $55). Used by many salons, you can get salon-perfect nails without leaving the house with the Gelish MINI Pro LED Curing Light (Sally Beauty Supply, $75).
The easiest gel manicure to remove
The Kiss Gel Polish Color Gel Starter System comes with almost everything you need to get perfect nails at home (Beauty Online Supply, $20). You’ll need to invest in the Everlasting Pro LED Gel Lamp to complete the system, but the Kiss system provides a gorgeous, shiny manicure that’s one of the easiest to remove (Beauty Online Supply, $30). One of the main complaints about gel manicures, in general, is the removal process, so the Kiss system is the best option if you’re worried about spending a ton of time removing the polish.
At-home gel manicures for beginners
The Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Kit comes with absolutely everything you need for your first at-home gel manicure (Ulta, $65). The system includes the LED light — and everything else you’ll need for gel nails at home. It’s the best system for one-stop shoppers who don’t want to worry about forgetting one of the system steps at the store.
Best overall gel nail polish system
The Sensationail Gel System is an overall winner for at-home gel manicures. The salon-quality results are even more impressive considering the reasonably-priced Sensationail Pro 3060 LED Lamp (Drugstore.com, $30). Sensationail even has trendy polish choices, like their Magnetic Gel Polish in Tantalize, which sets their color selection apart from some of the other gel systems (Drugstore.com, $12).
Gel nail polish for the non-committal
If you want to try a gel manicure at home without investing in a complete system, Miracle Gel™ from Sally Hansen might be your perfect match. The polish is a two-step system instead of the typical three-step system, and it doesn’t involve the curing LED light. With over 45 nail polish shades available, you don’t need to commit to an LED system to get the lasting power of a gel manicure (Walgreens, $10 each for color and top coat).
An at-home gel manicure cheat sheet
- Unless you want to destroy your nails — and we know you don’t — always remove the polish by soaking and not peeling. Peeling will take off the top layer of your nail with the gel, which results in thin, weak, splitting nails over time. You can use 100% acetone to soak off the gel manicure if you run out of the polish remover that you bought for your system.
- LED lights will work with any gel polish. Just because you start with one system doesn’t mean you can’t snag a color you love from a different one. An off-the-record hint is that even regular polish will simulate a gel manicure if used with the gel base and top coats. Your typical polish won’t last as long as a gel polish cured under the light, but it will last longer than normal if you have a favorite shade you just can’t find in gel form.
- Following the instructions on the system you buy is crucial. Skipping one of the steps may seem like it will save you time, but the curing — which is what makes the polish so resistant to daily damage — depends on each step being performed during each manicure.