The Best At-Home Gel Nail Kits for a Long-Lasting Manicure

The Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit is our favorite

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Best At-Home Gel Nail Kits

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

While it can admittedly seem like a daunting DIY beauty task, giving yourself an at-home gel manicure isn’t as hard as you might think. Particularly when there’s a whole world of gel nail kits available that can make the process that much easier. “You have everything you need for a gel manicure at your fingertips, literally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your home,” says manicurist Syreeta Aaron. “It’s a little expensive at first, but once you have the kit and any additional supplies you need, it’s cost-efficient over time,” she adds. (Not to mention it saves you the time you’d spend in and traveling to and from the salon as well.)

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Our top choice is the Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit, a complete system that has everything you need for a shiny, chip-free mani that lasts for weeks. For an affordable option, you can’t go wrong with the Vishine Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit, which includes 31 tools for shaping, nail art, and more.

Really good manicure kits come with easy-to-follow instructions, essential tools, and a few nail color shades and base/top coats to get you started. We scoured the internet, read through countless reviews, and tapped Aaron for her expert recommendations to find the best kits available for creating a gorgeous mani that lasts for weeks.

Read on for the best at-home gel nail kits, below.

Best Overall: Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit

4.8
Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit

Ulta

What We Like
  • Includes all essential tools and nail care

  • LED lamp auto shuts off

  • Contains gel remover

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Who else recommends it? Insider and Best Products both picked the Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit.

What do buyers say? 700+ Ulta reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

We get it; doing your own gels can seem intimidating at first, but that’s where this stand-out set comes in. It ranks at the top of the list for including everything you need for a stunning gel mani—and it has the added benefit of coming with a bottle of remover, to boot. Yes, the bottles are a bit small, but keep in mind that gel manicures last the longest when you apply thin coats of polish, and reviewers rave about how long this lacquer lasts.

The size and shape of the lamp are best suited for doing only a few fingers at a time, but the entire process is still fairly quick and efficient. While the price may seem steep at first, keep in mind how much of your hard-earned cash you’ll be saving by skipping biweekly trips to the salon.

Shades: 1 included with kit | Dry Time: 30 seconds to 2 minutes | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Drugstore: Gelish Complete Starter Kit

gelish complete starter kit

Walmart

What We Like
  • Includes all essential tools and nail care

  • Included brush ensures streak-free, full coverage

  • Contains gel remover

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

One of the category’s best-sellers, this kit has all the essentials. It comes with an LED lamp (which cures polish in 45 seconds), though the polish can also be cured under a UV lamp, should you happen to have one of those on hand. You will need to buy the color separately—the brand has over 200 hues to pick from—but there is a primer, base coat, topcoat, and cuticle oil included, all of which have unique laser-cut, domed bristles to make smooth swiping a breeze.

Shades: 2 included with kit | Dry Time: 45 seconds to 2 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Portable: Le Mini Macaron Gel Manicure Starter Set

Le Maxi Deluxe Gel Manicure Set

Le Mini Macaron

What We Like
  • Charges with USB

  • Cures in 30 seconds

  • Great for travel

What We Don't Like
  • Only cures one nail at a time

This itty-bitty option is so small and streamlined that you could even take it with you on your travels; the lamp has a USB cord so you can even charge it through your laptop. It takes only about 30 seconds to cure a coat of polish, a major plus, given that you will need to do one finger at a time. The lamp comes in three colors, each of which comes with polish in a corresponding shade.

Shades: 2 included with kit | Dry Time: 60 seconds | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Editors Say

“Cheeky packaging can sometimes be meant to distract from a poorly made product, but that definitely isn't the case here. This little macaron-inspired device creates a gorgeously cured, durable gel manicure that lasts just as long as in-salon gel manis. You just need a little patience and a steady hand." — Holly Rhue, Senior Editor

Best Polish: Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish

4.9
Essie Gel

 Ulta

What We Like
  • Doesn’t need to be cured

  • No base coat required

  • Easy removal

What We Don't Like
  • Not as long-lasting as traditional gel

For those who want to skip the curing step, this swipe-and-go polish is ideal. It goes on exactly like any other nail lacquer—the only difference? There’s no base coat needed. Simply swipe on two coats of any shade you choose (there are tons and tons to pick from, in true Essie fashion), then top that with the special topcoat. The color lasts up to two weeks and stays super shiny that entire time, yet still comes off extremely easily, no soaking or filing required.

Shades: Each color sold separately | Dry Time: 30 to 60 seconds | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best All-in-One Set: Vishine Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit

Vishine Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit

Amazon

What We Like
  • Includes all essential tools and nail care

  • Large lamp can fit full hand

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Lamp gets very hot

Yes, this comes with a curing LED lamp and six colors of polish (plus base and top coats), but it also has the distinction of coming with 31 different tools. There’s everything you need for basic manicuring—think files and a brush—along with unique tools to help you create nail art, too. Aaron notes that it’s another great option for beginners and is great for anyone looking to master the at-home gel mani.

Shades: 6 included with kit | Dry Time: 30 seconds | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Beginners: Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Gel Nail Color Starter Kit

sally hansen salon pro gel nail starter kit

Amazon

What We Like
  • Dries fast

  • Easy-to-follow instructions

  • Provides up to 10 manicures per kit

What We Don't Like
  • Lamp is relatively small

A true juggernaut in the at-home nail care space, it should come as no surprise that this brand offers an excellent gel mani kit. It boasts an LED lamp, one color, top and base coats, plus all kinds of manicure essentials, think a file and buffer, cuticle stick, and more. The simple and easy-to-follow instructions make it a great pick for beginners, and you can score up to 10 manicures per kit, making this a great value, too.

Shades: 1 included with kit | Dry Time: Up to 3 minutes | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Pros: Young Nails Professional Gel Kit

Young Nails Professional Gel Kit

Skyline Beauty

What We Like
  • Includes all essential tools and nail care

  • Has tips for adding length

  • Contains sculpting gel

What We Don't Like
  • Lamp must be purchased separately

This option is choice for expert DIYers, as well as for those who are going for more of a dramatic effect. Because it also comes with tips, it’s great for anyone who’s looking to add extra length to their nails, says Aaron.

Shades: 2 included with kit | Dry Time: Up to 3 minutes | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Removal: Red Carpet Manicure Remove Kit

 RC Red Carpet Manicure Remove Kit Nail Gel Polish Removal Kit

Amazon

What We Like
  • Mess-free removal

  • Includes essential removal tools and foil wraps

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Foil strips are very large

In case you missed the memo, peeling off a gel manicure, as tempting as it may be, is a major no-no. Proper filing and soaking are imperative for keeping your nails strong, and this kit makes it easy to do exactly that. Credit the included buffer, remover, foil wraps, and orangewood stick, all the essentials you need to correctly and safely take off that gel polish once it’s time to do so.

Shades: 0 | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Damaged Nails: Zoya Gelie-Cure Foundation Pro Kit

Zoya Geli-Cure Foundation Pro Kit

Zoya

What We Like
  • Great for travel

  • Includes reparative serum and base coat

  • Contains gel remover

What We Don't Like
  • Color polish must be purchased separately

While this set doesn’t come with colored polish, it does come with everything you need to ensure your nails stay strong, no matter how many at-home gel manis you give yourself. Namely, the brand’s reparative nail serum and base coat, along with a clear polish that can be used to seal those in. Add the Zoya hue of your choosing or not; either way; your nails are guaranteed to look great.

Shades: 1 included with kit | Dry Time: Up to 3 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best On Amazon: Gellen Gel Nail Polish Kit

Gellen Gel Nail Polish Kit

Amazon

What We Like
  • Powerful lamp with cool features

  • Affordable

  • Includes all essential tools and nail care

What We Don’t Like
  • No products/accessories for removal included

An Amazon fan favorite, this one-stop-shop consistently pulls in rave reviews with users lauding things such as the affordable price and how great the LED light is. To that point, it’s a 72W LED curing light, much more powerful than many other comparable options on the market. (Other nice features include four automatic timer settings, a removable tray that makes it easy to use on toes, and a no-touch on and off.) And per the price tag point, this comes with all the tools you need, nail design accessories, and 12 different colors; choose from a range of nudes, brights, and more.

Shades: 12 included with kit | Dry Time: 30 seconds to 99 seconds

Final Verdict

You can’t go wrong with the Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit, a complete system that reviewers say can be used quickly and efficiently to score a shiny, chip-free mani that will last for weeks. For an affordable option that includes everything you need and more, opt for the Vishine Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit, which boasts an impressive 31 different tools for shaping, nail art, and more. If you’re a beginner, the Sally Hansen Gel Polish Gel Nail Color Kit is an easy-to-use (and affordable) pick with clear instructions; a wide range of colors also works with the included lamp. For those who want to go light-free, Essie Gel Couture Polish is essentially the same as a traditional lacquer, just with a much longer-lasting, super-shiny color.

Meet the Expert

Syreeta Aaron is an educator for LeChat Nails, the company behind cutting-edge products such as the Gelée Powder Gel System, Perfect Match Gel Polish & Nail Lacquer, and thermal-activated Mood changing polishes.

What to Look For in an At-Home Gel Kit

Gel Lamp

When it comes to choosing the right at-home gel kit, Aaron first says to check whether or not the contents of the kit require a gel lamp—and if they do, check whether the kit contains one or if you'll need to purchase one separately. If you're just starting out, it's best to opt for a kit that contains all the tools you'll need, gel lamp included.

Quality Polish

If you’re fully committed to at-home gels and looking to cut back on salon visits, Aaron recommends investing in a kit that contains quality, professional polishes, such as the LeChat Perfect Match Gel Polish. On the other hand, if you’re simply testing the waters between your usual salon appointments, she doesn’t think it’s necessary to invest too much money into the process.

Good Color Offering

Finally, Aaron recommends looking for a kit that comes with colors you’ll actually want to wear. Some kits will only come with one or two shades, while pricier ones may contain an entire set. There’s no need to invest in a larger kit if you won’t wear most of the shades, so look for one that contains a variety of colors you love. 

FAQ
  • How do you use an at-home gel nail kit?

    Start with clean, washed hands, then prep your nails by wiping them with an alcohol pad to help remove the natural oils. Apply one coat of primer, then the base coat. The base coat usually needs to be cured for 30 to 60 seconds, depending on the brand, says Aaron, but your best bet is to follow the instructions of the particular products you’re choosing. Apply two coats of color, curing in between coats, and finish with one layer of topcoat. If the topcoat leaves behind a sticky residue, simply wipe it off with another alcohol pad, suggests Aaron.

  • Is gel bad for your nails?

    In short, no. “The application and use of the kit are safe, but what isn’t always safe is the removal process, which needs to be done properly,” cautions Aaron. "Don’t peel the gel off your nails—when you do this, you’re removing layers of your nail along with it. This will make your nail thinner and weaker. What can also be damaging is if you don’t use a removal product that fits quality standards and may contain harmful chemicals.”

  • How do you remove gel nails?

    As mentioned above, Aaron stresses the importance of not peeling off the polish, as this will peel away layers of the nail plate and end up damaging the nail. Start by filling the top of the nail until you see a white, chalky color, she says; this indicates you’ve filed through the topcoat. Then soak your nails in pure acetone for seven to 10 minutes, finishing by scraping off any polish with a cuticle pusher. She says that you should keep in mind that you may need to re-soak several times.

  • How long do gel nails last?

    If applied properly, Aaron says that gel nails typically last up to two weeks.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. A devoted gel manicure kinda girl, she prefers the professional route over the DIY options. Still, because she knows what’s important to look for in a good gel manicure, she knew how to figure out which at-home products were best.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any at-home gel nail kits from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. I tested several at-home gel manicure kits both with and without UV lamps — these 5 will give you salon-like results. Insider. https://www.insider.com/guides/beauty/best-at-home-gel-manicure-kit

  2. 8 GEL NAIL KITS FOR LONG-LASTING (AND BUDGET-FRIENDLY) AT-HOME MANIS. Best Products. https://www.bestproducts.com/beauty/g3377/best-gel-nail-kits-manicure/

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