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Gel Nails at Home? Three Test Drives

Today's at-home gel polish systems offer you a convenient way to get salon-quality nails without leaving your living room. We tried out three of the most popular kits on the market to see how they stack up and if they're really a smart investment.
At-Home Gel Nails
Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Starter Kit
Sally Hansen Salon Pro Gel Kit
Sephora by OPI Gelshine At-Home Gel Colour System
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At-Home Gel Nails

Considering that many polish jobs don’t survive more than 10 minutes before chipping and peeling, the invention of Shellac and other long-lasting gel polish systems were like a godsend. Shiny, new-looking manicures that stay pretty for up to two weeks? No matter how many dishes I wash, loads of hot laundry I fold, or floors I scrub? Sign me up!


But it got even better when at-home gel polish kits started hitting the market. Now I don’t even have to leave my house or interact with other human beings to have nice nails? Sweet! Although the kits have a steeper upfront cost—from about $50 to well over $100—being able to do chip-proof manicures at home was a tempting promise. But do they deliver?


Yes. With the new at-home kits, you can get a gel manicure that last much, much longer than traditional polish. If you’re adept at applying polish and following precise instructions, the results can be almost as good as what you’d get in a salon.


The usual gel polish caveats still apply—the color selection is small, and they must be removed carefully to prevent damaging nail beds. Also, you need to be extremely proficient at applying polish in order to get perfect results. But if you’re not frightened away yet, here’s what to know before you commit.

Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Starter Kit

Pros:


  • Nails stay shiny and chip-free for at least a week
  • Larger polish selection than other kits
  • Nail art and French manicure kits available for those who want fancier looks
  • Portable LED light is battery-powered, so it can be used anywhere
  • Supplies and accessories widely available at Target, Ulta, Drugstore.com, Duane Reade, and other stores


Cons:


  • Takes a long time—each coat cures in the LED light for two to three minutes, and thumbs must be dried separately

Sally Hansen Salon Pro Gel Kit

Pros:


  • Cure time under the LED light is short—only 30 seconds
  • Extra polishes are reasonably priced


Cons:


  • Users report that the bulbs in the LED lamp burn out easily
  • LED lamp is powered by AC adapter, limiting where it can be used

Sephora by OPI Gelshine At-Home Gel Colour System

Pros:


  • Easy to use
  • Starter pack includes several manicures’ worth of removal pads
  • Foolproof instructions make the kit easy to use
  • Works with other brands’ gel polishes


Cons:


  • Official Sephora by OPI gelshine polish selection is limited, and additional polishes are expensive
  • High price makes it a poor option for casual manicurers

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