The 5 Best At-Home Gel Kits of 2022 Tested - Upsmag - Magazine News

The 5 Best At-Home Gel Kits of 2022 Tested

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A fresh mani can make you look and feel more put-together, whether it’s for a special occasion or part of your everyday look. But let’s face it: heading to the nail salon every couple of weeks takes substantial time — and money.

to save time and money, you might try your hand at DIY gel nails. As celebrity nail artist Elle Gerstein explains, “It needs a UV light to cure/dry and provides a chip-free manicure that lasts much longer than regular nail polish.” Light-cured manicures used to be something you could only get at a salon, but with the right products and tools, you can do it yourself in the comfort of your own home.

We tried out a bunch of at-home kits, complete with prepping products, lacquers, top and base coats, clippers, filers, and LED drying lamps. This might sound like a lot, but we promise it’s actually pretty easy. After putting nine sets to the test, we narrowed it down to the most user-friendly, quick-drying options with professional-looking results.

These are the best at-home gel kits PEOPLE Tested.

Best Overall: Morovan Poly Gel Nail Kit

Pros: The LED-cured gel extensions are durable and solid with stunning color and shine that lasts nearly two weeks.

Cons: There’s a slight learning curve with the extensions, and your nails might be slightly brittle when you remove them.

Morovan’s Poly Gel Kit clocked perfect scores for drying time, finished look, staying power, ease of removal, and nail integrity post-removal. We only dinged it for ease of use since there was a bit of a learning curve. Still, our tester said the instructions were thorough but to-the-point and appreciated the illustrated how-to booklet.

This set has all the essentials for a pro-level manicure — as well as some embellishments and extras that are just fun to explore. It comes with eight polish shades, including six solid opaques and two ombrés. You’ll also get a primer, a dehydrator, a base coat, a top coat, an LED lamp, and various tools for grooming your nails and cuticles.

The component with the biggest learning curve was the nail extensions. This kit comes with an extension gel and shaping foil to help you create your desired length and shape. Once the hard part of applying the gel was over, it was smooth sailing with the drying process.

The lamp has three timer settings (five, 30, and 60 seconds), though the instructions recommend two minutes for each coat. Our tester said her nails were slightly tacky afterward, but they were definitely cured with a solid, durable feeling. She was thrilled with the overall look of her gel manicure, noting that the purple-to-white ombré hue was beautiful with minimal imperfections. And with practice, she’s confident her nails will look even better.

Only two extensions had fallen off two weeks later. Other than that, the design looked just as good as it did the first day — no chips, no cracks, just stunning color and shine. Removal was easy too. After soaking her nails, our tester said the gel rolled right off with help from a scraping tool. Her nail beds were slightly brittle, but this is pretty common after removing fake nails. If you’re up for the challenge of DIY gel extensions and want a long-lasting manicure, this is a solid choice.

best at home gel kits

Credit: People / Tamara Staples

Best Budget: SensatioNail Gel Starter Kit

Pros: This affordable set comes with all the basics to get you started and offers decent results if you take your time.

Cons: The instructions are a little unclear, and it starts chipping after about a week.

Interested in something more wallet-friendly? Go with the SensatioNail Gel Starter Kit. Since the instructions are a little confusing, our tester recommends reading through everything before starting. While this wasn’t the most user-friendly option we tried, we expect the process to be easier the second time around.

The lacquer dries quickly with the included LED lamp. Our tester was generally pleased with the finished results, though she thinks her nails would look even better if she went slower and applied thinner coats of paint.

While the brand claims up to two weeks of wear, the gel started chipping after about a week — slightly longer than regular lacquer but not as long as a professional manicure. And although this affordable set only comes with one polish color, you can buy additional bottles individually and build your collection.

best at home gel kits

Credit: People / David Carr

Best for Beginners: Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Starter Kit

Pros: The lacquer dries super fast without any streaks, leaving you with smooth, hard, exceptionally shiny digits.

Cons: It’s not very long-lasting, and the kit only comes with one shade of polish, but you can buy more individually.

If you’re a gel nail novice, this set has your name on it. Sally Hansen’s beginner-friendly Salon Starter Kit earned a perfect score for ease of use. Our tester said the three-step process was incredibly simple and appreciated the lightning-fast drying time. (Curing your nails with the included LED lamp only takes about 30 seconds.)

Once dry, our tester’s nails were smooth and hard without any stickiness. The professional-grade gel lacquer and top coat offer a super-shiny, streak-free finish, though we did notice one small bubble. While the kit only comes with one color, you can buy more bottles individually.

Despite promising up to two weeks of wear, our tester’s manicure didn’t last very long. The gel began to peel when she cleaned her stove, even while wearing gloves. Her nail beds were slightly damaged after everything came off, but not totally wrecked. Unfortunately, this may not be the best option for people who work with their hands, but it’s still a great choice for anyone looking to explore light-cured nails at home.

best at home gel kits

Credit: People / Tamara Staples

Best Value: Gellen Gel Nail Starter Kit

Pros: This feature-rich set comes with 12 gel colors, plus various grooming tools, nail-prep products, embellishments, and a UV lamp.

Cons: The instructions don’t cover all the bells and whistles, and it starts chipping around day six.

For something a bit more comprehensive, Gellen might be your best bet. Our tester gave the brand’s Gel Starter Kit a perfect score for ease of use. While there are more pieces in this set than covered in the manual, she said the instructions are really straightforward.

You’ll get 12 bottles of opaque polish, plus a base and top coat, various nail embellishments, a bunch of grooming tools, and a UV lamp. The directions say to dry each coat for 60 seconds. However, our tester said her nails were still tacky after a minute under the light, so you might need to go a little longer to fully harden the lacquer.

She liked the overall look of her gel manicure. The color was beautiful, and the polish dried smooth with a gleaming finish. However, the lacquer began to chip around day six and had peeled off completely by day eight, so soak-off removal wasn’t necessary. Though we wish it lasted longer, this feature-rich kit is still a great value.

best at home gel kits

Credit: People / David Carr

Best for Travel: Le Mini Macaron Le Maxi Deluxe Gel Manicure Set

Pros: With quick-drying lacquer and stunning results, this compact kit is perfect for on-the-go use.

Cons: The set only includes two shades, and the gel doesn’t last very long.

This compact kit from Le Mini Macaron is perfect for on-the-go manicures. Our tester gave it perfect scores for ease of use, drying time, finished appearance, and nail integrity post-removal. Calling it a “little party in a box,” she said it was fun and not intimidating, even for a novice self-manicurist like herself.

Our tester was surprised by how quickly the gel lacquer dried with the included LED light. Since the travel-friendly lamp is small, you’ll need to dry your thumb separately. Still, each coat hardened in about a minute.

The smooth and shiny finished appearance exceeded our expectations for an at-home gel mani. But unfortunately, the polish began peeling within a couple of days and was completely gone soon after. (You might get longer-lasting results if you use a nail-prepper product, apply thinner coats of paint, or dry your nails longer.) Our tester’s nails weren’t damaged at all, and while the staying power was disappointing, we still think this kit is an excellent choice for trips.

best at home gel kits

Credit: People / Tamara Staples

Things to Consider When Buying an At-Home Gel Kit

Included Shades

While some at-home gel kits come with several shades of polish, many starter sets only include one or two. (However, Our Best Value pick, the Gellen starter set comes with an impressive range of colors that, in our opinions, make it well worth the purchase.) That said, additional colors are often sold individually, so you can build up your collection over time with shades you’ll actually wear.

Curing Lamp

Most (but not all) kits come with a UV or LED lamp. This is an essential component of your DIY gel manicure, as the lights are what dry and harden the lacquer. Depending on the bulbs and wattage, each coat will take anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes to cure. Each of our top picks comes with an LED/UV lamp, so we’ve got you covered.

One other thing to consider is ultraviolet radiation damage from your LED/UV lamp. While the FDA says there is low risk for skin cancer or skin damage from a nail curing lamp, any exposure to UV light does pose some potential risk, so it’s best to avoid them if you have any concerns or are especially sensitive to UV radiation.

Staying Power

One of the main draws to at-home gel nails is the promise of professional-level longevity. The products, tools, and formulas should ostensibly provide similar results to what you’d get at a nail salon. However, most of the options we tried didn’t last more than a week. A myriad of factors come into play here: improper use of the kits, the level of day-to-day wear and tear on your nails, not making sure all natural oils were removed from your nails before painting, etc. Be sure to thoroughly read all instructions and don’t skip on any nail care suggestions from the manufacturer for best results — and consider wearing reusable gloves when cleaning and doing the dishes.


Gel manicures generally call for soak-off removal. This means you’ll douse 10 cotton pieces with pure acetone, place them on your nails, wrap them in foil, and let them sit for about 15 minutes. After soaking, the polish usually scrapes off without a fuss.

best at home gel kits

Credit: People / Tamara Staples

How We Tested At-Home Gel Kits

We selected nine at-home gel kits to try first-hand by our testers. Each set was evaluated for ease of use, drying time, finished look, staying power, ease of removal, and nail integrity post-removal. Our testers carefully followed the brands’ step-by-step instructions to see how well the tools, lamps, and formulas performed in a real-life setting.

Though we planned to wait two weeks before removing the gel, most formulas came off on their own while our testers went about their days. Since longevity was somewhat disappointing with several kits, we ultimately chose the most user-friendly options with the best-looking results.


What Is PEOPLE Tested?

We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs. But we don’t stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we’ve awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.


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