5 Best Gel Nail Kits, Tested & Reviewed

5 Best Gel Nail Kits, Tested & Reviewed

a table full of various itemspinterestGood Housekeeping / Mike Garten

We’ve been independently researching and testing products for over 120 years. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process.

Gel manicures feel like a special, fuss-free treat: Walk into a salon and walk out shortly after with glossy, chip-proof nails that will last for weeks.

How are gel nails different than other types of manicures? Instead of waiting for your nail polish to air dry, a UV or LED light is used to cure or harden the lacquer in minutes. Gel manicures also tend to last longer than regular polishes. But gel manis are no longer a luxury exclusive to salons — thanks to at-home gel nail kits that are both beginner- and professional-friendly, you can now DIY your own mani in the comfort of your home.

Below, you’ll find our reviews of the best gel nail kits you can buy, vetted for safety by our Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab experts.

Our top picks:

  • 1Pro 45 Starter Kit

    Best Overall Gel Nail Kit

    Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit

    Shop at AmazonShop at AmazonRead more

  • 2Salon Gel Polish Manicure Starter Kit

    Best Value Gel Nail Kit

    Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Manicure Starter Kit

    $60 at Ulta Beauty$60 at Ulta BeautyRead more

  • 3Gel Basic Kit

    Best Professional Gel Nail Kit

    CND Gel Basic Kit

    $228 at beyondpolish.com$228 at beyondpolish.comRead more

  • 4Pro Kit

    Best Gel Nail Kit for Beginners

    Gelish Pro Kit

    $230 at nailsupplyinc.com$230 at nailsupplyinc.comRead more

  • 5Mini Kit 4 Step System

    Best Gel-Like Nail Polish Kit

    Dazzle Dry Mini Kit 4 Step System

    $38 at Amazon$38 at AmazonRead more

While all types of at-home nail kits essentially pay for themselves after one or two uses, the options can range from professional quality to beginner-friendly. When shopping for one, "it should have everything you need in it, including the lamp, as kits should be used as a full set from the same brand for best results," advises Julie Kandalec, a celebrity manicurist and Julie K Nail Academy founder.

To find the best gel nail kits, our Beauty Lab pros started by vetting the most popular products on the market, only considering those with clear ingredient labels that follow the FDA’s Cosmetic Labeling Requirements. Then, we tested eight at-home gel nail kits and reviewed each product’s packaging, including ingredient and warning labels, giving preference to products that clearly advise avoiding skin contact to prevent irritation caused by methacrylates (a known allergen and skin sensitizer included in every gel polish).

Editor’s Note: All UV gel nail polishes use methacrylate polymerization technology to obtain the long lasting, chip-resistant coating. While the 2005 Cosmetic Ingredient Review Report ruled methacrylates “safe as used in nail enhancements products when skin contact is avoided,” the study concluded that these ingredients are known to be skin sensitizers, so skin contact should be avoided.

Post-mani, we recommend using a hydrating cuticle oil and a top-rated hand cream. If you are looking for more nail kits to add to your collection, check out our roundups of the best acrylic nail kits and best press-on nail kits, as well as our guides to the best nail stickers and best nail drills.

    1Best Overall Gel Nail Kit

    Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit

    Pro 45 Starter Kit1Best Overall Gel Nail Kit

    Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit

    Shop at AmazonCredit: Red Carpet ManicurePros

    • ProLong-lasting professional results
    • ProComplete kit with full suite of accessories
    • ProFast application


    • ConPackaging label does not clearly state to avoid skin contact

    Reviewers love the professional-looking results this Red Carpet Manicure kit gives, saying not only does the polish in this kit stay on nails, it’s also fast and easy to apply.

    "The detailed instructions are very helpful and the products that come in the kit are easy to use and seem to be good quality," an Amazon shopper reported. "I’ve done two manicures now and they’ve lasted me a whole two weeks (and could have lasted longer)." Reviewers say it’s perfect for beginners, too, since "it has everything you need," including polish essentials (such as base and top coats plus nail color), nail prep must-haves (like cuticle oil and cleanser) and tools (like nail wipes, wood pushers, cuticle stick, buffing strips and nail file), plus remover and foil wraps for when it’s time to take off your manicure.

    Take note that reviewers do warn that the color pictured may not be the one you get in the box, but still say the well-stocked kit is worth the coin. Our Beauty Lab evaluations confirmed it has a clear ingredient label that follows FDA’s Cosmetic Labeling Requirements, although the label does not clearly state to avoid skin contact and the set contains acrylic acid, an ingredient that has minimal health and safety information in cosmetics/nail products, so use with care to avoid skin contact.

    LED light Yes
    Nail polish colors included One
    Additional kit contents Nail primer, base coat, top coat, cuticle oil, pre- and post-application cleanser, gel polish remover, foil remover wraps, nail wipes, wood pushers, cuticle stick buffing strips, nail file
    Claimed dry time 45 seconds to three minutes

    2Best Value Gel Nail Kit

    Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Manicure Starter Kit

    Salon Gel Polish Manicure Starter Kit2Best Value Gel Nail Kit

    Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Manicure Starter Kit

    $60 at Ulta Beauty$62 at WalmartCredit: Sally HansenPros

    • ProBudget-friendly
    • ProDries quickly


    • ConFewer accessories and colors than other kits

    Beloved nail polish brand Sally Hansen’s gel kit is budget-friendly, fast and efficient, according to reviewers. The included LED light is compact but "super convenient, even though I was hesitant about getting a smaller lamp," one reviewer notes. "It’s the perfect size," which makes this kit ideal for anyone who doesn’t mind drying their nails one by one in exchange for a smaller footprint.

    Heads up: This kit isn’t as well-stocked as others on the market and only comes with one nail polish shade, so you won’t have a ton of options. The brand claims the three-step manicure kit lasts up to 10 manicures, which means this comes in at less than $5 per mirror-shine, glossy gel mani.

    Our Beauty Lab pros appreciate that the kit’s ingredient label follows FDA’s Cosmetic Labeling Requirements and that the packaging also clearly states to avoid skin contact, making this a user-friendly pick when it comes to safety as well.

    LED light Yes
    Nail polish colors included One
    Additional kit contents Cleanser pads, base coat, top coat, gel polish remover, cuticle stick, buffer, alcohol cleaning pad
    Claimed dry time 30 seconds

    3Best Professional Gel Nail Kit

    CND Gel Basic Kit

    On SaleGel Basic Kit3Best Professional Gel Nail Kit

    CND Gel Basic Kit

    Now 10% Off$228 at beyondpolish.comCredit: CNDPros

    • ProMany shades available
    • ProEasy removal


    • ConPricey

    This basic kit has exactly what you need and nothing else, making it perfect for DIY pros who may already have nail accessories.

    The muted neutral tones are on trend and reviewers feel that this brand "does not damage the nail," saying, "you can easily remove it." This kit is minimal with just a base coat, top coat and polish included, so it’s best for anyone who already has a full nail kit at home. If you’re looking to expand your gel polish arsenal, though, our pros say this is your pick — there are tons of colors to choose from. It also comes with a lamp and various converters for different areas of the world, making this a great option for travel too.

    Our GH Beauty Lab appreciates the transparent labeling that clearly lists ingredients and states to avoid skin contact, though application directions are not included in the kit and the formulas contain several ingredients that only have minimal health and safety data for use in cosmetics.

    LED light Yes
    Nail polish colors included Two
    Additional kit contents Base coat, top coat
    Claimed dry time Not listed

    Advertisement – Continue Reading Below4Best Gel Nail Kit for Beginners

    Gelish Pro Kit

    Pro Kit4Best Gel Nail Kit for Beginners

    Gelish Pro Kit

    $230 at nailsupplyinc.comCredit: GelishPros

    • ProComplete kit with beginner-friendly accessories
    • ProWide range of colors to choose from
    • ProProfessional quality finish


    • ConSmall light for curing

    Gelish has a wide range of gel nail polish colors to choose from (more than 200!), and this kit comes with everything you need to get started.

    The brand claims that the polish cures under the included LED lamp in 45 seconds and removes in under 10 minutes with the included artificial nail remover. This kit comes stocked with helpful extras, from base and top coats to cuticle oil and polish remover and more. Reviewers say this is the ultimate beginner-friendly buy: "This kit had everything needed to apply gel polish at home. It comes with a foundation polish, colored polish, a top coat and cuticle oil," says one. "They even give you nail sticks with sand paper to smooth and prep the nails."

    The kit comes with the full suite of Gelish must-haves, from its prep formulas pH Bond (which removes excess oils from the nail for a longer-lasting finish) and Foundation (an adhesive base coat that the brand claims protects the nail). It also comes with Top It Off, Gelish’s high-shine top coat that the brand claims "will not dull, chip or peel," a cleanser to remove any lingering sticky residue and Nourish cuticle oil to finish it all off.

    Reviewers swear "it looks like professional gels when applied," but "unlike salon polish, it is very easy to remove without damaging nails." The tradeoff, they say, is that this polish only lasts one to two weeks instead of three to four weeks, as some salon gel polish might. Our Beauty Lab experts appreciated the clear ingredient label that follows FDA’s Cosmetic Labeling Requirements and that the instructions clearly state to avoid skin contact, however some components of the kit contain ingredients that only have minimal health and safety data for use in cosmetics.

    LED light Yes
    Nail polish colors included Two
    Additional kit contents pH Bond, Foundation, Nourish, Top It Off, nail surface cleanser, artificial nail remover
    Claimed dry time 45 seconds

    5Best Gel-Like Nail Polish Kit

    Dazzle Dry Mini Kit 4 Step System

    Mini Kit 4 Step System5Best Gel-Like Nail Polish Kit

    Dazzle Dry Mini Kit 4 Step System

    $38 at AmazonCredit: Dazzle DryPros

    • ProFully dries quickly without using any light
    • ProDoesn’t need to be soaked off


    • ConPolish has a thick consistency that can be challenging to work with for beginners

    If you’re on the hunt for a gel-like polish without the curing process, look no further than Dazzle Dry. Unlike any other nail polish, this four-step system goes on like regular polish but lasts as about long as gel. "It’s completely replaced gel polish for me," one of our editors shares. "And it really does completely dry in just five minutes. My nails feel so much healthier when I wear this instead of gel."

    Plus, it can be removed with acetone nail polish remover from the drugstore, rather than needing to soak off like traditional gel. Note that the consistency of this product is a little thicker than other polishes, so there’s a bit of a learning curve to applying it just right.

    LED light No
    Nail polish colors included One
    Additional kit contents Nail prep, base coat, top coat, nail reviver
    Claimed dry time Five minutes

    How we test the best gel nail polish kits


    In the GH Beauty Lab, we have a century-plus worth of experience testing beauty products, including nail polish and nail polish kits.

    For our evaluation of gel nail kits, our Beauty Lab pros first assessed ingredient safety by checking eight popular options against the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) database, which classifies substances based on whether or not they may be carcinogenic, and California’s Proposition 65 Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 databases, which provide a list of substances that are known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. From there, we also reviewed, if available, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) safety assessments final reports for any ingredients that were red flags from our initial scan of the three databases.

    After thorough review of eight gel nail kits currently on the market, we found the ones that will give you gorgeous results and that you can feel good using, knowing they’ve been thoroughly vetted for safety by our pros, based on available data to date.

    Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

    What to look for when shopping for a gel nail kit

    This is an image

    When shopping, seek out these key items and tools for the best DIY gel manicure results:

    ✔️ Lamp: If you’re just starting out and don’t already have a lamp, be sure to check the kit contents to see if there’s an LED or UV lamp included since that’s needed to cure the polish.

    ✔️ Gel nail polish: Of course, your kit should come with at least one polish in a shade you like. We recommend buying any additional polishes from the same brand to ensure compatibility with the light from your kit as well.

    ✔️ Additional polishes: Some kits come with more than one color for versatility. We also like when a kit comes with both gel base and top coats for the longest-lasting DIY manicure.

    ✔️ Manicure accessories: Depending on what you have and what you need, look for useful extras like files, buffers, cuticle pushers, cuticle nippers, nail brushes or even nail art accessories and tools.

      Are at-home gel nail kits safe?


      As long as you know what to look for and what to avoid, and you "don’t peel off your gel," says Kandalec. We recommend that at a minimum, gel nail kits should contain packaging that meets FDA Cosmetic Labeling Requirements with a proper ingredient label on the primary packaging for the safety of the consumer. Here’s what else to keep in mind when shopping:

      ✔️ Purchase gel nail kits from reputable retailers and brands. Based on our analysis, we found that some products sold on third-party retailer sites posed a safety concern to consumers as they did not have proper ingredient labels on primary packaging, did not clearly state the name and place of business and/or had misspelled ingredients on the ingredient label, which does not meet FDA Cosmetic Labeling Requirements. We suggest purchasing UV gel manicure kits from trusted brands like the ones included above, and, when shopping at third-party retailers like Amazon, be sure to check that the item is being sold by a reputable storefront or a verified brand marketplace.  

      ✔️ Avoid skin contact when applying gel polish. All of the ingredient labels on the gel nail kits we evaluated contained at least one methacrylate monomer, a known allergen. Consumers should avoid skin contact with these lacquers due to the sensitization potential. The good news is that any sensitization or contact dermatitis can be “resolved after removal … or discontinuing work with gel manicures," according to a 2016 literature review in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. If any redness or irritation develops on skin or near eyes after gel application, completely remove the lacquer from the nails immediately.

      ✔️ Use the correct light source with your nail kit and follow manufacturer instructions. If the incorrect light source is used or if the time allowed for curing is not sufficient, higher levels of the acrylate monomers (which are allergens) may remain on the nail which can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Use kits as directed, but as a rule of thumb, use them in a well-ventilated area and keep away from heat, sun, open flames and reach of children.

      Is UV or LED light better for gel nails?


      Gel nail polishes are cured using UV or LED lamps and some gel nail polishes can even use both. While both are effective, according to the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, “LED lamps accomplish photocuring more quickly because they emit a narrower spectrum of light.

      However, UV lamps are less expensive and are therefore more routinely used in the photocuring process.” It is super important to use the proper light source for the corresponding nail polish, so use the lamp your kit comes with and closely follow usage directions.

      While you may immediately think of skin damage when you hear "UV," damage to skin from UV exposure during gel manicures is basically a nonissue, according to new studies. “The risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer was 11 to 46 times lower than the risks of being exposed to natural midday sunlight,” according to a 2013 study in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology.

      A 2014 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association echoed these findings, saying the average UV-A energy exposure during a typical gel manicure is low enough to be unconcerning. If you’re still worried, the American Academy of Dermatology says you can apply a broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher before getting a gel manicure to your hands, or put on dark, opaque, fingerless gloves.

      Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

      How to use a gel nail kit

      This is an image

      Every kit differs and may have slightly different directions, and you should be sure to follow your kit’s instructions carefully to get the best results.

      Following all the steps properly as recommended will also help prevent the polish prematurely lifting or peeling, explains Kandalec. Generally, here’s what to do:

      1. File and buff nails until you get the desired length and shape and clean up cuticles.
      2. Use the included nail cleaner/prep or wipe nails with an alcohol pad to remove any natural oils and make sure there is no residue left on the nail.
      3. Apply the base coat and cure under the lamp (typically for 30 to 60 seconds, but defer to your kit’s instructions).
      4. Apply two coats of your chosen color, curing for the recommended amount of time in between coats.
      5. Finish with one layer of topcoat and cure again. If nails feel a little sticky or tacky, wipe with another alcohol pad.


      No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

      Leave a Reply