At-Home Gel Manicures: Are They Worth It?

Gel polishes promise a long-lasting, extra glossy manicure that doesn’t chip. Sounds perfect, right? But at $30 or more a pop, gel manis can get pretty expensive. With so many of us turning to DIY projects to stay on-trend on a minimal budget, it’s no surprise that an abundance of at-home gel kits have hit the scene. But is the look you get with these kits worth the extra time spent? I decided I had to test them myself to find out.

Insta-Gel_Strips

Photo: Courtesy of Sally Hansen

Sally Hansen Salon Insta-Gel Strips
($27.99, Sallybeauty.com)
Time commitment: 30-45 minutes
Skill level: Low
Application: If you’re good with stick-on nail strips to begin with, this mani will be a breeze. I’ve only used them a few times, so the shaping took a little longer for me. After applying the strips, you brush on the gel topcoat and let it cure under the included LED lamp for 30 seconds. The lamp is small, so you can only do one nail at a time.
Lifespan: My manicure lasted one week before the strips started peeling away. The strips are a little thicker than SH’s original strips, but for me, they still weren’t strong enough to last the promised two weeks.
Removal: Just like traditional strips, they peel right off.
Worth it? Yes, I loved this set. It was fast, easy and lets you have fun with nail art designs. I chose Bonus Check, a houndstooth design and it looked great.
Tip: Make sure you apply the gel polish over the tip of the nail to seal your manicure. I didn’t, and my thumb chipped within hours.

SensatioNail Kit

Photo: Courtesy of SensatioNail

SensatioNail Invincible Gel Polish Starter Kit
($49.99, sensationailgel.com)
Time commitment: One hour
Skill level: Medium
Application: This one has a lot of steps and a lot of tools. To say the least, I was overwhelmed. But once you start, it’s pretty easy and self-explanatory. You have your base coat, color polish, and top coat — cure the nails after each coat.
Lifespan: Full two weeks. With so many layers of the gel polish, you’ll get the full 14 days of wear.
Removal: Hard. I really needed to scrub with acetone nail polish remover to get it all off. But the polish didn’t leave my nails brittle salon gel manicures often do.
Worth it? Yes and no. If you want color that lasts, go for it! But if you’re like me and like to switch up your polish frequently, this isn’t the kit for you.
Tip: Appy the base coat very lightly. If you don’t, the base color won’t blend as well. And don’t get the polish on your fingers! It gets hard fast.

Kiss Nails Gel

Photos: Courtesy of Kiss Nails

Kiss Everlasting Gel Polish French Manicure Kit
($29.99 for LED lamp; $22.99 for French Manicure Kit, kissusa.com)

Time commitment: 30-45 minutes

Skill level: Medium

Application: Pretty simple. What makes this kit different from others is the French appliqué added to the tip of the nail. You apply glue to the appliqué and natural nail tip, press down to hold and then pull back and forth to take the plastic piece off. It comes off smoothly, just make sure you don’t twist because you will chip into the tip. Then apply the polish and cure.
Lifespan: Two weeks. With three to four coats of gel polish, you don’t have worry about chipping.
Removal: Kiss actually has its own remover, the All or 1 Artificial Nail Remover ($6.99, kissusa.com), where you soak your fingers in acetone. The bristles on the side of the container soften the gel and makes peeling off so much easier.
Worth it? I am kind of obsessed. The application was easy, quick and the French manicure is totally coming back into style.
Tip: Don’t skimp on the glue for the French tips. I was nervous that I would get it on my fingers, so I was very conservative and now one of the tips is coming off. But the good news is it can remedied by applying glue even after the gel mani is complete.

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