When we heard about gel manicures, they seemed too good to be true: flawless, chip-free polish that lasted two weeks or more. Sign us up! But as we suspected, they came with their own downside: damaged, brittle nails, and a premium price tag. Now we have another option: DIY gel mani kits that offer all the high-gloss perfection without any negatives. Here’s everything you need to know.
Gel manicures are known for their mirror-like finish and lasting durability. Salons use UV light to cure and harden each coat of polish on the nail, which is how the formulas can last so long. A recent study found that the risk of developing skin cancer from UV lamps is practically nonexistent (it would take the equivalent of 250 years’ worth of weekly manicures to cause damage). But the the 15-20 minute acetone soak to remove the gel? Not exactly our idea of a good time.
With the debut of new UV-free DIY gel mani kits, we now have a safe way to get long-lasting polish at home. Sally Hansen’s Salon Gel Polish Starter Kit comes with a completely safe LED light. Nails cure under the small lamp for 30 seconds between each coat, and the instantly dry results were incredibly shiny. SensatioNail also offers a professional quality LED light kit for 10 gel manicure applications.
If you don’t want to turn your bedroom into a mini salon (and we admittedly don’t), you’re in luck. Deborah Lippmann’s brand new Gel Lab is a fuss-free way to get a gel-like mani at home. The Coat of Arms base coat is formulated with epoxy resin to extend wear time, and the high-viscosity Shining Armor top coat gives you the shiny, ultra-hard finish of a gel manicure. While it won’t last quite as long as a lamp-cured mani, we love that it works with any nail polish color and comes off with regular remover (a huge plus!).
Whether you’re removing an at-home gel manicure, which does require a soak in acetone nail polish remover, or stripping away regular polish, make sure to keep your hands well-hydrated with a thick hand cream or salve. Our pick: J.R. Watkins Hand & Cuticle Salve, which has a satiny texture and revives dehydrated cuticles.
—By Anna Norman
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