The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

10 best gel nail kits for salon-quality manicures at home

These sets deliver glossy, long-lasting colour and are easy to use

Louise Whitbread
Friday 01 April 2022 13:42
<p>Typically UV and UV/LED lamps require longer curing time, while LED lamps are much quicker and less damaging to nails</p>

Typically UV and UV/LED lamps require longer curing time, while LED lamps are much quicker and less damaging to nails

There’s few things that can make you feel put together as fast as a freshly painted manicure. It can also be one of the few times to enjoy some alone time, sitting in a comfortable salon seat, flicking through a magazine.

There are, however, plenty of kits you can find online that allow you to achieve a fresh manicure from home, but it does take a bit of practice and patience to get neat nails, so don’t worry if you don’t see perfect results the first time. It will also make you much more appreciative of your favourite nail technician, but help save you pennies in the long run.

Most kits come with a UV, LED or UV/LED lamp, a top and base coat along with one or more gel polishes. Typically UV and UV/LED lamps require longer curing time, while LED lamps are much quicker and less damaging to nails.

Once you’ve got all your tools together, there’s a few ways to ensure your paintwork looks good and lasts as long as possible.

Preparation is key, so firstly file your nails so they’re a uniform shape, push back your cuticles and buff your nail bed for a smooth base. Then you want to ensure you only apply the gel colours in thin layers, doing three at most to avoid them looking clumpy. You can add an extra pampering step once your top coat is set with a cuticle oil and hand cream.

Read more:

How we tested

We’ve spent weeks testing gel nail kits and have found the very best, rating each on price, ease of use and staying power, to help make picking one for yourself much easier. Whether you love a classic red, a chic and glossy black, or natural looking nude, these are the sets that will have your nails looking shiny and new within minutes.

The best gel nail kits for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Mylee the full works complete gel polish kit: £129,
  • Best for a speedy manicure – Bluesky starter kit: £59.99,
  • Best for beginners – SensatioNail gel nail kit nudes: £29.99,
  • Best for nail art – Modelones 7 colors gel nail polish kit: £36.99,
  • Best for a gel French manicure – Vishine UV LED nail lamp gel nail kit: £35.99,
  • Best mini gel nail kit – Le Mini Macaron gel manicure kit, cassis: £27.95,
  • Best for vegans – Manucurist green flash gift set: £89,
  • Best fool-proof kit – Semilac starter set try me with 36W led lamp: £41.93,
  • Best for long lasting results – Gellux gel polish starter kit: £67.99,
  • For nail protection and nourishment – Red Carpet Beauty fortify and protect pro starter kit: £79.95,

Mylee the full works complete gel polish kit

Best: Overall

This is an extensive kit, containing everything you need for an at-home salon experience. Complete with an LED lamp, a bottle of nail prep solution and gel remover, lint-free cloths, base coat, top coat, cuticle sticks, a glass nail file, buffing block and eight gel colours, Mylee has created a thoughtful kit that’s brilliant for those used to regular gel manicures. We loved how much colour choice there was, allowing you to create a multi-coloured manicure, if you wish!

Our favourites were Hollywood twist and gold digger – silver and gold shimmery shades that felt festive but not tacky. The consistency of the gel is quite thick, which took some getting used to, as only a thin layer is required, cured under the lamp before another layer is added to build colour. The lamp is roomy too, and allowed us to fit our whole hand comfortably under it with ease.

While the most expensive on our list, it’s well worth the investment thanks to the variety of gel shades included and all the tools you could ever need. The hand cream, cuticle sticks and cuticle oil also mean, that once you’ve finished curing your top coat, you can still enjoy a pampering treat that will simultaneously keep nails and skin healthy while minimising any damage.

Bluesky starter kit

Best: For a speedy manicure

This compact kit contains all the essentials for a fuss-free gel manicure at home. It comes in a neatly packaged box containing a LED/UV lamp, top and base coat, a 20 pack of cleanser wipes, a nail file and buffer and three full size gel polishes – a bright red, glossy black and dusty pink. Our favourite part of this kit was its speediness, requiring only 30 seconds of curing under the lamp for the base coat, then 60 seconds per coat of paint, and finally 60 seconds once you’ve applied the top coat.

The instruction booklet is clear and easy to follow, and the cleanser wipes do a great job of tidying up the cuticles before you put your hand under the lamp, which meant the end result was a lot neater. This is ideal if you want to invest in a gel nail kit without spending a huge amount, and we think for under £60 it’s quite reasonable, as the three colours it comes with are full size. Just be careful to ensure you only apply a very thin layer, the first time we tried this we made the mistake of applying one that was too thick, which meant keeping it tidy was tricky.

You can’t, however, fit all five nails under the lamp comfortably, so make sure you’re careful not to touch freshly applied gel polish, which would ruin your handiwork when moving hands about. We opted for the pillarbox red, which resulted in a beautiful glossy finish that lasted a full 10 days.

SensatioNail gel nail kit nudes

Best: For beginners

Rating: 7/10

This is a basic starter kit with the bare bones of a gel nail at-home service. It’s very compact, with two mini gel polishes; one a sheer nude, the other a translucent pink, perfect if you love a more neutral nail shade. Within this kit you’ll also receive a nail primer, cleanser, base coat, top coat, 12 lint-free wipes, a cuticle stick, buffer and an LED lamp.

The lamp is small, you can only fit four fingers in, so the thumb needs to be cured separately, but for the low price, it’s not off putting. It’s speedy, taking just 20 minutes to complete a manicure, and although it’s not super luxurious, it is the most affordable kit we’ve tried, and does exactly what it says on the tin – perfect for saving money on salon trips.

Modelones 7 colors gel nail polish kit

Best: For nail art

Rating: 9/10

This kit has a great selection of white, pink and beige shades, in neutral tones, neon and highly-pigmented glitter. The white shade had a great consistency and with two coats was completely opaque.

It’s a well-rounded kit to replicate the complete salon experience, including a nail brush, cuticle pusher, trimmer, cuticle oil, nail primer to extend the wear of the polish and a spacious lamp, which all five fingers can fit under comfortably. It also has additional fun elements with silver foil flame stickers and diamantes which allow you to experiment with nail art designs.

While the polish consistency is thick, as long as you apply thin coats, it’s easy to layer and just two coats are needed for each shade. There’s also three timers on the lamp – 30, 60 or 99 seconds, perfect if you lose track of how long your hand has been under it.

Vishine UV LED nail lamp gel nail kit

Best: For a gel French manicure

Rating: 8/10

We enjoyed the unusual shades in this kit, which were a mix of blue, grey and brown-toned pinks, which were highly-pigmented and flattering even on our reviewers pale skin. The polishes have wide brushes too, which made for simple application, although patience is key. And the lamp has three timer settings and will instantly turn off when you remove your hand.

It’s an extensive kit, coming with – deep breath now – six polishes, a top coat, base coat, nail file, nail buffer (which is washable), a nail brush, cuticle fork, dotting pen, cuticle pusher, nail separators and striping tape. Phew! Our favourite feature though is the French manicure stickers in two designs – straight and curved – so you can perfect traditional white, or colourful tips with ease.

Le Mini Macaron gel manicure kit, cassis

Best: Mini gel nail kit

Rating: 9/10

This is an adorable kit that delivered a better quality, longer-lasting gel manicure than we had anticipated. It’s the most compact we tried too, taking up a minute amount of space thanks to its adorable one-finger LED lamp. It’s fuss-free and easy to use, and a great way to start practising gel manicures at home.

It comes with the lamp and USB cable, a mini bottle of polish, a nail file, 10 remover pads and a double-sided cuticle pusher with a slanted tip for cleaning up around edges. Simply buff and shape the nails, then apply two coats of polish and put under the lamp until the light turns off (30 seconds), et voila, a glossy plum red that lasted us well over a week without chipping.

It’s surprisingly speedy too, taking just 15 mins to complete a manicure. The remover pads work well too, and the polish, despite being dark, doesn’t stain nails.

Manucurist green flash gift set

Best: For vegans

Small but mighty, one of the main appeals of this set is its compact size, which easily fits into a bedside drawer, and isn’t bulky or heavy either. However, its main selling point is that it’s plant-based, with vegan formulas that sit between a traditional polish and a gel. They give a glossy finish and can swiftly be taken off using nail polish remover. As a result they’re less damaging to nails and don’t come with a time-consuming removal process that can take up your whole evening.

In this kit you’ll find a UV lamp, nail polish remover, base, topcoat and two colours of your choice. There’s an extensive 25-shade range available to chose from – our favourite is anémone, a brilliant raspberry red.

It’s not quite as speedy as other kits we tried, because you can’t comfortably fit all five fingers under the lamp, so we resorted to four fingers and then our thumb separately, which of course adds on time. That said, it didn’t detract from how easy it was to use. The more careful you are with your hands, the longer your manicure will last, and we got a full seven days out of ours, before chipping one while opening boxes.

Semilac starter set try me with 36W led lamp

Best: Fool-proof kit

We loved the thinner consistency of the trio of gel shades that came in this kit, with one full size and two minis. It’s incredibly simple to use – a fool-proof kit you can’t go wrong with. Our only gripe is that it’s not immediately clear how long to leave nails under the UV lamp for, but once we’d read over the FAQ’s on Semilac’s website and found it was 120 seconds for the 36 watt machine, the rest was easy.

Don’t be put off by the small size of the minis, which include the base and top coat, the brush picks up a lot of product but doesn’t require a huge amount to coat the entire nail. We were very impressed with the results from this kit, with glossy, smooth nails that lasted nearly two full weeks.

Gellux gel polish starter kit

Best: For long lasting results

Another compact kit is this one from Gellux, which comes with four shades; white, pale pink, dark pink and red, along with a cuticle oil, two nail files and a buffer, a base/top coat, a fast bonding clear solution, prep solution and remover. While the shades themselves are easy to apply with a wide brush that easily coats the nail, it doesn’t come with a lamp, which you need to buy separately, thus creating an added expense that would have been more convenient to include with the kit.

We tried using it with the Gellux mini LED lamp (£46.99, which was incredibly small but required only 30 seconds of curing time. Due to its small size, you can’t fit all five fingers in it, but it only has one button setting – which is for 30 seconds – and then it will turn off, so you don’t need to remember how long your nails have been under it for while you scroll through TikTok. 

The fast bond is a coating to be applied before the base coat, and helps the gel polish stay on the nail for longer with less chipping, and we did notice a difference, getting a full 12 days out of them before we saw any sign of wear. If you’re prepared to spend more to get the LED lamp and the starter kit, this is an excellent set that’s easy to use and delivers long-lasting results.

While this one is currently out of stock, you can sign up to be notified by email when it makes its comeback.

Red Carpet Beauty fortify & protect pro starter kit

Best: For nail protection and nourishment

Each step in this kit only takes 30 seconds under the LED lamp, and while you cannot fit five fingers in it at a time, it dramatically reduces the time we used to spend waiting for our nails to air dry. This too comes with the tools to create a salon-quality manicure, as well as everything you need to remove them safely.

In it you’ll find the LED lamp, top coat, base coat, cuticle oil, purifying prep solution, buffer block, accessories kit with nail buffers, files, lint-free wipes and cuticle sticks, removal wraps and a miniature pale pink shade.

While we would have liked to see a full size gel colour, or more selection of shades for the price, it’s easy to follow the instructions, and the set provides a speedy way to achieve a high quality finish. The removal wraps are foils with an attached piece of cotton so removing them is a simple process too.

The verdict: Gel nail kits

While all the ones we tried left us impressed, it was Mylee the full works complete gel polish kit that pipped them to the post, mostly due to the spacious LED lamp that could easily fit five fingers, but for the extensive shade range too, which gave us ample amount of choice.

We were also very impressed with The Edge gelover soak off gel kit, as it was clear that equal amount of thought had been put into both the removal and application process. It made taking our gel polish off simple and speedy, leaving no signs of damage behind.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on nailcare and other beauty offers, try the below links:

To keep your nails looking and feeling healthy in between manicures, read our review of the best nail treatments and strengtheners

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in