5 Best Gel Nail Kits, Tested & Reviewed

Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, these gel nail kits will take your mani to the next level without a trip to the salon.

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.

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).

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.

PROS
  • Long-lasting professional results
  • Complete kit with full suite of accessories
  • Fast application
CONS
  • Packaging 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 lightYes
Nail polish colors includedOne
Additional kit contentsNail 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 time45 seconds to three minutes

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 lightYes
Nail polish colors includedOne
Additional kit contentsCleanser pads, base coat, top coat, gel polish remover, cuticle stick, buffer, alcohol cleaning pad
Claimed dry time30 seconds

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 lightYes
Nail polish colors includedTwo
Additional kit contentsBase coat, top coat
Claimed dry timeNot listed

How we test the best gel nail polish kits

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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.

What to look for when shopping for a gel nail kit

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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?

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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?

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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.