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If you love the hard-wearing, high-shine look of a gel manicure, you’ll know what an expensive habit it can be calling in at the salon every other week for a fresh set. Luckily for you, there’s a selection of at-home gel nail kits that can help you get the professional look without the hefty price tag.
While your nails are unlikely to look pro-level flawless the first time, practice makes perfect and, within a few attempts, you’ll wonder why you didn’t invest in an at-home gel nail kit sooner, especially when you consider the kits can cost as little as £17 – less than just one salon manicure!
We scoured the Mumsnet forums for real Mumsnetter-recommended gel nail kits, taking into consideration how easy they are to use, how quickly you can do your manicure and how long it lasts once in place.
Here are our honest and in-depth reviews of the best gel nail kits to buy in 2021.
1. Best overall at-home gel nail kit: Mylee Complete Professional Gel Nail Polish LED Lamp Kit
Price: £67.49 (was £89.99) | Buy now from Amazon
“I have the Mylee lamp. It's great. I’ve been doing my own [nails] for years.” Pumpkinpie01
The Mylee gel nail kit comes up time and time again on our forums, with users praising it for its gorgeous colours and the lamp’s effectiveness. Yes, it’s pricier than some of the other gel kits in our edit, but with user Ellewoods20 saying “Mylee is by far the best at home gel nail kit,” and LionPaws writing “I love mine. The base/top coats and colours are lovely too,” you can rest assured it’s well worth your pennies.
As well as a lamp, four polishes, and a base and top coat, this set also includes all you need to prep your nails before application, which means they’ll last that little bit longer.
The kit gets bonus points for how quickly it works too. It takes just 15 seconds to cure each layer, plus the lamp is big enough for you to fit all four fingers and your thumb in at the same time.
Reviewers also praise this kit for how easy it is to get to grips with, with Amazon reviewers saying that after just one attempt their nails were looking as good as salon manicures.
Need to know
- Kit includes: Mylee Salon Series PRO LED Lamp, MyGel Base Coat, MyGel Top Coat, Mylee Lint Free Wipes, Mylee Prep + Wipe and Myee Gel Remover
- Polish colours: 4
2. Best budget at-home gel nail kit: HNM 6 Gel Nail Starter Kit
Price: £22.99 | Buy now from Amazon
The HNM 6 Gel Nail Starter Kit offers an incredible amount for its cost and is ideal if you’re not sure how much you’ll use it – it’s a lower price than most other kits, so not the end of the world if you don’t commit to fortnightly nail makeovers.
We imagine you’ll be hooked once this is in your home though. As well as the essentials, it has all the tools you need for neat cuticles and salon-style nail art if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.
The lamp is big enough to cure all five nails at once, with each layer taking just 60 seconds. While the polishes seem a little gloopy at first, you’re golden as long as you apply them in ultra-thin layers.
Need to know
- Kit includes: 24W LED lamp, top coat, base coat, nail clipper, cuticle pusher, buffer block, nail brush, cotton pad and nail art accessories
- Polish colours: 6
3. Best at-home gel nail kit for a quick-drying manicure: Bluesky Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit
Price: £50.99 | Buy now from Amazon
“I use a lot of Bluesky products: base, top coat and colours.” NuclearSummer
If you’re a long-term fan of gel manicures, you’ll know part of their beauty is that there’s no waiting around for your nails to dry, fearing you’ll smudge them. However, you’ll also know that, at the end of your manicure, your nails can feel sticky until you give them a wipe.
This gel nail kit brand eradicates that step with a no-wipe top coat that immediately leaves your nails dry and glossy, with no tacky residue, making your home manicure that little bit faster. “I use the Bluesky no wipe top coat and it's fab as there’s no need to wipe once finished,” confirms Mumsnetter Senorasurf.
The set also comes with all the prep essentials you need for a professional finish to your nails. Nails take 60 seconds per layer to cure, but you can’t quite fit all five nails in the lamp at once (four fit in, but not the thumb), so set aside a bit longer for your nail session if this is the kit you decide to invest in.
Need to know
- Kit includes: 24W LED and UV nail lamp, top coat, base coat, cleanser wipes, nail file and nail buffer
- Polish colours: 3
4. Best at-home gel nail kit for easy removal: Sensationail Gel Polish Starter Kit
Price: £59.99 | Buy now from Amazon
“I got the Sensationail kit a few years ago and still use it now as the lamp is very good.” Marybobary
Another gel nail kit loved by Mumsnetters, the Sensationail Gel Polish Kit is your one-stop solution to glossy-looking gel nails without the faff of removing them.
This lamp is a little slower than others on the market, taking 30 seconds per layer to cure, but a full set of nails still only takes around 30 minutes.
The shade this kit comes with is a classic red, but there are over 100 shades available from Sensationail to invest in once you get the hang of your at-home manicure sessions. Plus, the brand sells a Polish to Gel Transformer which means you can turn any regular polish into a gel-friendly formula.
The buffer and manicure stick help create a professional finish: buffing the nails helps the base and gel polish adhere, while the stick is useful to clear up any mess you make during application. With the peel-off base, removal of Sensationail manicures is a doddle as there’s no need to soak them - just peel off and you’re ready for a new set in next to no time.
Need to know
- Kit includes: Sensationail LED Lamp, primer, base and top coat, lint free wipes, buffer and manicure stick
- Polish colours: 1
5. Best at-home gel nail kit for colour options: Beetles Gel Nail Polishes Starter Kit
Price: £49.99 | Buy now from Amazon
Beetles blows the competition out of the water when it comes to the sheer number of shade choices available, plus the fact that this kit comes with both shiny and matte top coats means you can create a variety of different looks to suit your mood.
It also comes with a huge amount of tools to tend to your talons to ensure they’re looking salon-perfect, plus a selection of nail art goodies if you want something extra snazzy once you get the hang of doing your nails at home.
There are a variety of different starter kits available from Beetles, with different colour offerings to choose from, but this bundle of neutrals is our top pick thanks to the versatility of shades.
We also like that the lamp has no bottom to it, which makes it lightweight to use and handy for pedicures as well as manicures. However, it takes around 90 seconds per layer to cure, so not the best if you’re in a rush.
Need to know
- Kit includes: 48W LED UV lamp, base coat, glossy top coat, matte top coat, cuticle oil, nail strengthener, nail clipper, cuticle fork, cuticle pusher, nail brush for hands, nail brush for toes, toe separator, nail file, tweezers, UV gel brush, nail glue, nail tips, nail glitter and gems
- Polish colours: 12
6. Best at-home gel nail kit for long-lasting nails: Semilac Love Me Professional Gel Nail Starter Kit
Price: £69.90 | Buy now from Amazon
At the pricier end of the spectrum is the Semilac Love Me Starter Kit, the cost of which is justified by how professional it feels. The lamp is more advanced than others on the market, with a cooling fan and a mirrored base akin to those you see in salons, and the consistency of the polish feels high quality, with ultra thin layers for easy application without the watery feel. You can also choose from different polish shades options when you order.
Reviewers say their Semilac manicures last up to three weeks, which is among the longest we’ve encountered when it comes to at-home gel manicures.
Need to know
- Kit includes: Base coat, No Wipe top coat, top coat, cotton pads, acetone, nail cleaner, wooden sticks, straight nail file, mini polishing buffer and 48W UV/LED lamp
- Polish colours: 3
7. Best for on-the-go gel nails: Le Mini Macaron Gel Manicure Kit
Price: £42.87 | Buy now from Amazon
Undeniably the cutest at home gel nail kit we’ve seen, this sweet treat-shaped LED lamp cures just one nail at a time, but is small enough to pop in your bag for on-the-go nail touch-ups.
What’s more, the polish itself does the job of base coat, colour and top coat, so it’s not much longer to do a full set of nails than if you were using a larger kit. If you’re new to DIY nails, this is a great option to start with as you only need to apply one product – less room for mistakes so it’s fairly foolproof. Each nail takes 30 seconds to cure and you need three very thin coats to achieve opaque coverage.
A manicure with this mini lamp lasts about a week, but given it only takes about 10 minutes to do a full set, we can’t complain.
Need to know
- Kit includes: LED lamp, mini nail file cuticle stick and 10 remover pads
- Polish colours: 1
8. Best at-home gel nail kit for nail art: Coscelia Gel Nail Kit
Price: £27.99 | Buy now from Amazon
Fans of the Coscelia set praise the lamp for just how compact it is, making it ideal if you’ve got limited space. What will take up room though is the extensive array of nail art accessories it comes with. If you’re feeling arty though, this is the gel nail kit for you as it has all the stickers and glitter you need to create a myriad of fun and daring looks.
Reviewers say the eight polishes included are a little watery, but the lamp works with any brand of gel polish so don’t feel you have to stick with the Coscelia polishes if you don’t get on with them.
The lamp doesn’t have an attached base, which makes it a good option if you want to do pedicures too. It has 60-, 90- and 120-second curing settings depending on how long your polish says it needs to cure, plus the lamp switches on and off automatically when you put your nails in and out, which is a nice touch.
Need to know
- Kit includes: 36 W UV/ ED lamp, top coat, base coat, matte base coat, 10 remover pads, 10 cleaning pads, 10 nail files, French nail stickers, nail separators, nail stickers, nail brush, cuticle oil, cuticle fork, cuticle pusher, nail cutter, nail art dotting pen and rhinestones
- Polish colours: 8
How do I choose the best at-home gel nail kit?
There's a lot to think about when it comes to buying an at-home gel nail kit. Consider the type of lamp that will work best for your needs (see below for all you need to know), how quickly it cures your nails (they range from between 30 and 120 seconds) and the size of the lamp – is it easy to store and is it big enough to fit all your fingers in at once? If not, your manicure will take longer.
Look at how many polish colours the set comes with and what they are – there's no point buying a lamp with a bold red shade if you know you'd never use it - as well as the tools included.
Check whether the kit comes with removal tools too because even though it's tempting to peel off your gel nails, that's when damage can happen.
What lamp is best for gel nails?
Home gel nail kits come with either an LED lamp or a UV lamp. LED lamps tend to be a little pricier but they work quicker than UV, curing each layer faster so your manicure doesn't take as long.
Mumsnet user MajorFaffington wrote, “I regretted getting a UV lamp over an LED lamp as the UV ones take much longer to cure than the LED ones," so keep this in mind when shopping.
It's also worth noting that some polishes can only be cured under UV lights, so look for a UV/LED hybrid lamp.
You can buy lamps for gel nails separately from the full kits if you don’t want the tools and polishes too, or want to buy a replacement lamp at any stage. Mumsnetter ChequerBoard recommends the Sunuv LED Lamp, saying that it’s “good quality and very cheap.”
What are the steps for gel nails?
If you've paid attention when having your nails done in the salon, you'll know it's a multi-step (though fairly straightforward) process.
Step 1: The prep
The manicure part of your in-salon service is likely the longest part and though it can be tempting to forgo the filing, buffing and cuticle removal and jump straight in with the base coat. It's these steps that make your gel manicure last longer.
File your nails into the desired shape, push back your cuticle (or remove them with cuticle remover) and then buff the surface of your nails to remove the shine and help your gel polish adhere better and last longer. This is when to use the prep wipe that might come with your kit to make sure your nails are free from dust, oil or anything else that will make your mani appear less than perfect.
Step 2: Application
Apply a thin layer of base coat and cure under your lamp (different lamps will take different amounts of time to cure so follow the instructions with your specific lamp).
Next, paint thin layers of your chosen colour, curing under the lamp between each layer, until the colour is as opaque as you want. Three coats should do it - any thicker and it could cause the gel to lift. Seal the tip of your nail by dabbing polish along the top to prevent it from lifting or chipping. This is really the key to a long-lasting gel manicure!
Finish with a top coat and cure.
Step 3: Cleanse
Wipe your nails (your kit might come with cleansing wipes) to get rid of any tackiness on the nail. Finish with cuticle oil and hand cream for a touch of pampering.
How do I take gel nails off?
The rule of thumb is to never peel gel nails as they need to be properly soaked off.
First off, buff away the top layer of your gel polish so they look matte and are rough to the touch. Next, saturate a cotton pad in acetone and wrap it round your finger, securing it in place with tin foil around the tip (like a thimble). Leave for 10 minutes then use a wooden orange stick to scrape off your gel polish. If it doesn't come away easily, repeat the first step.
If you find tin foil a faff, there are little nail clips to keep the acetone pads in place.
Do gel nails ruin your natural nails?
No, gel nails don't ruin your natural nails. They can in fact help them to grow longer because they're less likely to break with the strengthening gel on top. It's improper removal that wrecks your natural nails as peeling them off also peels off layers of your nail.
Follow our advice for gel removal and your natural nails will remain lovely.
What is the best at-home gel nail kit?
The Mylee Complete Professional Gel Nail Polish LED Lamp Kit is the best at-home gel nail kit to buy right now. It has countless Mumsnetter recommendations thanks to the long-lasting, fast-working lamp and the fact that it comes with everything you need to prepare your nails pre-mani and take care of them afterwards. It's also easy to use, which is ideal if you're a gel nail novice.
How we chose our recommendations
We studied reviews of gel nail kits on the Mumsnet forums to find out which parents had bought and rated highly – and which kits they weren't impressed by.
Finally, we collated all that information and then looked at other online reviews to see which were the bestsellers and which received rave reviews after purchase. We then cross-referenced all that information to find the gel nail kits that had won the most accolades and recommendations across the board.
Why you should trust us
We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.