The best gel coat manicure set
You can get a salon-quality gel coat manicure at home if you invest in your own supplies -- namely a gel coat manicure set.
Gel coat manicure sets are affordable alternatives to biweekly nail salon visits. If you're just getting started, you need a full-fledged kit with manicure tools, gel color, and a lamp. Once you have an established setup, the fun begins with collecting gel color sets.
To get started, take a look at our buying guide on gel coat manicure sets. We're including our favorite kit, AZURE Beauty's Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit. Its 48-watt UV/LED lamp features three timer settings and won't darken gel color as it cures.
Considerations when choosing gel coat manicure sets
Types of gel coat manicure sets
Polish-only: Basic gel coat manicure sets come with the polish only. The average set includes up to a dozen colors. They include a broad assortment of colors or stick to a color group with a collection of similar shades. Larger sets can have as many as 40 colors, though they're usually mini-bottles as opposed to full-size ones.
Polish and lamp: If you're trying out gel coat manicures for the first time, polish and lamp combo sets are a solid choice. They usually include top and base coats and a limited selection of gel colors. Since they don't include manicure tools, they're affordable options.
Deluxe kits: Deluxe kits come with every accessory and product needed for a full gel coat manicure: polish, lamp, top and base coats, and manicure tools. Some sets even come with USB outlets for travel use.
Starter sets for novice nail artists are actually rather affordable, though the quality of their tools and lamp tend to be on the lower side. Premium kits have salon-quality tools and lamps, which is why they cost significantly more.
Gel coat polish is available in a wide variety of colors. Solid colors are the most popular, and others come in glitter, iridescent, crackle, or color-changing finishes. Most gel coat polish sets come with at least one neutral or traditional color, even if the rest are neon, pastel, or dark-toned.
The long-wear quality of gel coat color comes from the unique formula. Polish is made with polymers that harden and set when exposed to UV or LED light. Some polish is still made with
butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), a carcinogen, so it's recommended to look for non-BHA formulas instead.
Curing lamps are essential to set gel coat polish, as they contain UV or LED lights that activate the formula. LED lights are preferred because they limit radiation exposure and offer a faster curing time. In fact, LED lights can cure gel coat polish in a minute, whereas UV lights take as long as 10 minutes.
Bottle-only gel coat manicure sets cost $30 or less. Spend closer to $75 to get a deluxe set with manicure tools, polish, and a modest lamp. Salon-quality sets cost between $100 and $300 and tend to include top-notch lamps and professional-grade manicure tools.
Q. How long will it take to do a gel coat manicure?
A. If you're including the time to file and shape your nails, probably around 40 minutes. This gives ample time to properly manicure your nails before applying polish. The polish application doesn't take more than a couple minutes per layer. If your hand is slightly unsteady, you may take longer for an even application.
Q. Is it worth getting a gel coat manicure set if I still go to the nail salon occasionally?
A. Yes, especially since you're able to do your own touch-ups in between appointments. Many consumers prefer using gel coat manicure sets at home for their hands, but continue going to the nail salon for pedicures.
Gel coat manicure sets we recommend
Best of the best: AZURE Beauty's Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit
Our take: Deluxe 85-piece starter set with tools, lamp, and gel colors.
What we like: Gel colors last up to 21 days. LED lamp has 3 timer settings. Low-odor formula great for sensitive users.
What we dislike: Included colors can be a bit too striking if you have understated taste in nail color.
Best bang for your buck: Sexy Mix's Gel Nail Polish Starter Kit
Our take: Well-rounded affordable kit with five colors and travel-ready UV/LED lamp.
What we like: Fun mix of vibrant solid and glitter colors. Quality metal manicure tools.
What we dislike: Mixed reviews on color change polishes. Color can go on too thick if you're new to application techniques.
Choice 3: Modelones' Gel Nail Polish Set
Our take: Attractive shade collection of 16 mini bottles. Includes top and base coats.
What we like: Bottle color matches shades. Full-size top and base coat bottles. Classy packaging has an upscale look.
What we dislike: You might only get a couple applications from each mini bottle.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.