10 best gel nail polishes for a chip-free manicure
Gel polishes are getting better and better
There’s a lot to love about gel nail polishes, those UV and LED-cured polishes that contain acrylic oligomers: They’re ultra-shiny, don’t require the wait time for drying that traditional polishes do, and last a very long time (up to two weeks or more, if you can stand the growing-out look). But they also have a bad reputation for damaging nails and can be difficult to remove at home. This is largely due to the first generation of gel formulas that were incredibly hard on nails, but we’re here to tell you that’s no longer the case.
Today, we not only have the best gel polishes to choose from (with built-in nourishing ingredients, simplified formulas, and better applicators), but also hybrid gel polishes that give you great shine and longer wear, but don’t require UV light to cure or soaking to remove, thanks to special gel-like polymers and resins that give them a week or so of wear. Here are the best professional gel polishes to take to the salon, the best at-home options for a DIY manicure to use with your home UV kit, and the best hybrids that allow you to fall somewhere between the benefits of a regular polish and a gel.
MEFA 23 Pcs Gel Nail Polish Set
This lamp-cured mega-set has received over 8,300 reviews on Amazon.com for a reason: it comes with 23 different shades to open you up to the wide world of gel polishes. One of the kit’s lovers, CR, raves on Amazon, “These colors are beautiful, long lasting, easy to work with and the price is great. You really get more than you pay for.” A daily application of cuticle oil will help your nails and tips stay healthy.
Rainbow Summer Beetles 23 Pack Gel Nail Polish Kits
Perfect for summer, this Amazon’s Choice pick includes nearly two dozen fluorescent colors to wear to the beach. This light-drying kit offers at least two weeks of use, so you can make sure your manicures and pedicures last through the vacations and beyond. “I’ll say it again and again about the Beetles brand: this is the best gel I’ve ever used! The colors are vibrant and long-lasting,” writes Alina Sanchez on Amazon. “It’s really amazing how inexpensive this product is when it works better than the higher end brands.” She goes on to note that you’ll get better results if you apply a light coat, not too thick, and allow enough drying time. If you’re using a dark color, a coat of liquid latex will prevent “oops!”
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel
If you’re going to call a product a “miracle,” it better be effective. This product does, thanks to its super-smooth consistency that delivers a flawless finish. A helpful tip from Mia’s review on Amazon: “Don’t pull hard and drag the brush, but sweep/tap lightly with the brush. You’ll get a more car-like look without any streaks.”
Red Carpet Gel Polish Pro Kit
This system from Red Carpet “is a great way to get started because it has everything you need (except the clippers), including easy-to-follow instructions,” shares starfaerie on Amazon. “I’ve now used it twice with wonderful results. It’s just like the salon!” Once dry, top it off with a daily coat of this cult cuticle oil, which is a must-have for anyone with dry cuticles and brittle nails.
Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Polish
With over 1,000 reviews on Amazon, it seems like this budget-friendly option has been the talk of the town. Its built-in base coat allows it to wear like a gel, even though it doesn’t technically belong in that family. “Revlon Gel Envy is the only polish I like to use on my toenails now! I’ve gotten so many compliments!” says k.teacher on Amazon. “What’s cool is that when you’re ready to take it off, even though it lasts like a gel polish, it’s easy to remove with regular nail polish remover.” And since at this price, you can buy any shade that makes you cringe, you might want to consider these old nail polish uses for the regular formulas already in your selection.
CND Shellac Gel Polish
The gold standard in salon UV-cured gel manicures, CND Shellac is not only a great polish, but it’s also easy to find at a nail salon near you. Reasons to love it: The finish is so glossy it’s almost blinding, and there are over 160 shades for you to play, play, play with.
Essie Couture Gel
With more than 3,500 rave reviews on Ulta.com for the top coat alone, this hybrid gel has a following, thanks in large part to its patented brush that allows for streak-free application. One Ulta reviewer insists, “I can’t say enough good things about it. It makes your nails so shiny and smooth, [and] it doesn’t chip, no matter how rough I am!”
Dior Vernis Gel Shine Long Lasting Nail Polish
This light-free gel option offers long-lasting wear with resins and polymers that harden each coat to form a chip-resistant layer of shine. It’s also enriched with organic silicone to help strengthen the nail surface. Yes, it’s a bit of a splurge, but as one user on Neimanmarcus.com points out, “It applies perfectly smooth, covers beautifully and dries quickly.”
OPI Gel Color
Fans love that the affordable OPI brand offers its most iconic shades, like Lincoln Park After Dark and Big Apple Red, in this long-lasting, LED-drying formula to make your favorite shades last longer. According to a Walmart shopper, “The consistency is not too thick, which has worked well when doing art/liners with nail brushes.”
Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro Nail Polish
This is the perfect polish if you’re looking for a hybrid gel formula that’s free of harmful substances like toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and camphor, is vegan and contains keratin, biotin and rice protein. It also has a 320-bristle contour brush and a rounded tip to get into every corner of your nails. A Sephora reviewer writes, “The color applies so easily without having to dip your brush multiple times.”