Over the last few years, gel nails have become a hot beauty trend and one of the most popular manicures of all time! Gel nails tick all of the boxes due to their:
- Durability and strength - enabling them to last for weeks
- Resistance to chipping, meaning you can rock that fresh-out-of-the-salon look until you chose to remove them.
- Low maintenance - the above benefits means that they require little maintenance - perfect for us busy women
Not to mention the amazing, glossy finish, which (lets’ be honest!) is what keeps us hooked.
Are Gel Nails for Me?
If you’re a nail biter, or have weak nails - a gel manicure has got you covered. The right gel nail polish (and application) can help to protect your natural nails from everyday damage which can help to strengthen and grow them longer over time. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get with the gel trend!
Where Do I Start?
As gel nails have become extremely popular, new brands are popping up and existing brands are expanding their range. While this is great because it means we have more colors and variety to choose from, it is also like trying to find a needle in a haystack, especially for those who are new to gel nails and don’t know where to start. To help you, we have rounded up the best brands of gel polish below with the help of our nail technician experts. We have also written a few guides on this site including how to do a gel nail manicure from home, the best UV lights of 2017 and so much more advice if you’d like to stick around and take a browse!
THE BEST GEL POLISH (with UV LAMPS)
So you’ve got all the kit and you’re looking for some gel nail polishes to add to your collection that are compatible with your nail lamp. Cassia (our nail technician expert of 10 years), has rounded up the best brands she has worked with. This round up comes from real feedback from past clients - and all brands can be purchased for home and professional use.
1 - CND Shellac
Only CND Shellac can take the top spot for the leading gel polish brand - after all, these guys are the creators of gel nails and were the very first brand to market. Shellac is a top quality polish used by nail technicians and salons globally. CND have over 100 beautiful colors to chose from, including a stunning range of glitter, metallic and vibrant polishes in opaque and sheer finishes. Shellac polishes guarantee’s a minimum of 14 day wear and many praise Shellac manicures for lasting even longer.
Shellac nails can be achieved at home - a UV lamp will cure this polish but if you are thinking of buying a LED UV lamp or have one at home, check its’ compatibility first with the Shellac range.
To remove this brand of polish you must also have some acetone at hand as it is a little tougher to come off. We recommend Shellac for ladies who do not want to change their nail color every week.
2 - Gelish by harmony gel polish
Gelish is another top brand for polish which is also a popular choice for salons and home use. There are a huge range of colors to chose from and prices are slightly cheaper than Shellac. The Gellish color range varies from cool pastels to vibrant glitters, and all polishes last up to 3 weeks.
We love Gelish because it can be cured in 30 seconds flat with an LED lamp or in 2 minutes with a standard UV lamp.
This polish is quicker to soak off than most, taking only 10 minutes using the harmony artificial nail remover which also comes with a cleanser and the nail file needed to break the seal. Gelish is one of our top picks simply due to its affordability, range of colors and long lasting results.
3 - red carpet MAnicure led gel polish
Red Carpet Manicure is a professional standard nail polish brand with a wide variety of gel colors to choose from. With this polish you can expect a high shine, glossy result which will last you up to 3 week
RCM polishes are slightly cheaper than Shellac and contain around 2ml more than Shellac per bottle (a total of 9ml per bottle).
Each layer of polish can be cured in 30 seconds flat and removal of polish is easy with the patented 'soak off' technology which takes only 10-15 minutes to remove. Many women opt for RCM purely for the ease of removal.
RCM is a reliable and affordable brand with a range of gorgeous colors that will make heads turn!
THE BEST GEL POLISH (without UV LAMP)
If you don't have a UV or LED lamp, you can still achieve a beautiful gel nail manicure with UV free gel nail polishes. With our round up of gel polishes below you can expect a 'gel like' high shine and glossy finish, but the results will not last as long as a typical gel manicure that has been done using a UV lamp. This is because the the UV light used in a traditional gel manicure creates a bond between the polish and the nail that helps it to last longer making it resistant to chipping.
However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing - especailly if you like to change your color often. With a UV lamp gel manicure, polish is much more difficult to remove. One thing we can reveal is that many 'no UV' gel polishes promise to last up to 2 weeks - but this is not the case. We have tested with a number of different 'no UV lamp' gels including Sally Hansen, Nails Inc, Dior - and we were a little disappointed to see that none of the polishes lasted longer than 5 days. Our round up below are the ones that lasted the longest, but these still did not last any longer than 5 days when the polish was applied as recommended.
Take a look at our top 3 brand round ups for non-UV lamp gel polishes below.
1 - OPI Infinite shine collection
OPI is a leading brand trusted globally by salons, associated with beautiful rich colors and chip resistance without being completely unaffordable. OPI have a few collections of nail polish, but the one that closely resembles the gel look is the 'infinite shine' collection.
OPI's infinite shine polishes create a gorgeous manicure which will last for up to 11 days. This is a perfect amount of time - as when you see the colors in their range you will want to try them all!
2 - Essie - gel couture polish
Essie have a beautiful selection of colors across 5 ranges which include gel glitters, summer pastels and dark fall / winter shades.
These polishes give off an eye catching shine when used with the top coat (which is purchased separately). It is top quality for the affordable price and came out on top when tested again other gel like polishes.
3 - Cover girl - xl nail gel
Cover Girl made our top 3 round up as this polish lasts longer than other brands we tested and we fell in love with the vibrant colors within their range. The only complaint we have is that we'd love to see more colors in the range!
The price of these polishes are affordable and easy to apply without the need to buy a top coat.
We gave exra points to Cover Girls gel polish for fast drying times from this range and strong resistance to chipping.