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The 5 Best Gel Polishes

No, you don't have to go to a nail salon for a gorgeous gel manicure. As long as you have a bottle of gel polish and a UV curing lamp, you can just as easily do your own at home (and save tons of money in the long run). But not all gel polishes are created equally, which is where this guide to the best gel polishes comes in. Not only do they come in a wide range of colors, but these pro-quality polishes produce a high-shine finish and should last for at least two weeks without chipping.

But before you get to shopping, it's important to familiarize yourself with some gel manicure best practices. First, before curing your nails, make sure to apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to your hands to protect them from the UV lamp's ultraviolet radiation. (Alternatively, you could wear dark gloves without fingertips.) When you're ready to remove your polish, don't pick at it — that can really damage your nails. Instead, soak cotton balls with an acetone-based nail polish remover, place those on your fingers, wrap your fingers in aluminum foil (or specialized clips like these), and wait about 15 minutes. You should then find it easy to gently push your polish off. When you're done, follow up with a cuticle oil or nail moisturizer to replenish hydration.

Now that you know what you're doing, scroll on to shop the best gel nail polishes — and gel-effect polishes, if you're looking for something less high maintenance — that you can buy on Amazon.

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1. The Overall Best Gel Polish

Gellen makes some of the best gel polishes you can buy on Amazon — not only are they affordable, but they come in a seemingly never-ending amount of colors and finishes. The polishes produce a high-shine finish, are easy to soak off, and last about two weeks (or more) without chipping.

This particular set comes with six pretty neutral shades, but some of the other most popular Gellen gel polish sets include Macaron, Sweet Roses, Classic Elegance, Bright Neons, and Blue Peach.

2. The Best Gel Polish For Nail Art

These little gel paint pots from Elite99 are perfect for nail art. The formula isn't goopy or overly thick, so you can use a tiny brush to create all sorts of intricate designs.

Elite99 makes several traditional gel polish sets, too — check out Shell Peach, a gorgeous collection of barely-there iridescent shades, and these cool polishes that change colors depending on temperature.

3. The Best Affordable Gel-Effect Polish

As a less high-maintenance alternative to gel polish, you can buy a gel-effect polish. These don't require curing under a UV lamp but still provide the same hard, shiny, chip-resistant finish. They'll still stay on longer than a regular nail polish would, but not quite as long as a "real" gel polish.

As far as the best gel-effect polishes go, you can't do much better than Sally Hansen Miracle Gel, especially considering the price tag. It comes in tons of gorgeous colors, will last up to two weeks sans chipping, and best of all, can be easily removed with nail polish remover, just like regular polish.

4. The Best Luxury Gel-Effect Polish

Another great (albeit more expensive), no-curing-required choice: these Nails.INC Gel Effect Polishes. Not only is the long-wearing formula vegan and cruelty-free, but it's also enriched with nourishing flower extract to keep nails smooth and strong. It dries quickly, has a shiny finish, and comes in 10 gorgeous, London-inspired colors. Additionally, the extra-wide brush makes doing your own manicures a breeze.

5. The Best Gel Polish Top Coat

Top coats and base coats are absolute gel-manicure essentials. So be sure to pick up this under-$15 Beetles set, which includes a base coat, a shiny top coat, and a matte top coat. The shiny top coat will, obviously, give your manicure a high-shine finish, while the matte coat can be used to tone things down.

It's also worth checking out Beetles gel polish offerings, like this set of macaroon-inspired shades and these cool, holographic galactic colors.

You’ll Also Need:

To do your own gel manicures at home, you'll need to invest in a UV nail lamp. This popular choice has four preset timer settings, a low heat mode, a removable tray for easy cleaning, and an automatic sensor, which turns on when you put your hands in and off when you take them out. Unlike some of the smaller nail lamps out there, you can put both of your hands in at once for a speedier curing session.