As someone who used to be hopelessly devoted to a monthly gel manicure, I get the appeal of the salon treatment. I do! You don't have to lift a finger (except when the manicurist asks you to), you don't have to worry about what your nails look like for weeks, and the juicy signature shine is hard not to fall head over heels for.
Alas, salon-job gel manicures do come with their fair share of shortcomings. A) They're expensive, B) there can be hassle and inconvenience with making an appointment, parking, and actually making it *on time* to your appointment, and C) they can inflict some not-so-nice damage to your tips.
Therefore, when a slew of our favorite nail polish brands began to debut their own at-home gel mani dupes with comparable shining, long-lasting results, we threw our hands up and shouted hallelujah. Yes, a salon experience can be relaxing, but in our mind, nothing beats sitting at home in front of our current Netflix binge and doing the job ourselves. Not to mention, since so many of the best gel nail polish brands only require one, two, or three steps tops and have a super-fast dry time, we can nosh on our accompanying Postmates order mere minutes post–paint job.
Tempting, no? So kick the damage and time that your salon gel manicure requires and take a look at these best-of-the-best gel nail polish brands instead. (We promise you won't miss a thing!)
Here's the thing. I stopped getting gel manicures roughly two years ago, and 99% of the time, I reach for a bottle of Essie Gel Couture at the salon now instead. No joke, a couple of layers of this polish used in conjunction with the line's steel-strong glassy topcoat lasts me a full two weeks (by which I want a color change anyway). Rock the Runway, a fiery shade of scarlet, is my regular order.
Complete with OPI's signature skinny brush, this special gel formula, according to the brand, is designed as a higher-performance, even-glossier version of its regular (and still very beloved) polish. Nab it in one of the brand's most iconic shades to date, Bubble Bath.
Disclaimer: I'm cheating. Technically, Olive and June's nail polish collection isn't gel, but a few coats of the thick, glossy, long-wear formula topped off with its mega-durable topcoat last me just as long as the above gel formulas. So here we are!
I'm currently obsessed with collecting every single shade because I like each one better than the last, but this fresh buttercup yellow has quite possibly earned me the most polish queries and compliments I've ever received. Not to mention the formula is vegan, seven-free, and cruelty-free.
Nothing is chicer than Dior. This super-shiny, super-durable formula rivals the results of a spendy salon job, and the color choices range from natural and sophisticated to more whimsical like this shade called Desir.
This innovative gel-finish formula from the polish masters at Deborah Lippmann allows you all the luxuries of a salon-level manicure without having to leave the comfort of your own home. Each bottle features a unique contour brush with 320 bristles to perfectly coat each nail, and the dual-patented polish formula brims with 10 active ingredients to achieve the signature gleam and cushion of a gel manicure without any of the associated collateral damage.
If you love Chanel nail polish (and its holy-grail collection of shades) as much as we do, fear not—the brand has ever so kindly blessed us with a gel-strength topcoat that will last you at least a full week. No lamp required. It cures with natural light and bonds to your nail polish for the glassiest lacquer finish. How stunning is this royal blue?
Bouncy, incomparably shiny, and infused with nail-nourishing flower extracts, Nail Inc.'s gel nail polish formula is without a doubt one of the most covetable on the market. No fuss required. Just layer two applications on top of and underneath any base and topcoat of your choosing. (When in color doubt, our recommended prescription is always the blackest black!)
Fun fact: This at-home gel nail polish is SO fab you don't even need a basecoat. Simply swipe a few coats of this metallic chip-resistant hue on your tips, add a topcoat, and breathe easy for a full seven days.
For only $5, this gel-like nail polish is almost too good to be true. The brand promises a hefty two weeks of chip-free wear, and true to the one-step claim in its name, you don't even need a base or topcoat.
LeChat's easy, soak-off option offers impressive, salon-inspired shine that will last for weeks. It's LED/UV cured and won't result in any runs, shrinkage, or color fading. Here are two of our favorite shades right now.
How chic is this vintage-inspired shade of dusty mauve? Not to mention Butter London's cult-loved Patent Shine formula is practically as effective as a salon gel job. Designed to promote healthier nails, it's also a smarter option thanks to the 10-free formula enhanced with breakage-preventing bamboo extract. It's also 10-day (at least) chip-resistant due to the Shock Resistant Polymer Technology and fade-resistant thanks to diamond powder, which brightens while simultaneously absorbing dulling UV. No base or topcoat needed!