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How Do I Choose the Best Gel Nail Kits?

By Kathleen Howard
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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There are several different ways to choose a gel nail kit, but you’ll probably have the best luck if you take the time to understand your options before you start shopping, and do some research on how home gel solutions work. When done properly, gel manicures are often really long-lasting and can look very professional. A lot of this depends on the quality of the gels, though. There can be a lot of variety when it comes to how kits are organized and what they’re made of, so knowing what to look for can make your search much easier. Some of the best products from a strictly results-oriented perspective are often those that are very involved with multiple gel applications. These can take a lot of skill to apply properly, and also tend to be quite expensive; as a result, they might not be best for you. It’s also important to think about the investment you’ll need to make in equipment, since not all kits come with tools like UV lamps and cooling fans that are necessary to get good results.

Understand the Basics of Nail Gels

Gel nails are a type of manicure that involves sealing the fingernails or toenails with a tinted gel rather than polishing it with a lacquer. Most of these manicures are done in salons, but you can sometimes get good results from a kit designed for use at home. Kits typically contain a number of nail gels and important tools like cleansers, gel removers, and ultraviolet (UV) lamps. While many gel nail kits seem similar at first, they can vary when it comes to the types of gels they contain and the level and intensity of UV that it takes to get them sealed.

Most kits are made up primarily of builder gels. These are layered on top of each other to create each gel nail, and are typically applied using small nail brushes. Kits typically also contain a base gel, a finishing gel, and several overlay gels. The overlay gels are available in a variety of colors in most cases, including clear. There are a number of printed and online resources you can get on how to distinguish between competing products, as well as how to judge things like quality. Talking to someone in a salon might also be helpful, at least in terms of understanding the basics of how these manicures work — this is often particularly important if you’ve never had one done before.

Know Your Skill Level and Price Range

It’s also usually a good idea to be honest about your skill level, and setting a price range before you start shopping can help you identify the most compelling choices, too. It’s usually true that the very best kits are also the most expensive and the most challenging to apply. It takes time for most people to learn how to use these gels without creating unwanted bumps on the nail, and spending a lot of money for a kit you can’t use very well is often very disappointing.

Consider Polish Gels

True beginners might also benefit from choosing kits with gel polishes instead of builder gels, since they are easier to apply. These gels usually look like regular nail polishes, but will form a tough gel when cured under an UV lamp. Most of these sorts of kits also contain a base coat, top coat and a few different colored polishes. Once you’re comfortable with the process from this standpoint, you might find it easier to begin experimenting with different builder gels and more advanced products.

Think About Needed Equipment

Gel nail kits usually require a lot of equipment to use that may not be included in the initial package or set. You’ll want to be sure that you have a cleanser and a gel remover solution in addition to the gels themselves. To ensure that the gel adheres to your nails, you must typically use a special cleanser to get rid of oils and surface dirt before getting started. Gel coatings aren’t usually very easy to remove, either. Most of the time you’ll need to soak your fingers in a special solution that breaks down the UV bond. If you cannot find a gel fingernail kit that includes a removing solution, you will need to purchase one separately.

While most nail gels are fairly affordable, powerful UV lamps can get very expensive — and they’re all but essential for good results. Gel nails must be cured or allowed to harden under a UV light after each individual layer of gel. These lamps typically range in voltage from nine to 45 watts, though for home use, a low voltage option will usually suffice. UV lamps designed for nail use also usually include fans and strategically placed reflectors to speed the curing process.

Instead of UV bulbs, some lamps contain light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. These lamps must be used with special LED gels instead of the more popular UV gels. Due to the high price of these lamps, most consumers will want to choose a gel nail kit designed specifically for use with a UV lamp — at least until they grow accustomed to the application process.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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