Gel nail kit reviews



As an incurable DIYer, I very rarely go to the salon for a manicure.  I’m rough on my hands, so nail polish only lasts about a day before they start looking janky.  I figured I was always destined to be an un-polished gal.

My friend Shelley at the House of Smiths told me that I just HAD to try a gel manicure.  It costs more than a regular manicure (it’s around $70 where I live), but my nails looked fabulous for a week and a half and sometimes up to two weeks.  The manicurist brushes a special polish on your nails and you cure it under the UV lights for about a minute.  The polish was instantly dry.  Instantly!  Plus, since the polish is cured (aka hardened), it’s not as delicate as regular polish.  I could be a rough DIYer AND have pretty nails.  But, with two young kids and weekends filled with projects, its hard for me to find the time to go to the salon.  I needed to learn how to do gel nails myself at home, so I put that on my growing “things to learn” list.

In the last month or so, these new Sally Hansen Gel Salon Gel Starter Kits have been popping up on store shelves.  Have you seen them?  They are available at CVS, Walgreens, Target, Walmart, Ulta…pretty much everywhere.  The kit has everything you need to do your own gel manicure at home.  They range in price from $100 a kit to $45 (the cheapest price I’ve found is here on Amazon), and there are lots of coupons floating around, too.

I eyed the kits for a few weeks and read some reviews online.  Most of the reviews were really good and the kit cost about the same as one visit for a salon gel manicure, so I decided to buy myself a kit at Target (about $65).  The box says that you can create up to 10 manicures with the kit, and you can buy a refill kit for about $15 when your run out of stuff in the original kit (we’ll talk about that later).  There are a lot of color polishes you can buy separately, but the starter kit only comes in your choice of two colors – Wine Not (which is a wine color) and Shell We Dance (which is a light pink/nude).  It also is supposed to come in Red My Lips (bright red), but I’ve never personally seen that one in stores.  I used Shell We Dance.

NOTE: Make sure you are getting the gel polish kit.  Sally Hansen also makes a gel strips kit, but the reviews for it haven’t been nearly as good – and since the gel polish dries immediately, you really don’t need to deal with the strips.

Inside the box, you’ll find a top coat, color coat, base coat and LED light.   There’s also polish remover, a cuticle stick, nail file/buffer, nail cleanser pads and instructions.

The instructions are really easy to follow.  You remove any current polish you have on your nails.  Then, you push back your cuticles and file/buff your nails.  Wipe them down with the nail cleanser pads and you’re ready to paint!

Just as an FYI, here’s what my nails looked like before I started the process.

After each step (base coat, color coat, top coat), you cure your nails under the LED light for 30 seconds.  After the top coat, you wipe your nails again with the nail cleanser pads.  Ta Da!  That’s it.  Your nails are dry.  Go forth and live your life without worrying about smudging or chipping your nails.

I left my polish on for two weeks so that I could be a good judge of how long this manicure would last.  Within those two weeks, I painted a ceiling, planted flowers, built a sandbox for my kids and did everything else a mother does.  Here are the week two results:

You’ll notice a few things:

  • First, the manicure didn’t chip at all.  I’m talking AT All.  There’s some obvious growth at my nail bed, but that’s just what happens when your nails grow out of any manicure.
  • On my ring finger, you’ll see the jagged bottom edge that happened after I picked at the polish.  I applied it a little too thick at the nail bed on that finger, and it looked thick as it started to grow out.  I tried to lift that part off myself, and it chipped the polish.
  • Last, this polish color really yellowed over time.  I find that most light color polishes do that on my nails (gel or not).  Maybe it’s the polish or maybe my body emits weird nail polish yellowing chemicals. :)

Other things you should know that you may not notice:

  • The instructions recommended that you do one hand at a time, from start to finish.  I did that and it worked really well.
  • The Starter Kit says that it has enough product for up to 10 manicures.  I’m certain that there’s enough of all three polishes and the polish remover to last that long.  The cuticle stick and file/buffer are always reusable, and cheap enough to buy again when you need to without it being an issue.  The polishes are sold separately for about $10 each and the polish remover is just acetone remover that you can pick up for $1/bottle anywhere.  The thing I sort of freaked out about was the 10 nail cleanser pads.  They are little cotton pads covered in some sort of fluid, and I used three of them for my first manicure.  I knew I’d run out of the other ones quickly and need to spend the $15 on a refill kit (includes base coat, top coat, remover and cleanser pads) when I’d likely only need the cleanser pads.  Turns out, those pads are just 99% Isoprophyl Alcohol.  Whew!  Most rubbing alcohol is 70-90%, but that will work just fine.

At the two week mark, I decided to take off the polish.  To do that, you saturate a piece of cotton with the nail polish remover included in the kit (or any acetone remover), lay it on the nail and wrap your nail in aluminum foil.  You leave it like this for 15 minutes.

After the 15 minutes passes, you use the cuticle stick to lift off the polish.  If it doesn’t come off easily, soak them again for 5 more minutes.  Mine were fine after the first 15 minutes, though.   Here’s what they looked like after I removed the polish and buffed my nails – no damage at all!

I thought I’d give it one more try before telling you that I thought this was an awesome product.  I bought one more color – Back to the Fuchsia (Target, $11.99) – and tried my hand at the process for a second time.  Again, the results were great and the color was gorgeous.  I’ll update this post in a few weeks to let you know how it held up the second time around.

I am so excited to have found this product that let’s a rough DIYer like me be able to have pretty nails without a huge time and money investment.  I love that I can take an hour to do this while I’m sitting on the couch watching TV after the kids have gone to bed.  I give it two (beautifully polished) thumbs up!

What are your thoughts?  Do you get gel manicures?  Have you seen or tried this Sally Hansen set?

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