Best at-home gel nail products for a DIY manicure in lockdown

gel nails at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With nail salons having been closed for months due to the coronavirus lockdown, none of us have really been able to keep up with beauty and grooming.

Sure, we've had more time for face masks, self care and developing new hobbies, and a lot of us have even taken to cutting our own (and our loved ones') hair.

But when it comes to a sleek manicure or pedicure, our nails have been suffering.

Many of us have figured out how to get by with an at-home pedicure, especially because nail polish on our toes seems to be able to even the most vigorous of activities (we're sure even surfers could get away with a once every two months pedi).

MORE: How to repair damaged nails (and then keep them in tip-top condition)

But at-home manicures are a-whole-nother ball game. Especially when it comes to longer-lasting gel manicures.

Enter at-home gel nail kits.

These days its possible to DIY with everything from foolproof gel kits to hybrid polishes that deliver the same glossy look without UV, time-consuming removal and an expensive in-salon price tag.

So here if everything you need to know about how to your own DIY gel manicure at home during lockdown...

How to do gel nails at home

Prepare nails for at-home gel application

Of course, as with all things beauty, preparation is key. If you want a home manicure that goes the distance you will need to ensure you have a clean and tidy nail plate. Here's how to prime your nail plate at home...

  1. It may sound obvious but always start by washing your hands, especially if you have recently used nail vanish remover, this will give your new application of varnish longevity.
  2. File your nails into your desired shape - square, oval, squoval or pointed - but be careful to only shape the free edge (the white section). Resist the temptation to go further as it will weaken the nail's structure and increase the chances of snapping.
  3. Once your nails are clean, apply a small bead of cuticle cream to each cuticle and massage it into the surrounding skin gently. Next, take a wooden manicure stick and rub the slanted edge of it across the nail plate in circular motions to lift away any dead cuticle and flaking nail. Tip: Apply minimal pressure. If you press too hard you risk denting your nail plate or jabbing the delicate skin surrounding it.
  4. Use a cuticle nipper to carefully trim away any dead cuticle, skin or over hanging nail which has lifted. Be careful not to cut into the eponychium (healthy skin above the cuticle).
  5. Finally, wash your hands a final time to remove the dust from filing and any cuticle cream residue.

Your nails are now ready for your polish application, and we've compiled the very best gel kits and hybrid gel-like lacquers for a long-lasting home manicure...

Best at-home gel nail kits

Best for gel colour choices

gel nails at home

An easy-to-use kit that comes with everything that you need, even wipes and a cuticle stick.

We love this gorgeous summery coral shade, but the Sensationail has huge selection of colours, including chromes and glitters for those who really want to show off their abilities.

SHOP NOW: SensatioNail Starter Kit, £49.99, Boots

Best for travelling

gel nails at home

As DIY gel kits go Le Mini Macaron is completely adorable, but it's also eminently practical - the little macaroon-shaped device works in 30 seconds per nail, plugs into any USB port and the polish is a one-step base, colour and top coat all in one.

So all you need to do is swipe it on, wait for 30 and hey presto! Beautiful, glossy nails that won't chip off when you're doing the dishes (although no need to tell your other half that)

There are nine kits to choose from, each containing one shade of polish to get started with and you can also buy the polish separately.

SHOP NOW: Le Mini Macaron Gel Manicure Kit, £34.99, Feel Unique

Best for a salon-like finish

gel nails at home

Quick and easy to use with a large lamp so you don't risk knocking and smudging any of your curing nails, this set comes with a massive selection of colours to choose from and will last you a long while until it starts to chip.

SHOP NOW: Mylee Gel Polish Led Manicure Kit, £59.99, Feel Unique

Best gel-like nail polishes

gel nails at home

Combining the deliciously plumped effect of gel nails with the luxurious high-shine finish insiders know they'll get with Dior Vernis.

This pretty purple polish is a just-as-chic but definitely more interesting alternative to red.

SHOP NOW: Dior Vernis in Mirage, £22, John Lewis

gel nails at home

You can never go wrong with a deep red mani, and this plumping polish is as classic as it gets.

The rich hue smooths over ridges, dials up shine in just two coats, and only sets you back £7.50 - all the more excuse to stock up on the other chic shades.

SHOP NOW: No7 Gel-Finish Nail Colour in Deep Wine, £7.50, Boots

gel nails at home

Jessica's Phénom Vivid Colour system was a hit when it first came out back in 2016 and we can see why people were hooked on its easy to apply glossy and durable texture.

Our favourite shade is Outfit Of The Day - an elegant mauve that has a slightly more pink shade for a touch of playfulness.

SHOP NOW: Jessica Phénom Vivid Colour, £13.50, John Lewis

gel nails at home

The kind of shade that makes your nails appear naturally flawless, this soft, pastel pink is more opaque than the shade in the bottle implies.

What does this mean for your nails? To name a few benefits; additional shine, a pleasing plumpness and a hue that makes all hands appear more groomed. You'll want to wear it every day.

SHOP NOW: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Duo, £14.99, Boots

How to remove gel nails at home

We'll let you into a secret, it's actually really easy to remove gel nails at home.

What you'll need to remove gels at home

How to remove gel nails

  1. First file over the top of your gels, make sure to go right to the edge - this breaks the seal and removes the glossy topcoat. Be careful not to catch the delicate surrounding skin.
  2. Wash your hands to remove any dust left over from filing. Your colour should now be completely matte as you've filed off the glossy topcoat.
  3. Next cut your round cotton wool pads into half moons, or if you used square pads, into quarters. Soak them in the acetone nail polish remover.
  4. Pop a piece of soaked cotton wool over each nail and wrap your finger tip in foil. Make sure you cut the pieces of foil big enough to wrap the whole finger top so they stay on.
  5. Leave on for 15 minutes to enable the acetone to lift the gel off from your nail plate without damaging it.
  6. Finally remove the foil/cotton wool and use a cuticle stick to gently remove the lifted gel.

Extra words by Coral Rickard

Aleesha Badkar
Aleesha Badkar

Aleesha is digital shopping writer at woman&home—so whether you're looking for beauty, fashion, health or home buys, she knows what to spend your money on. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 and has since worked with a number of brands including, Women's Health, Stylist and Goodto. A year on the w&h news team gained her invaluable insight into where to get the best lifestyle releases first—as well as an AOP awards nomination.

She's in the know about the latest fashions, clever gadgets and reliable lifestyle buys—and being a product specialist on a brand for bold women means that Aleesha also knows a thing or two about the must-buy sex toys. When she’s not playing around with new products and testing anything she can get her hands on, Aleesha spends most of her time with her head in a current bestseller, trying out new recipes, exploring different wines and (in non-COVID times) has been known to be a bit of a jetsetter after spending a year living in Madrid.

Follow her latest shopping & lifestyle advice, beauty insights and social antics on Instagram at @aleeshabadkar.

Twitter: @aleeshabadkar

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