8 Best Gel Nail Polishes for a Chip-Free Manicure
With these best gel nail polishes, you can have salon-quality manicures without the cost or even leaving the comfort of your home.
Gel polish just keeps getting better
There’s a lot to love about gel nail polishes, those UV- and LED-curing polishes that contain acrylic oligomers: They’re ultra-shiny, require none of that waiting around dry time that comes with their traditional counterparts, and are super long-lasting (up to two weeks or longer, if you can handle the look of the grow-out phase). But they also come with a bit of a bad reputation for ruining nails and they can be difficult to remove at home. That came in large part thanks to the first generation of gel formulas that were incredibly hard on nails—but we’re here to tell you that’s no longer the case.
Now, not only do we have the best gel polishes to choose from—with nourishing ingredients built right in, streamlined formulas, and better applicators—but also gel hybrid polishes that give you the high shine and longer wear but don’t require the UV light to cure or soaking to remove thanks to special gel-like polymers and resins that give them about a week of wear. Here, the best professional gel polishes to bring to the salon, the best at-home options for a DIY manicure to use with your home UV kit, and the top hybrids that land you somewhere in the middle of the benefits of a regular polish and a gel.
(Related: 7 Hacks for Strong and Healthy Nails)
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel
If you’re going to call a product a miracle, it better deliver. And this one does thanks to its super smooth consistency that makes for one flawless finish. A helpful tip from review Mia on Amazon: “Don’t pull down hard and drag the brush, but sweep/tap it lightly across with the brush. You’ll get more of a car-finish look with absolutely no streaking.”
Revlon ColorStay Gel Envy Longwear Nail Polish
With over 1,000 reviews on Amazon, it seems word has gotten out about this wallet-friendly option. Its built-in base-coat helps it wear like a gel, even though it’s not technically in that family. “Revlon Gel Envy is the only polish I like to use on my toenails now!! I’ve gotten many compliments!” says k.teacher on Amazon. “The cool thing is that when you are ready to remove it, even though it lasts like gel polish, it is easy to remove with regular polish remover.” And since at this price you can buy each and every shade that strikes your fancy, you might want to consider these uses for old nail polish for the regular formulas already in your selection.
(Related: 20+ Clever Uses for Nail Polish)
CND Shellac Gel Polish
$13, select salons
The gold standard for in-salon, UV-cured gel manicure, CND Shellac is not only a great polish, but it’s also easy to find at a nail location near you. Reasons to love it: The finish is so shiny, it’s almost blinding and it comes in more than 160 shades so you can play, play, play.
Essie Gel Couture
Boasting over 3,500 glowing reviews on Ulta.com for the topcoat alone, this gel hybrid snags fans thanks in large part to its patented brush which allows for streak-free application. One Ulta reviewer insists, “I can’t say enough good things about it. It makes your nails look so shiny and smooth, [and] it doesn’t chip no matter how rough I am!”
(Related: How Bad Is It to Bite Your Nails?)
Dior Vernis Gel Shine Long-Wear Nail Lacquer
This no-light gel option gives long-lasting wear thanks to resins and polymers that harden each coat into a chip-proof layer of shininess. It’s also enriched with organic silicone to help strengthen the nail surface. Yes, it’s a bit of a splurge, but as a user on Neimanmarcus.com insists, “It goes on perfectly smoothly, covers beautifully, and dries quickly.”
OPI Gel Color
$23, select stores
Fans love that budget-friendly OPI offers its most iconic shades including Lincoln Park After Dark and Big Apple Red in this long-lasting LED-cured formula to get more wear out of your favorite hues. Says one Walmart shopper, “The consistency is not too thick which worked well when doing art/linework with nail brushes.”
Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro Nail Polish
This is your go-to if you’re looking for a hybrid gel formula that also happens to be 10-free (meaning it’s free of nasties like toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor), vegan, and laced with reinforcing keratin, biotin, and rice protein. It also features a 320 bristle contour brush with a rounded tip to get into all the corners of your nails. One Sephora reviewer writes, “The color goes on SO easy without having to dip your brush a bunch of times.”
Nails Inc. Gel Nail Polish
This highly pigmented hybrid formula has a “high-reflection resin system” that gives it a lovely sheen. But what’s better is that it’s packed with botanical extracts to moisturize and strengthen as you wear it. One Sephora reviewer writes, “Being in quarantine has made me experiment with many different polishes and this one was a hit. It goes on smooth and has full coverage. It doesn’t chip (I wash my hands 20 times a day).”