The Only Gel Polishes You Need To Master The At-Home Manicure

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With a fair amount of Americans vaccinated now, many nail salons across the country are up and running again. As exciting as this is, it doesn’t mean you should necessarily ditch doing your nails at home for good — after all, some (see: many) people became bonafide pros during quarantine last year, so it would be a shame to let those skills go to waste. Plus, there’s some truly amazing products on the market that make the whole DIY process super simple. As for the best at-home gel nail polishes available, well, there’s a few things you should be looking for when shopping this category.

“Regardless of whether you do your nails at home or in a nail salon, it’s incredibly important to be mindful of the products being used,” says professional manicurist Ceirra Carlini-Smith. “Nail polish, gel or regular, can contain many harmful and toxic ingredients so I personally suggest looking for polishes that are 5-10 free, cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, and for those that have gluten allergies or are gluten-free. Sometimes we write off what’s being put on our nails because ‘they’re just nails,’ but we absorb those chemicals through our nail beds, as well as cuticle contact.”

The gel polish brands Carlini-Smith uses in her salon and recommends checking out include Leafgel, Kokoist, Madam Glam, and Bio Seaweed Gel. “I personally feel that Japanese and Korean gels are the way to go because they have strict guidelines for what can and can’t be put into products, whereas America has more relaxed guidelines,” she adds. “The strict guidelines for Japanese and Korean gels allow for richer pigmentation and stronger durability.”

Now let’s talk tools and application. Carlini-Smith says you’ll need an oval or square brush, depending on your preference. “I like oval because it’s perfectly fit to get into the cuticle area,” she offers, adding that Kokoist and Leafgel both have a great selection of brushes to choose from.

“Scoop a decent dollop of polish up with the brush, hold it at a 45-degree angle, and apply to the nail halfway up — then swipe down, as this keeps from flooding the cuticle area with polish,” explains Carlini-Smith. “Once the bottom half of the nail is covered, you can go back and apply to the cuticle, swiping the brush down the full nail. I suggest applying two coats and then a topcoat.”

A final tip from the Flordia-based manicurist: “Gel polish needs to go on a pre-buffed surface because there will be lifting if the surface isn’t buffed enough, or if any polish is flooded in the sides or around the cuticle area.”

Well there you have it, folks: all the information you need in order to do a flawless DIY manicure at home. Now with all that said, shop some of the best gel nail polishes on the market, ahead.

We only include products that have been independently selected by The Zoe Report's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

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