The 5 Best Alternatives to Gel Manicures

Rachel Krause

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For quite some time, we’ve been on the hunt for quality gel manicure alternatives. In some cases, we won’t argue that the old adage “beauty is pain” rings true—you can’t keep roots that perfect shade of blonde without a little discomfort. But one thing that we really want to avoid is incurring long-term damage on our skin, hair, or nails. It’s been years since we’ve willingly subjected ourselves to the dangerous UV light of tanning beds, but with gel manicures so en vogue, that’s pretty much what we’ve been subjecting our hands to every two or three weeks.

It’s scary, but it’s true—but the upside is that, just as we’ve since found excellent alternatives for the tanning beds of yore, more and more at-home gel manicure alternatives are making their way onto shelves. These five DIY versions are safer, gentler on nails, and way cheaper in the long run, so if you ask us, it’s a win all-around.

Gel-Butter LondonFor long-lasting polish that requires no more effort than your usual at-home mani, Butter London Patent-Gel Top & Tails Set uses a base coat and a top coat to seal in glossy color for up to two weeks. The finish is seriously shiny, and like all of the beloved British brand’s lacquers, is formulated without harsh chemicals. Sandwich your favorite butter LONDON polish between the duo, and you’re good to go.

Gel-Deborah LippmannDeborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro makes nails look seriously lush, thanks to a new and improved system that offers shiny, long-lasting salon-quality results sans exhausting removal process—you can use any nail polish remover, which means you can avoid the harsh effects of acetone on nails. No soaking, no scraping, no problem.



The results of the smudge test are in, and Julep Freedom Polymer Top Coat emerged victorious. This quick-dry top coat gives lacquer a rock-hard finish after just five minutes under natural light alone. You can also use it in between manicures (every other day is recommended) to seal the edges of the nails, ensuring you won’t see any chips. Better still, the thick polymers smooth out any visible brush strokes or imperfections, so this top coat is perfect for those who have a hard time getting their nails flawless.

Gel-CiateIf you’re a truly committed gel manicure devotee, Ciaté London Geltox Starter Kit is the at-home kit for you—it turns any regular nail polish into a shiny, enduring gel while inflicting minimal nail damage. The kit includes the gel top coat, a pre-timed LED lamp that’ll dry your mani in 60 seconds, a hoof stick, a designated polish remover, and a four-way buffer, so it’s pretty much everything you need to turn your favorite nail polish shade into a longer-lasting version of itself.

Gel-Sally HansenSally Hansen Miracle Gel is ideal for the on-the-go gel enthusiast—it’s affordable, easy to find, and even easier to apply, as it’s simply a two-step process that requires two coats of a Miracle Gel color cured by one coat of the designated top coat. If you can paint your nails, you can get the Miracle Gel manicure, and all for $20 or under.

Read more from Daily Makeover: The Dangers of the Gel Manicure: A Cautionary Tale