As we know all too well, manicures can be a tricky self-care practice to commit to on a regular basis on account of both time and budgeting constraints. Luckily, though, in recent years the at-home nail kit market has drastically evolved, allowing for at-home manicures to look and last just like a salon style. With innovations that allow for easier polish applications, professional designs and long-lasting wear delivered right to your door, a brag-worthy mani from home is now more than achievable. Ahead, a guide to all things at-home manicures—from gels to press ons—and our editor-tested-and-approved at-home nail kits for every manicure style and preference.
At-Home Gel Manicures
Regular nail polish only requires air drying, but gel manicures—a trend that has quite literally taken over the salon world—require “curing” under UV light, which has long made the trend inaccessible for clients looking for gel manis at home. As a result of the curing under UV light, gel manicures boast a glossy finish that lasts weeks, making them a hot commodity for people who can’t squeeze a salon visit into their weekly schedule.
If you’re looking to establish an at-home gel nail routine yourself, the key component for ensuring that rock-hard, ultra-glossy finish that gels are known for is an LED curing lamp. Though it is a bit of an investment at first, securing an LED lamp for curing gels will save you time and money in the long run when it comes to creating high-quality looks from home.
Dip Powder Manicures From Home
Somewhat of a spin-off innovation in the world of gel and long-lasting manicures, dip powder manicures have gained immense popularity in recent years due to the fact that they don’t require UV/LED lamps or acrylic gels to harden and secure the powder. Dip powder nails get their name from their application. In a dip powder manicure, an adhesive base is applied onto clean, dried nails, then dipped into a powder color made of a highly pigmented polymer of your choice. Several coats can be “dipped” and then coated with a glossy sealant to create long-lasting nails with incredible sheen.
Dip powder manicures are somewhat more customizable than classic gels, too, as you can keep dipping until your desired texture, color and thickness is achieved. While dip powder nails can be a bit thicker and heavier on the nail than traditional gels, dip nails can last up to 21 days and only requires a top coat—as opposed to LED curing— to seal the style.
It’s safe to say that press on nails have come a long way since the drugstore packs of the 90s. Today, press-on nails are a long-lasting, stylish solution for creating manicures at home, especially for those who lack the steady hand needed for gels or dip powder nails.
The press-on nails of today come in array of shapes, sizes, colors and designs, making them a seamless and almost unnoticeable alternative to acrylic tips or gels. Application for press-ons vary from brand to brand—some come with glue while others already include a sticky backing—but typically, cleaning and buffing the nails before applying glue and nails is a safe bet for ensuring long-lasting wear.
Nail Tool Innovations
Painting your own nails is a skill very few can master, and often times the biggest roadblock in getting a clean mani is not being able to secure a comfortable grip on the brush. Luckily for those who’s hand-eye coordination is not yet at manicurist level, brands like Olive & June have created universal accessories for making those pesky, slim polish brushes easier to maneuver, so a striking, salon-grade manicure from home is finally in reach.
Natural Nail Essentials
With the rise of things like the “clean girl” aesthetic on social media, minimalist, natural styles are on the rise across beauty platforms, from skin care to makeup and even nails. Nowadays, a less-is-more approach to nails is gaining popularity as people begin to embrace their natural nails and focus more on enhancing and “cleaning up” their authentic manis.
Another facet of salon manicures that has often been difficult to recreate at home is that of nail buffing, shaping and cuticle care. But, the nail-care market of today has expanded to include tons of kits and tools for perfecting your natural nails at home and ensuring you’re left with nails that are not only healthy, but “clean girl” chic.
Now that you know all the ins and outs of manicures at home, here are a few tried-and-true products to get you started on your salon-quality manicure journey.
At-Home Nail Products to Try
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Manucurist Starter Kit ($183)
Manucurist’s Starter Kit comes with everything you need to create a flawless gel manicure from home, including a top and base coat, acetone-free remover, an LED lamp and three gel colors of your choosing. As an added bonus, the kit comes with a chic carrying case for taking your manicure tools with you on the go.
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Complete with the brand’s Seductive Star Dipping Powder, a base coat, top coat, activator, brush softener, groom buffer, nail wipes, orangewood sticks and remover foils, Red Carpet Manicure’s Color Dip Nail Powder Starter Kit has everything you need to dip your way to a stellar mani.
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Chillhouse Chill Tips Press On Nails ($44-$66)
Whether your like short, squared tips with minimalist designs or lengthy, almond-shaped claws with extravagant colors and patterns, Chillhouse’s Chill Tips Press On Nails have got you covered. Complete with a nail file, buffer and Chillhouse glue, these tips are a game-changer for quick yet durable manicures at home.
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If a steady grip on a nail polish brush has always been a roadblock in your at-home manicure journey, Olive & June’s The Manicure Tool is sure to revolutionize the way you polish. Ergonomically designed for a comfortable grip, this universal polish topper can be easily added to any polish bottle for hassle-free application.
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If you’re looking to nail the natural nail trend from home, look no further than Bare Hands’ The Dry Gloss Manicure Kit, complete with tools for pushing back the cuticles and a two-in-one cuticle oil and polisher pen, packed with nourishing ingredient like jojoba oil and vitamin E.
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A three-step system for renewing damaged nails, Dr. Dana’s Nail Renewal System features a glycolic acid wand for exfoliating the nail, a tri-grit wand for buffing and priming, and a deeply nourishing gel-oil that hydrates and strengthens for your healthiest nails yet.