Gel nails: How to DIY – and which are the best high street brands?

Fancy getting your nails done properly but can't afford to go to a salon? Here's our guide on how to do gel nails at home – and which are the best gel nail polishes to try.

Let's be honest with ourselves, girls – even if you're not a particularly "girly girl", it can be nice to just treat yourself to a bit of beautifying now and again.

But if it's the end of the month and you're a bit skint, or you have a phobia of other people touching your nails or something – or maybe you just literally love doing your own nails – it can be hard to know where to start.

That's where we come in. We put the best high street brands gel nail polishes to the test for one week, along with some salon professional kits that you can buy for yourself to help you decide which way to go.

You're welcome.

WATCH: Closer Online put high street brands and salon-standard gel nail polish to the test for one week...

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel

Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel was very impressive (Credit: Closer Online)

Price: £7.99 at

Closer Online's verdict: Sally Hansen are known for being a high quality high street nail polish brand, so it will be no surprise to hear that this was the only polish that didn't chip at all. However, it was put onto the little finger nail – the least used, so that could be why it lasted so well. It dried super fast, although it was quite a thick liquid, so it was a little difficult to get a good second coat on top. It was also not quite as glossy as the other gel nail polishes. However, by the end of the week, it looked as though I'd only put it on two days ago. The bottle is nice and big as well, so you'd get loads out of it.

Closer Online rating: 5/5

Nails inc Gel Effect

We tried the Nails inc gel in the Kensington Passage shade (Credit: Closer Online)

Price: £15.00 at Nails

Closer Online's verdict: Nails inc are so popular at the moment, and their beautiful packaging certainly helps. It was one of the prettiest bottles – and let's be honest, it does make a difference. It went onto the nail really easily and quickly, and it stayed perfect until day 3, where it ever so slightly chipped at the top – but it was hardly noticeable. It only became noticeable at day 5 where it got very chipped at the top and bottom of the nail, but it kept its beautiful shiny sheen.

Closer Online rating: 4/5

Essie Gel Couture

How pretty is this bottle?! (Credit: Closer Online)

Price: £9.99 at

Closer Online's verdict: Essie were chasing Nails inc for the title of prettiest bottle – just look at that! It was super easy to put on and looked amazing once the second layer had gone on. Sadly, it accidentally got knocked quite hard on the third day (don't trap your fingers in doors, girls) so there was a bit of a smudge where I'd tried to tidy it up. After that, it got chipped quite easily, but equally, this is the second most used finger so it did well to go through all that trial and tribulation and still look fab. The sheen was nice too – although it did stain the nail slightly after removal.

Closer Online rating: 4/5

Rimmel Super Gel Nail Polish

The Cocktail Passion shade was used (Credit: Closer Online)

Price: £5.99 at Superdrug

Closer Online's verdict: As one of the most popular high street make-up brands, Rimmel was definitely one to watch. It dried very quickly, which was great for if you're in a rush – but it looked very thin on the first layer, so two or three coats would definitely be necessary. Unfortunately, it had started chipping by only the second day. Yes, it was on the most used finger, but it was still disappointing. It didn't stay very well throughout the week, and nearly a third of the nail was showing by the end.

Closer Online rating: 3/5

Maybelline Superstay 7 Days Gel Nail Polish

The shade was absolutely beautiful (Credit: Closer Online)

Price: £4.49 at Superdrug

Closer Online's verdict: It's got to be said, Maybelline was pleasantly surprising – it lasted the entire week with only so much as a little scratch on the edge, and even that only occurred on the last day. It had a beautiful finish, although that could have been the lovely shade, and it kept its shine the whole week.

Closer Online rating: 5/5

iZ Beauty of London Gel Effect

The dinky bottles were very cute, but wouldn't last long (Credit: Closer Online)

Price: £6.00 at

Closer Online's verdict: This shade is being marketed as a bright and fun festival colour, and it certainly is that. Whilst it went on super easy, it still looked a little thin after two coats, so a third looked good. Unfortunately for this brand, the nail itself was falling off a little by the third day, and a strip of it came clean off in the morning – and took the colour with it. This then made the nail look really shabby, which isn't the fault of the polish really. Other than that, the shine stayed nicely throughout the week, and only started to chip at day 5.

Closer Online rating: 4/5

Red Carpet Manicure

Wasn't the best of the bunch (Credit: Closer Online)

Price: £12.95 at Red Carpet Manicure

Closer Online's verdict: It could have been because there weren't any instructions that came with this polish, but it just would not dry. It was still slightly tacky the next morning, and started rubbing off in the shower. By day 2, it had at least dried, but on day 3 the urge to pull it off was strong. By the end of week, you could see my nail through it and it had come off all the way round. But the shade was nice.

Closer Online rating: 2/5

Blue Sky Gel Polish

The salon standard issue did not disappoint (Credit: Closer Online)

Price: £39.99 for the Mylee White Convex Curing Lamp kit with essentials - prep and wipe, gel remover, base and top coat and LED lamp at - or the brand new PRO lamp for £29.99

Closer Online's verdict: This was super exciting – your very own LED lamp! It came with four shades – red, pink, nude and silver, as well as a top coat and a base coat. Although it was a bit of an arduous process to put on as there was a lot to do, it was totally worth it. Just make sure you use the lint wipes to get rid of the tacky top layer! It stayed on perfectly throughout the week, although the nail grew up quite a bit so there was a lot showing at the bottom. AND it was very easy to take off!

Closer Online rating: 4/5

SensatioNail Express Starter Kit

This dryer was AMAZING (Credit: Closer Online)

Price: £34.99 from Boots

It shouldn't have been a shock that the dryer was able to completely harden the polish after just 30 seconds, but it was. The dryer itself was very intuitive as well – using a sensor to see when there was a nail under it ready to be dried, and it flashed after 30 seconds so you knew when to take it out. VERY clever. Unfortunately, this nail too was a little precarious, and it sadly chipped at the top after just a couple of days. However, the rest of the polish stayed on perfectly throughout the week, and again came off super easy at the end.

Closer Online rating: 4/5

Gel nails removal: How to remove gel nails

You could always invest in some salon-standard foils and cotton wool pads – but it was very easy to do by only spending 79p on a Superdrug Acetone Nail Polish Remover. Here's how to do it.

  1. Using a nail file, file over the top of your nail until the shine has gone
  2. Get a handful of cotton wool pads and cut them into four, so you have four little triangles
  3. Soak them in the nail polish remover so that they're completely sodden
  4. Place it over the nail, and wrap in a bit of kitchen foil as tightly as you can
  5. Optional: For extra safety, use tape to make it secure
  6. Leave to soak for 15 minutes
  7. Remove and voila – they should be off!
  8. Optional: Use a Scraper to scratch off any remaining bits of polish, but be careful not to scratch too hard and damage the nail
  9. End by using a clear nail varnish to strengthen the nail as the acetone will dry it out

Have you tried any of these gel nails before? Which did you like the most? Let us know over on Facebook and Twitter.


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