Getting a gel manicure is the best way to ensure your mani lasts for a few weeks, no chipping or dulling.
But the UV-cured polish comes with its own handful of problems. Studies have shown that the light bulbs that you dip your hand into may pose a skin cancer risk, and are not regulated from salon-to-salon or even machine-to-machine, for that matter.
Plus, if you’ve ever had a gel manicure, you know exactly what your nails look like after removal — it’s not pretty, nor is it healthy for your nail beds. We set out to find the best alternatives, which make up a new nail polish category in between normal polish and gel polish. These brands promise longer wear, endless shine, and simple removal with regular old polish remover.
READ MORE: Lacquer Love: The Best Base and Top Coats
1Orly Color Amp’d
Sold exclusively at Target, Orly’s flexible color, smudge-correcting polishes work with the special sealcoat to lock in a manicure for a full week.
The polish is also super-quick to dry, taking less than 8 minutes for it to be fully set, making this an awesome choice for a last-minute, paint-and-run mani. // Orly Color Amp’d Flexible Color, $10 each
Caption’s proprietary LacQ3 technology works as a three-step system to create the shiny, durable effects of a gel polish without a curing light or tough removal.
The basecoat doubles as a smoothing primer, and the highly protective, glossy topcoat makes it so your polish truly lasts. It also has nail-hardening ingredients, and is free of DBP, tolouene and formaldehyde.
// Caption Polish, $12 each
3Essie Gel-Setter Topcoat
Want to turn your favorite shade into a long-lasting gel alternative?
Essie’s new topcoat was made to do just that. It works with any polish — just simply apply as you would a normal topcoat. The result is a thicker, shinier finish, that wears hard like a gel.
The Best Long-Lasting Manicure - Beauty Explorers
// Essie Gel-Setter Topcoat, $10