We updated this article in April 2022 to add more information about each featured product, based on expert advice and top reviews. Our original top-rated picks remain the same.
When you want long-lasting nail polish that can last through just about anything, regular manicures just don't always cut it. Enter: Gel manicures which use a gel-based polish and typically cured with a UV or LED light to seals the polish to your nails for a long-lasting, chip-free mani.
Of course, there are drawbacks to getting a gel manicure in a salon, which is why many brands have come up with at-home gel nail kits and even polishes that are just as shiny and gorgeous as a salon shellac without needing a UV light in most cases. Bonus: The gel removal process for these at-home picks is not as difficult or time consuming as the in-salon versions, and they are also generally less damaging to nails.
Below, the best gel nail polishes you can buy, according to Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab experts and online reviewer favorites. These gel nail polishes come in a wide variety of colors and finishes, so you can make sure your nails are always on trend. Make your experience even more salon-esque by lighting your favorite candle, using a cuticle oil and slathering on a luxe hand cream.
Our top picks
- Doesn't chip easily
- Dries fast
This gel nail polish is a GH Beauty Award winner and at an incredible value. Unlike most gel polishes in a salon, this lacquer doesn't require a light to cure. When tested, the Beauty Lab found that it dried quickly, resisted chipping and lasted much longer than normal nail polish. "I’ve been wearing this nailPolish for 7 days now and it looks great," says one Amazon reviewer. "No chips and no peeling!"
• Number of shades: 90+
• Size: 0.5 oz
• Finishes: Crème, pearl, metallic, crème-sheet, clear and glitter
- High shine
- Ergonomic bottle and brush
"Essie is known for their wide array of traditional nail polish colors, creating many prized and coveted shades for every season," says Grace Wu, Textiles Product Reviews Analyst at Good Housekeeping, who is a big fan of the line. "Its Gel Couture line is fail-proof, with an ergonomically shaped bottle and simple, manageable brush for easy application." Reviewers agree that the polish look and feels professional: "It looks exactly like a professional gel manicure!"
• Number of shades: 60+
• Size: 0.5 oz
• Finishes: cream, pearl
- No dry time
- Shiny finish
- Won't damage nails if you soak off properly
For salon-like gel, GH's beauty editor likes Shellac because, she says, "it's the easiest to remove without damaging your nails." A salon favorite and cult classic, this lamp-cured polish has zero dry time, lasts up to two weeks and leaves nails glossy and even.
• Number of shades: 160+
• Size: 0.25 oz
• Finishes: Opaque, semi-sheer, sheer
- Doesn't chip easily
- Very long-lasting
This is a favorite of a GH beauty editor, who says, "It lasts really well and doesn’t chip." This polish requires a light to cure, but the payoff is well-worth it — you're left with chip-resistant color that lasts two weeks or more.
• Number of shades: 192
• Size: 0.3 oz
• Finishes: Créme, metallic, pearl, shimmer, translucent, glitter
- Super shiny finish
- Doesn't clump or streak
- Long-lasting formula
An iteration of the top-performing OPI traditional polish, OPI Gel Color makes your nails look glossy and professional with a much longer wear than their other polishes — up to three weeks, according to the brand. Good Housekeeping's Senior Textiles Analyst Emma Seymour agrees, noting that "it goes on the nail nicely without clumping like many gel polishes." She loves that it's easy to layer shades to create your ideal color, and is particularly fond of the combination of the shades Bubble Bath and Funny Bunny.
• Number of shades: 140+
• Size: 0.5 oz
• Finishes: Glitter, pearl, sheer, shimmer, creme
- Good value
- Pigmented polish
- Easy to use (and clean) brushes included
"When doing nail art, skinny brushes make all the difference," says Emma Seymour, Senior Textiles Analyst at Good Housekeeping. "But cleaning brushes between shades is way tougher with gel polish. These gel liners from Beetles have thin brushes that make it easy to do nail art with very pigmented polish. For gel polish, the price can't be beat!"
• Number of shades: 6 (in this kit), hundreds of others
• Size: 7 mL
• Finishes: Glossy (but other kits have glitter, matte and sheer)
- Nourishing ingredients
- Dries quickly
Not only does this nail polish stay on your nails, it's also formulated with good-for-you ingredients like biotin and keratin that contribute to your overall nail health. "This is by far the best nail polish I’ve ever used," says one Nordstrom reviewer. "It dries fast and smooth."
• Number of shades: 97
• Size: 0.5 oz
• Finishes: Chrome, creme, glitter, sheer, shimmer
- Great shade range
- Strengthens nails
This Dior polish may be a bit more expensive than most, but the shade range and wearability are worth it. "I love Dior polishes," raves one Nordstrom reviewer. "They glide on easily, last a long time and the brush makes doing my own nails quite easy. Also, the quality products have actually improved the texture and strength of my nails."
• Number of shades: 16
• Size: 0.33 oz
• Finishes: Sheer, creme, shimmery
- Good size brush
This polish stands up to activities that lend themselves to chipping (reviewers said it lasted through lifting weights, excessive hand washing and gardening). ""I have never had a polish last this long," says one Sephora reviewer. "Better than an in salon manicure and any home manicure I have ever given myself!"
• Number of shades: 25
• Size: 0.47 oz
• Finishes: creme
- Built-in base coat
- Comes off with regular remover
This polish lasts as long as an in-salon gel manicure, but it comes off just as easily as normal nail polish. It doesn't require a light to cure and also has a built-in base coat, which helps the color lock onto your nails and erases additional steps. "My polish lasted almost two weeks without chipping and then it just started to wear out," says one Walmart reviewer. "No more shellac polish for me with the soaking time and damage to my nails."
• Number of shades: 15
• Size: 0.4 oz
• Finishes: Glossy, shimmery
- Great colors
- Healthy formula
Looking for a regular nail polish that doesn't chip and stays on until your next at-home mani? This polish is it. It goes on smoothly, is chip-resistant and free of harmful ingredients like formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate. "Love this polish, base and topcoat," says one Olive & June reviewer. "Beautiful colors that stay pristine all week long!"
• Number of shades: 112
• Size: 0.46 oz
• Finishes: Glossy, sheer, metallic, glitter
Dori Price has over 15 years of experience researching and writing nail stories, combining her knowledge with the expertise of top industry professionals including nail artists, technicians and dermatologists. She is an expert in all nail product categories, including nail color, nail treatments, nail art, professional services and more. Katie Berohn is a former Good Housekeeping beauty assistant who reported on GH Beauty Lab product testing.