This is a more complicated question than you would imagine. That's because at-home manicure sets come in a wide variety, ranging in skill level, tool options, and accessories provided. So, consumers can decide if they want the basic manicure set to keep their nails and cuticles looking neat and clean or if they want something more involved, a DIY manicure set that includes a polish, buffer, and top coat. Maybe you want the full spa experience, in which case you'll opt for a manicure set that goes all out, providing everything you need to pamper your nails and yourself for the day.
Whichever option you choose, at-home nail kits all have the same basic structure initially:
Congratulations! Your kit has arrived, and you’re ready to pamper yourself with an at-home manicure. We recommend setting yourself up on a clean, flat surface. If you’re in the mood to make it a nicer experience, turn on some fun music or choose relaxing tunes and turn down the lights slightly to create a more spa-like atmosphere.
When you’re ready to start, have all the items you need laid out in front of you. Ready for some fun? Follow these steps:
This might be polish, nail hardener, clear coat, or anything else. Take it all off! You can use acetone-based or non-acetone based polish removers depending on your preference.
Cut your nails using the nail clipper and shape your nails using the file. Rub the nail file across the edges of your nails gently to create the desired shape. Squared or rounded are the most commonly-used shapes, but you're not limited here. You can also use a buffer in order to smooth out the tops and sides of your nails slightly (don't go crazy here, too smooth nail surfaces are not ideal for nail polish adhesion).
This is the most relaxing part of the manicure, at home or in-store. If your manicure set doesn't come with any solution, you can easily make one yourself. Put warm water and just a little bit of shampoo or face cleanser into a shallow bowl, just deep enough to rest your entire nails (cuticles included) in. While you might enjoy this part immensely, don't overdo it. Three minutes is the max here, or you'll damage the skin.
Very gently, push the cuticle back off the nail using the cuticle pusher. Not too far! For the healthiest and most professional results, use a liquid cuticle remover before you cut away the cuticles with the cuticle cutter tool from your kit. You can also use this tool to remove any small calluses around your fingertips or nail beds. Never take off too much cuticle, they’re there to protect your nails.
Another spa-like step, you’ll want to apply some moisturizer to hydrate the skin. Rub the creamy goodness all over your hands, particularly over and around the cuticles. Massage the cream into your hands thoroughly, and then wipe away any excess residue from your nails to prep for the polish stage.
Once you're sure your nails are COMPLETELY clear from any residue, oil, etc., you can start to apply your nail polish. You can start with a clear base coat to smooth out any ridges you have on your nail bed. Now, apply a layer of your preferred nail polish color. Wait for this layer to dry before applying a second layer. Most colors will only require two, but if it's extremely thin or light, you may want to add a third layer, allowing the lower layer to dry before you apply the next one.
Top coat gives your nails a beautiful glossy finish, so by all means, add this layer to complete the look. Make sure the nail polish layers are dry before applying the top coat.
Even pros make mistakes, drip polish, or let some top coat leak out on the sides of your nails. So, don’t feel too bad if you’ve done the same. Now’s the time to clean up those small imperfections. Gently wipe away excess polish for a perfect manicured look.
When your nails are completely dry (this takes a while!), reapply moisturizer to keep your hands and nails healthy and soft.
Ready to beautify those tips? Check out 10 of the best manicure sets on the market to keep your hands with that salon-finish for a fraction of the price:
If you love the look and feel of gel manicures but don’t love the price tag or the long visits at the nail salon, Le Mini Macaron is the perfect solution for you. On a mission to make these beautiful, vivacious manicures available to more people, Le Mini Macaron launched an entire line of at-home gel nail kits. Long-lasting, top quality, and in a range of exciting colors, Le Mini Macaron manicure sets give you everything you need to get that salon look from the convenience of your own home, including an LED lamp, remover wraps, and cuticle sticks. From the Le Maxi series to the Rose creme gel manicure kits, Le Mini Macaron kits are the real deal.
From the VS Angels all pretty in Silk Slip to the diamond-encrusted tips of Rihanna and Katy Perry, you've probably seen Red Carpet Manicure manicures in the news. It has several manicure sets, including gel nail kits and remover kits, for a professional finish. The Red Carpet Manicure starter kit costs just $30 and includes everything from max adhesion prep coat to base coat, seal and shine top coat, and gel nail polish remover. Red Carpet Manicure kits also come with important revitalizing solutions, including nourishing cuticle oils and pre/post application cleanser to keep your skin and nails healthy all the time.
Olive & June is easily one of the most popular nail salons in the LA area, but you don’t have to be from Cali to enjoy the benefits of these talented manicurists. Olive & June offers several manicure sets, including The Tool Box ($42), The Studio Box ($50), The Everything Box ($80), and The Into You Box ($88). These kits are great for anyone who wants a beautiful manicure from home, and come complete with everything you need, including the limited edition Poppy polish bottle handle brush, your choice of polish, top coat, cuticle serum with cactus flower, clean-up brush, polish remover pot, flat-edge clippers, dual-grit file, nail buffer bar, and tutorials to help you along. (FYI, always vegan and cruelty-free.)
With more than 500 shades, Sally Hansen is no stranger to nail polish, which is why it’s not surprising that this brand has a great manicure set for those in search of an at-home solution. The Salon Pro Gel Starter Kit comes with cleanser pads, base coat, color of your choice, top coat, remover, LED light, cuticle stick, butter, and alcohol cleaning pads. All products come with the traditional Sally Hansen standard of quality. Not into gel nail kits? Sally Hansen also has a ton of individual products you can piece together to make your own kits. Grab a Fabulous Fingernails set for less than $5, pick a color that you love (or two, or three!), and build your own fun and fabulous manicure set.
While not strictly a manicure set, we felt like the Cuticle Lab by Deborah Lippmann deserved an honorable mention. For $45, you can get an intense cuticle therapy treatment that will certainly go a long way towards making any manicure look its best. The kit includes a cuticle remover for exfoliating dead skin, cuticle oil to moisturize and soothe dry skin and nails, ultra-nourishing repair cream (loaded with goodies like shea butter, red algae, and raspberry stem cell extract), and the professional-grade dual-ended cuticle pusher to help shape your cuticles beautifully.
If you haven't dipped yet, then be forewarned: you may never be able to get a regular manicure again. Dipwell nails are the easiest way to get a sleek, clean, and professional-grade manicure without all of the hassle. And Dipwell does it better than most. These kits are customizable, you can choose your top pick colors and get all the essentials you'll need to learn how to dip in no time. The starter kit comes with a bond, base, activator, finish, brush cleaner, clear acrylic powder, color powders, grit file, and grit buffer to get the sleek, beautiful finish of a salon manicure in half the time.
A considerably less-heard of brand, Beetles offers DIY nail kits for a good price and quality, a package deal. You can choose which kit you want based on the types of colors you prefer, but most Beetles gel nail polish kits come with 48w UV/LED light drying lamp, top coat, soak-off gel polish, six quality polish colors, and all of the manicure tools you need like a nail file, clippers, cuticle pusher, and dusting brush. It's nice that the drying lamp comes with three timer settings, 180-degree angled LED lights, eye protection, and smart sensors. And if you're new to the at-home manicure sets, you'll be happy to hear that the Beetles kit comes with lots of tips and instructions on how to get the perfect manicure.
Gelish was launched by nail artists for nail artists, so the products are spot on, extremely high quality, and exactly what anyone would want for the best manicures out there. Of course, you don’t have to spend $60 a month to get your nails done in a salon since Gelish launched its own gel nail kits. The mini starter kit is a great example of how easy it is to do your own gel nails right at home. The kit comes with its own mini LED light (perfect for traveling or quick touch-ups at work), two gel polish colors, and more. And be sure to check out Gelish's website, too. There are loads of incredible tutorials, real pro stuff that you're sure to love.
Modelones is one of the best sources to turn to for fun and exotic nail art supplies. From dipping powders to acrylic tips, galaxy magnet sticks to glitter gel, rhinestones to shrinky dink bufferlies, Modelones’ got it all. And yes, that includes one of the best gel nail starter kits out there, too. What’s more, the Modelones starter kit is one of the most all-inclusive sets we’ve ever seen. While everyone says that they come with everything you need, Modelones means it. From nail clippers to mini LED nail dryer, this kit has the works. Oh, and as an added perk, the nail dryer is USB-powered. So, you can literally do your nails anywhere.
If you are looking for a real spa experience, the Deluxe Nail Care Center from the Sharper Image is the only place to look. So much more than your average nail kit, the nail care center really pulls out all the stops, including things like soaking dish, nail dryer, and rechargeable nail tool with 12 different attachments. What’s also neat about the nail care center is that it all fits neatly into various compartments for a compact design that doesn’t take up a lot of room in your home. You’ll have to purchase your own nail polish, but everything else is included from shaping, smoothing, and polishing your nails to prepping acrylic nails and more.
Just because you’re opting for the DIY version doesn’t mean you deserve anything less than the best. When doing your comparison shopping, make sure the at-home manicure kit you opt for includes these all-important features:
Especially if you haven't done this before, you'll need to have the proper tools to have a job well done. Make sure your kit comes with everything you need, such as cuticle pusher and cutter, nail clippers, and buffer. Multipurpose tools are always useful, too. Extras like creams, oils, and moisturizers are a nice additional touch to make the experience even better.
Since you're dealing with hygiene, you really don't want to skimp. Fortunately, good quality manicure sets don't cost an astronomical amount. Look for high-quality stainless steel, carbon steel, or nickel-plated steel to avoid rusting and ensure long-lasting sharp edges.
This is an extra. If you like to do your nails in the office, on vacation, or while commuting, a carrying case is a handy addition to have. It’s also useful for simply storing your supplies when not in use.
If you’re just looking for materials (nail polish, base coat, top coat, etc.), you can turn to one of the industry leaders like Revlon, OPI, Essie, and the like. Or if you’re looking for a cool nail art kit, AIFAIFA ‘s nail art kit has it all, Born Pretty’s Blossom watercolors will enamor, Young Nails will excite, and Migi’s nail art pens will just blow you away.