A close-up shot capturing a vibrant array of gel nail polish bottles neatly displayed on a store shelf, enticing customers with a variety of colors and finishes.

Can You Buy Gel Nail Polish? Everything You Need To Know

Nail polish enthusiasts everywhere love the hard, glossy finish of gel manicures. If you’ve ever gotten a gel manicure at the salon, you may have wondered – can I recreate this at home by buying gel nail polish? The short answer is yes, you can buy gel nail polish for at-home manicures.

But there are some important factors to consider when using gel polish on your own. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about purchasing and using gel nail polish correctly.

Gel nail polish provides a chip-resistant, long-lasting manicure that dries quickly under an LED or UV nail lamp. While regular nail polish dries by evaporating, gel polish cures and hardens on the nails. This difference makes gel manicures more durable and shiny.

By following some basic techniques, you can successfully buy gel polish and do your own gel manicures at home.

Where to Buy Gel Nail Polish

Beauty Supply Stores

One of the best places to find a wide selection of quality gel nail polish is at your local beauty supply store. Stores like Sally Beauty, Ulta Beauty, and Sephora have fantastic options from top brands like OPI, Essie, China Glaze, and more.

The knowledgeable staff at these stores can also help you find the perfect shades and collections to match your style. Many beauty supply shops offer great deals and discounts on gel polish, especially when purchased in sets.

You’ll also find essential gel manicure supplies like lamps, removers, prep solutions, and tools.

For example, at Sally Beauty you can shop over 300 different gel nail polish colors and care items. Brands carried include Sensationail, Gelish, CND Shellac, and more. They frequently offer coupon codes online and sales like “Buy One Get One 50% Off.”

Ulta Beauty also has a gorgeous array of gel polishes from Butter London, Ella + Mila, OPI, and their in-house brand. You can even find discounted seasonal shades and value sets year-round. The wide selection at beauty supply stores lets you experiment with unique colors and finishes.


Another convenient spot to buy quality gel manicure essentials is your neighborhood drugstore. Stores like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Duane Reade/Walgreens all have affordable gel polish options from brands like Revlon, Sally Hansen, and L’Oreal.

You can easily grab great shades when running regular errands without making an extra trip. The prices are generally budget-friendly as well, usually between $7-$12 per bottle. Sales and extra coupon savings are common too.

For example, CVS carries popular collections from Sally Hansen like Miracle Gel, Gel Like Polish, and Insta-Dri. Revlon also offers beautiful gel effect and gel envy nail enamel shades. These brands are frequently included in Buy One Get One 50% Off promotions.

Drugstores are a great place for gel nail beginners to experiment without breaking the bank. Many drugstores also stock the LED/UV lamps, removers, and prep solutions needed for gel manicures.


The endless options available online make it one of the best places to buy gel nail polish. You can shop trusted salon brand favorites like CND Shellac and Gelish that offer flawless coverage and long wear.

Top mainstream brands like OPI, Essie, and China Glaze also have their collections available for easy online ordering. Websites like Amazon offer one-stop convenience for all your gel mani needs. You can even find more budget-friendly generic gel polish options on Amazon starting around $10 with Prime delivery.

Specialty online shops like GlamPolishes.com provide huge selections of quality gel polish from various brands. They carry over 800 gel polish colors and finishes to fit any taste. You can browse by color, finish, brand, trends, or popularity to easily find the perfect shades.

They also have great seasonal collections available. Other popular online destinations for gel polish include Beyondpolish.com, Head2ToeBeauty.com, and Misspolishboutique.com. You’ll find amazing deals and discounts shopping online, from flash sales to coupon codes.

The wide availability of gel systems online is also beneficial for finding a formula that works with your nail chemistry. For example, brands like Gelish, OPI, and CND Shellac offer different base coats and technology to help with peeling, chipping, and wear time.

Reading reviews can help you determine if a gel polish brand caters to your nails’ specific needs and preferences before purchasing.

What to Look for When Buying Gel Polish


When shopping for gel nail polish, it’s important to look at the ingredient list to ensure you’re getting a high-quality product. Here are some key things to look for:

  • Methacrylates – These are monomers that help the polish cure under UV or LED light. Common ones are ethyl methacrylate, butyl methacrylate, and hydroxyethyl methacrylate.
  • Photoinitiators – These compounds help the gel polish harden when exposed to light. Common ones are camphorquinone and ethyl 4-dimethylaminobenzoate.
  • Thickeners – Ingredients like bentonite clay and fumed silica give the polish its thick, easy-to-apply consistency.
  • Pigments – These provide rich, vibrant color. Make sure the pigments are non-toxic.
  • Vitamin E – This antioxidant helps protect nails from damage.

You’ll want to avoid gel polishes with harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. Quality gel formulas will clearly list all ingredients on the packaging.

Color Variety

A huge perk of gel nail polish is the seemingly endless options for color and finishes. When selecting a brand, look for one that offers a wide selection of trendy and classic shades. From nudes and pale pinks, to reds, blues, and vampy purples – you should be able to find a color that matches your style and mood.

Finish options like matte, gloss, shimmer, and glitter also expand your choices. Often a brand will release seasonal collections focused around a theme or trend. This allows you to keep up with what’s new while still having access to core all-time favorites.

Brand Reputation

When evaluating a gel polish brand, look into its reputation and reviews. Some well-known salon quality professional brands include OPI, Essie, Gelish, and CND Shellac. Drugstore options like Revlon and Sally Hansen also offer solid gel polish lines.

Check professional nail blogs and YouTube reviews to see swatches of colors and learn about durability. A brand with consistently positive feedback across the years likely produces high performing gel polish worth investing in. Also make sure customer service is responsive in case you need assistance or have issues with products.

By being mindful of the ingredients, exploring the variety of colors and finishes, and choosing reputable brands – you’ll be equipped to select the perfect gel manicure to make your nails shine!

Using Gel Polish at Home

Applying the Base Coat

The base coat is a crucial first step when painting gel nails at home. After properly preparing and cleaning the nails, apply a thin layer of gel base coat to all nails. This creates a tacky surface for the color polish to adhere to. Choose a base formulated for gel polish, not regular nail polish.

Let each coat of base fully cure under the LED or UV lamp for 30-60 seconds before moving on. Properly prepping with base coat helps the manicure last 2-3 weeks!

Painting on Color

Now for the fun part – picking the perfect gel polish shade! When painting on the color coat, use thin and even strokes, and don’t overload the brush. Apply gel polish to just one nail at a time. Start near the cuticle and brush down to completely cover the nail in a smooth, thin layer.

Make sure to cap the free edge so the polish wraps over the tip. Once polish is applied, cure each nail under the lamp before moving to the next. Follow the brand’s recommended cure time, usually 30-60 seconds. Applying and curing one nail at a time prevents smudging.

Sealing with Top Coat

A good gel top coat is the secret to a long-lasting, professional gel manicure. Apply a thin layer of gel top coat over the cured color polish. Make sure to cap the free edge again. Cure each nail under the UV/LED lamp.

Gel top coat creates a smooth, glossy finish and hard seal to prevent chipping and peeling. For extra protection, apply two layers of top coat, curing between each layer as directed. Most brands recommend curing the top coat for 60 seconds per layer.

A quick wipe with nail polish remover before top coat can remove any tacky residue.

Curing Under the LED/UV Lamp

Proper curing is essential when using gel nail polish at home. Each layer – base coat, color polish, and top coat – must be fully cured under an LED or UV nail lamp. LED lamps are preferred for gel manicures, as they cure polish faster and last longer than UV lamps.

Cure times will vary based on the brand, but 30-60 seconds per coat is standard. Never skip curing steps, as the polish will remain soft and smudge easily. Slowly pull nails out from under the lamp to prevent dragging across uncured gel.

With the right technique, gel manicures done at home can look salon-perfect and last 2-3 weeks!

Removing Gel Nail Polish

Removing gel nail polish can be a tedious process, but with the right techniques and products, it doesn’t have to be difficult. There are a few effective methods for safely taking off gel polish without damaging the natural nail underneath.

Soaking in Acetone

The most common and effective way to remove gel polish is to soak nails in pure acetone, which breaks down the polymer structure of the gel. It’s important to use 100% acetone, not diluted nail polish remover. Soak nails for 10-15 minutes until the gel begins to bubble and lift from the nail surface.

Then, gently scrape away residue with a wooden cuticle pusher or plastic tool. Repeat soaking and scraping until all traces of color are gone. This method works quickly, but can be drying to nails and skin.

Using Foil Wraps

For less exposure to acetone fumes, try the foil wrap removal method. Apply acetone to a cotton ball and place it on top of each nail. Wrap the finger with a small piece of aluminum foil, pressing it tightly against the nail.

Let it sit for about 10 minutes, then remove the wraps and wipe away leftover gel with an orangewood stick. The foil helps trap acetone against the nail for faster, more effective gel breakdown. Using this technique helps minimize contact with the harsh chemical. πŸ‘

Filing Off Gel Polish

While not as fast as soaking, slowly filing off gel polish is gentler on the nail plate. Use a coarse 100/180 grit nail file to thin out and remove the top layer of gel. Apply light, even pressure, frequently brushing away dust to keep the file from getting clogged.

Avoid filing too deep into the natural nail. Once the gel begins flaking off, switch to acetone to remove any remaining bits. Be patient with this method and remember to take breaks to avoid over-filing. Many people find the gradual process less damaging overall.

With the right tools and techniques, removing gel manicures doesn’t have to be intimidating or painful. Take your time and be gentle on your nails, and they’ll stay happy and healthy under that long-lasting polish! πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘

Benefits of Gel Nail Polish

Long-Lasting Color

One of the best things about gel nail polish is that it lasts much longer on your nails compared to regular nail polish. The colored gel is cured under UV or LED light, creating a durable, glossy finish that can last up to 2-3 weeks without chipping or fading. No need for frequent touch-ups!

You can flaunt that fresh manicure look for days. Gel polish is great for people who want vibrant, chip-free nails without the hassle of reapplying nail polish multiple times a week.

Dries Quickly

Another advantage of gel nail polishes is that they dry super fast under the UV or LED lamp. Regular polish can take quite a while to fully dry and cure, requiring you to sit still to avoid smudges and smears. But with gel polish, the curing time is only about 30-60 seconds per coat!

The quick-drying feature makes gel polish ideal for when you’re short on time or need a durable manicure in a hurry. No more waiting around for your nails to dry. Get that salon-perfect mani fast with gel polish.

Less Chipping and Peeling

Since gel polish is cured and bonded to the nails, it is much more resistant to chips and peels compared to regular lacquer. The hardened finish protects the color underneath, allowing the manicure to stay flawless for weeks with minimal tip wear or cracks. No worries about unsightly chips!

Gel polish keeps your nails looking like perfection for longer, even with daily activities. The extra durability also makes gel great for weak, brittle nails prone to breaking. Less maintenance means more time to show off your fabulous nails.

Wide Range of Colors and Finishes

Gel polish comes in virtually any color imaginable – vivid brights, soft neutrals, sparkling glitters, mood-changing chromatics – you name it! The huge variety allows you to get creative and match your nails to any outfit or occasion.

Gels are also available in cool special effects finishes like ombre, marble, crackle, and more. Whether you want an understated nude, vampy crimson, or rainbow sparkle chrome, gel polishes have the colors and effects to take your mani to the next level.

The possibilities are endless for customizing your nails!

Drawbacks of Gel Nail Polish

Requires Some Skill

Applying gel nail polish definitely requires some skill and practice compared to regular nail polish. Since gel needs to be cured under a UV or LED lamp, you have to work quickly and efficiently to get an even application on all nails before the product starts to thicken and set.

Rushing through the process can lead to messy, uneven results. It takes time and repeated practice to master the technique. Unless you’re already comfortable painting your nails, it may be best to have gel manicures done professionally at first.

Can Damage Nails if Done Improperly

While gel polish can protect nails underneath when applied correctly, the removal process and excessive use can actually damage nail health. Picking or peeling off gel can rip layers off the nail plate. The UV lamps used to cure gel generate heat that can weaken nails over time.

To avoid damage, be sure to use gel polishes and lamps made specifically for nails, prep nails carefully before application, and soak off gels thoroughly with remover instead of picking.

Getting gels frequently, like every 2 weeks, also increases chances for nail thinning and damage as nails are subjected to repeated absorption of chemicals and UV light exposure. Extending wear time between gel manicures allows nails time to strengthen again.

More Time-Consuming Removal

The increased durability of gel polish comes at the price of more difficult removal. Removing gel can take 20 minutes or longer compared to a couple minutes for regular polish since you have to soak nails in remover and gently scrape off layers.

Salons may charge an additional fee for soak-off gel removal due to the extra time and supplies required.

At home removal kits typically include nail caps, remover, and small scrapers or files to help get gels off. The process requires diligence and patience to avoid nail damage. However, new pH-balanced gel removers are making the removal process quicker and easier for both professionals and DIYers.

Can’t Easily Change Polish Often

Waiting at least 2-3 weeks between gel manicures is recommended to maintain nail health. While regular polish can be changed in minutes whenever you want a new look, switching up gel polish more often requires repeat visits to the salon or carefully removing and reapplying at home.

Frequent removal and reapplication can damage nails.

However, new peel-off gel polishes provide an easier way to remove gel color without harsh scraping or damage. You can simply peel off layers when you’re ready for a change. While not as long-lasting as other gels, they offer more flexibility to change polish after 1-2 weeks if desired.


While regular nail polish is convenient for quickly painting your nails, gel polish is a great option if you want an ultra-glossy, chip-resistant manicure that can last up to three weeks with no touch-ups.

Now that you know what to look for when buying gel polish, as well as application and removal techniques, you can decide if an at-home gel manicure is right for you. With some practice and the right products, you can get salon-quality results and enjoy beautiful nails for weeks at a time.

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