A Cheaper Alternative To Professional Gel?

Author: Charlotte O'Shea

I feel mighty unfaithful writing this feature. I have been an advocate of the gel manicure for years. I love the perfectly even sheeny shiny finish and the fact I don’t have to think about it once it’s on – at least two weeks worth of completely chip proof colour that makes my dry often eczema covered hands look instantly a million times better.

I have been treating myself to gels for at least eight years or so on and off (more on than off truth be known) and only really had a proper break when I was seven months pregnant. I couldn’t justify the cost or the schlep to the salon when simply getting in or out of the car felt like a total body workout whilst simultaneously wearing an 18lb backpack.

Some months after Mabel was born I rekindled my love affair with the UV lamp, so fed up was I of my own mediocre attempts at nail painting that inevitably flaked after all of five minutes due to the constant bottle scrubbing and sterilising. Oh it was so lovely to have my fingertips all feminine and pretty again after what felt like such a lengthy hiatus….But. It was still a mission to find time for an hour appointment every fortnight, endeavour to find someone to look after Mabel and the cost really does add up. I dread to think how much I’ve spent in my lifetime thus far. At least enough to by the grey version of my favourite designer boots several times over…..

I will no doubt still invest in the full on professional gel for special occasions and holidays, a talented manicurist I am not, no matter how much effort I seemingly put in. Waiting for polish to set is literally like watching paint try – I haven’t got the ruddy patience.

In the meantime however I will most definitely be using these gel/polish hybrids which are EXCELLENT. I’d say as long as you re-apply the top coat every other day then you will genuinely have a chip proof finish for seven days straight. True Story. Those of you who are actually “careful” with your manicure may get even longer (I am not one of those people unfortunately.)

There is no need for base coat (hooray!) and both the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel and the Revlon ColourStay Gel Envy dry super quick. I apply two coats of colour otherwise it can look a little streaky.

If I had to choose I’d say the Sally Hansen works better on me, although Revlon has some really gorgeous shades available. You can buy both from Boots and they often have a 3 for 2 offer on.

I’ve recently been trialling the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat over regular polish and it works a treat! So exciting!

Are you a slave to the professional gel manicure?

Have you tried any of these new gel finish polishes? I can only review and recommend the Sally Hansen and Revlon as I haven’t tried any other brands yet.

Any other brands I should know about? (because you know, all this money I’m saving on going to the salon I’m now clearly splurging on multiple bottles of the alternative anyway *need help on how to stop my beauty product addiction pronto*)

Purveyor of short shorts. Make-up junkie. Hopes to grow old disgracefully.
Follow Charlotte on instagram @charlotte.oshea
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21 thoughts on “A Cheaper Alternative To Professional Gel?

  1. I too am a slave to shellac Charlotte. I love the shine, I love the fact I don’t have to think again for a fortnight and also as I don’t get my hair done regularly or go for facials I think I can justify it, but I also do not work out the cost per year!
    My sister bought her own shellac kit including the lamp from groupon or somewhere similar and my sis in law has done the same. I have to say that both have lovely painted talons. Both still have a nice manicure and salon finish for special occasions but for all the other weeks of the yr they do it themselves! Pretty good idea! Xx

    1. My best friend has her own kit MrsR, they look amazing! You would never know she hadn’t been to the salon. I was considering it but not sure I could be bothered to do it myself, or could do it very well?! x

      1. That’s my fear Charlotte, as a right handed lady I think the left hand nails would be ok but the right hand may look like a small child did them! Plus isn’t it just lovely to sit still in a salon somewhere?! Xx

  2. I’d have gel nails done fingers and toes every fortnight if I could afford it, love it! I treated myself to gel toes the other week as with a massive bump I can no longer reach my feet! It cheers me up no end! Isnt the Barry M gelly nail paint meant to be good? Not strictly a gel but that effect?

    1. Hi Victoria! I LOVE my toes being done as they last AGES! Barry M is supposed to be really good – great selection of colours x

  3. I am a huge fan of the Revlon Colour Stay – I can get a good week out of my hands but my feet I’ve been know to get a good month – just don’t look too closely! I will definitely be checking out Sally Hansen now – thank you for the recommendation!

  4. I’ve started using Barry M’s Sunset UV Gel range, which sounds very similar. I reckon it lasts around a week and gives a very gel like finish. The fact that it sets in about 2 minutes flat is so useful as I am usually hopeless at waiting for it to dry properly. (I end up doing my nails in evening, thinking they are dry then wake up in the morning with the imprint of the fabric from my bedding in it! Just me?!)

    The blurb says the topcoat will only work with the proper nail varnish, but its lie’s – it seems to do the trick with all of mine!

    1. Ha Liz! That is me – bedlinen print fingers!!!!

      The topcoat works well with everything I find x

  5. I wish I could wear nice colours and nails but work means I’m not allowed! If I have more than a day off at a time or a week off I do attempt my own manicures but more often than not they smudge before they dry or I make a mess and take it off again! Anyway my sisters friend does gel nails and is really good and has a good selection of colours! She did me some nude with black tips for Paris which lasted well (til I picked them off…) Anyway she is putting me a clear gel on so I can get away with it at work and it smartens them up a bit! Also going to try to do them more when I have time off cos it makes you feel so nice having pretty nails! Xx

    1. I find I constantly hide my hands if I don’t have nice nails Alex – I have fairly unattractive scrawny ones anyway. A clear gel is a good call if you are really stuck for time, or maybe over a very sheer pale pink? x

  6. I have tried the Sally Hansen and thought it worked great, although I do need to improve on my application skills!! Barry M also have brought out their own version, ‘Sunset Gel’ , for a very nice £4.99 per bottle, not sure how well it will work compared to the Sally Hansen. Worth a try at that price though! x

    1. Holly I am like a 4 year old with a paint by numbers set – always out of the lines….on my cuticles, on my skin….I am rather slap dash but do go over with a Q tip soaked in remover afterwards! x

  7. My wedding make up artist recommended the Soigne brand of nail varnish to me – she said it’s the best non gel formula she’s used and lasts for ages. I haven’t tried it myself but am going to order some, the colours are really pretty.

  8. Just popped into boots and the revlon gel nails were on 3 for 2! Couldn’t resist! Thanks for the tip charlotte. Love the look of gel nails but have never tried them as I was a bit put off by the idea of your nails being filed rough as my nails aren’t that great already!

    1. Hi Fran, Shellac is more like a varnish, they tidy up the tips but don’t mess with the nail bed – the gel just goes straight on x

  9. Sally Hansen has a product out…I can’t remember the exact name of it, but it’s marketed to dry right away. “Quick Dry” or something like that…I have to say…it works. I’ve done it on a one hour train ride to NYC for New Year’s Eve…and I could carry bags, pull up my jeans (a constant struggle for the right fit of jeans, too) etc. I’ve also used it on my wedding day (with my three year old son) and I was able to pull up spanks (haha) and everything without them getting ruined…within an hour and a half.

  10. I tried the OPI gel top coat having been a massive fan of their normal varnishes for years, but was very disappointed. Peeled within minutes when knocked 🙁

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