Already trending pre-2020, at-home manicures erupted in popularity once stay-at-home orders followed. Manicure sets, in particular, give you basically every product you need to DIY a flawless look. “Before the advent of salons in the late 19th century, everyone had to care for their nails themselves,” says nail artist Miss Pop. “You can do it too, especially with all of the amazing items that have hit the market in the past hundred-plus years.”
Today’s best manicure kits are packed with innovative nail products like non-toxic colors, ergonomic brushes that make it easier to apply polish and quick-dry formulas so you can get out the door in minutes. From nail files to clippers and and cuticle nippers, the best manicure sets also feature tools made of high-quality materials such as stainless steel or titanium — which can last years and look like new even after frequent cleanings. Miss Pop is a fan of options that feature a nail file with 220 grit and up, as well as orange sticks for gently pushing back cuticles and a cuticle remover treatment and moisturizing oil for softening them.
When it comes to at-home gel manicure kits, Miss Pop suggests sticking with a brand name and purchasing at a reputable beauty or department store. “You want to know what you’re getting,” she says. And, only use an LED curing lamp, as UV lamps can age hands rapidly.
Whether you go for gel or basic polish, she also suggests using the same brand of base, color and top coat so you can get consistent results.
Considering electric manicure kits? Most experts suggest avoiding nail drill kits, as it usually takes a seasoned expert to operate such tools.
How to Master an At-Home Manicure, According to an Expert
The best manicure kits have all the tools you’ll need, except for a few tips. But that’s where Jin Soon, expert nail artist and founder of popular nail brand JINsoon, comes in. “When I train new technicians at my salons to give manicures, I break the process down into several steps,” she says. “These steps can easily be applied by a novice or an expert for an at-home manicure.”
- Use gentle, non-acetone nail polish remover to remove any existing polish and create a blank canvas.
- If nails need additional shaping or management, clip or file them using a file or a sanding block.
- Apply cuticle oil, such as JINsoon Honeysuckle + Primrose Cuticle Oil, to soften and prepare the cuticles.
- Push back the cuticles thoroughly. To do so, Soon always uses the JINsoon HyperCare Cuticle Pusher + Reducer. “The diamond particles on this tool help to exfoliate the nail bed and remove excess dead cuticles to reduce the need for trimming,” she says. If additional cuticle trimming is needed, carefully trim the excess cuticle with cuticle trimmers (avoid clipping too close to the nail bed, as this can lead to small lacerations).
- Clean the nail surface again with non-acetone nail polish remover or alcohol, being sure to remove any oil residue from the surface. “Not removing excess oil prior to painting can lead to chipping or peeling of your polish, as it may not adhere properly,” Soon says.
- Apply a base coat and let it dry. “I find this step is one people often skip but it’s so important,” she says. “Base coats help to provide a barrier for your natural nail and help polish adhere for long wear.”
- Apply the nail polish of your choice and let it dry. “A good rule of thumb is to make sure you wipe the brush off a bit to ensure you don’t pick up too much product,” she says. Then, work across the nail in three lines, starting in the center at the base of your nail bed, dragging the brush to the tip and repeating the same motion on either side until the nail is fully coated. Repeat these steps as you work across all 10 fingers until you’ve achieved the opacity you desire. “Don’t forget to swipe the polish along the free edge of your nail for that salon-fresh finish,” says Soon.
- Apply a top coat and let it fully dry.
- Apply a quick-dry oil, if you’d like, and then get out of the house and show off your manicure.
If you’re still feeling like a novice after a few manicures, hang in there. “At-home manicures are how I started, and are certainly something everyone can do,” says Miss Pop. From gel to luxury to quick-fix options, the 12 best manicure kits below have everything you could need for a successful at-home treatment. Consider these the perfect little beauty gift or stocking stuffer for anyone on your list.
JINsoon Choose Your Mani Kit
Best Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Manicure Kit
JINsoon nail polishes are known amongst beauty editors to be some of the most long-lasting and unique shades on the market. And this kit is a steal — choose absolutely any shade in the JINsoon collection, along with the award-winning Power Coat Base Coat and Top Gloss Top Coat for a customized trio. You can also add on the brand’s diamond nail file, pumice stone, and/or nail art stickers to complete this mini collection.
Olive and June The Complete System
Best Manicure and Pedicure Kit
This kit has everything you could ever need for an at-home manicure and pedicure. From O&J’s patented bottle handle (The Poppy) to a foot file to an angled footrest (which eliminates uncomfortable angles mid-pedicure), this 20-tool kit, plus polishes, is a game-changer. “The system is so easy to use and makes giving yourself a mani-pedi so much fun and even more satisfying than going to some salons,” said one reviewer.
Paintbox The Paint Box
Best Nail Art-Ready Manicure Set
No matter your skill level, Paintbox’s kit makes it easy to mimic the brand’s signature nail art manicures. Personalize your kit by choosing your favorite Power Couple nail polish duo from among 11 colorways, which are not only aesthetically pleasing but also 10-free formulas that are cruelty-free, vegan and devoid of gluten or parabens. Alongside the polish, you’ll get a nail file, cotton towel and Paintbox’s shiny and matte top coat duo — plus a double-ended dotting tool, linework striper brush with extra-long bristles to achieve the straightest lines and tapered-edged cleanup brush for detailed work. The dynamic polish duo and striper brush also make it one of the best french manicure sets, too.
Tenoverten The Manicure Kit
Best Luxury Manicure Set
Say hello to the new Tenoverten. The salon brand is reimagining its offerings to be more at-home focused, with user-friendly (and sustainable) tools and Bauhaus-inspired packaging that’s certainly worthy of a shelfie. The Manicure Kit has everything you’ll need for both healthy nails and a luxe DIY manicure. It includes the just-launched cuticle eraser, best-selling non-toxic nail dryer, base coat, top coat, the popular rose cuticle oil, rose polish remover wipes and eco-friendly file — all housed in a gorgeous (vegan) pebbled-leather travel case.
Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Lab Set
Deborah Lippmann created this step-by-step guided set to correct the misconception that cuticles should always be cut. With this kit, you can take care of cuticles the Lippmann way, with powerful exfoliating and hydrating products to stop and prevent dry and peeling skin. The four-step set includes The Cuticle Remover, which exfoliates and softens dead cuticles, The Cuticle Oil to moisturize cuticles and nails, The Cure for an ultra-nourishing cuticle repair treatment, and The Pusher, a professional-grade stainless steel, dual-ended tool that pushes and shapes the most stubborn cuticles without damaging the delicate nail plates.
Sundays Manicure Kit
Best Salon-Quality Manicure Set
New York City’s most zen salon Sundays channels that same peaceful, non-toxic energy into this at-home manicure kit. The sleek set contains nine pieces: a file, buffer, cuticle eraser, hydrating cuticle serum, quick-dry oil (cutting drying time in half), nail clippers, hydrating base coat, long-lasting top coat and hydrating nail polish remover. It’s so gentle, it’s even safe for kids and pregnant women to use.
Nails Inc. Manicure & Pedicure Must Haves Set
Best Quick Manicure Set
If you’re always leaving a manicure or pedicure to the very last minute, this is your set. This speedy kit makes a quick manicure still look impossibly good. It includes a nail file, base coat (that doubles as a repair treatment too), a flattering gel-like ballet pink nail polish, top coat (which dries in under a minute), and cuticle oil. You could successfully give yourself a mani or pedi in under five minutes and pretend you were at the salon for hours.
Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Starter Kit
Best Gel Manicure Set
If a gel manicure is more your speed, you’re in luck with this Sally Hansen kit. Featuring an LED lamp, gel base coat, one gel nail color, gel top coat, acetone remover, cuticle stick and file, you get all the gel manicure pros — mirror shine and up to two weeks of wear time — without the trip to the salon. One reviewer said, “My painted nails lasted a few weeks, and made them really shiny and firm.”
Zoya Geliecure Set
Best Gel-Like Manicure Set
Maybe you want gel-like qualities for your manicure, but don’t want the hassle of scraping off polish when it’s time for a refresh. “I love Zoya’s Gelie Cure set because it strengthens nails, soaks off in two minutes and can be used with regular polish,” says Miss Pop. The patented three-step system includes the Zoya Rescue Serum for hydrating nail beds; the Zoya Repair Base, which adheres to the nail and locks in the serum and the Naked Gelie, a flexible gel-like treatment with high shine that locks in the below layers and cures in 60 seconds. You can leave the three-step system on as is, or apply any polish on top for a longer-than-usual wear time. (While the system remains intact below the polish, feel free to switch up your color as often as you’d like.)
Tweezerman Mini Nail Rescue Kit
Best Always-In-Your-Purse Manicure Kit
If a stray hangnail or chipped fingernail derails your day, this is your nail kit. The mini set comes with a fingernail clipper, cuticle nipper, nail file, and cuticle stick to fix any nail emergency. And it’s from Tweezerman, so everything is made of the highest quality stainless steel for on-the-go touch-ups.
BB x Elsa Water-Based Nail Polish Set
Best Non-Toxic Manicure Set
Polish is typically filled with chemicals that allow it to adhere to the nail bed and remain shiny and chip-free for days on end. But now, a range of brands have created polishes that offer the same results without any harsh additives. This just-launched collection is especially unique, with a formula that’s 60% water-based (meaning it also has no overwhelming chemical scent), dries within three minutes and simply peels off like a sticker (making it non-irritating to the nail bed underneath). And the shades are pretty darn eye-catching, too. Made in collaboration with model Elsa Hosk, they’re inspired by a collection of the model’s favorite images and moments and include hues like a matcha-esque green and sorbet popsicle orange.
Cote Luxe Manicure Set
Best Travel-Ready Manicure Set
Give your nails some TLC with this on-the-go manicure set featuring all the goods you’ll need to strengthen and repair cuticles, nails and hands while out on the road. The travel kit features organic argan oil to repair nails, a nail strengthener base and top coat, nail file, nail clippers, cuticle pusher and nippers, a hand and foot mask with plant-based collagen and non-acetone nail polish remover pads (one pad can do all 10 nails). Cote products are also formulated without harsh chemicals, making them some of the cleanest and safest nail items out there.