How Long Do These Drugstore Gel Nail Polishes Actually Last?

We've all heard the lofty beauty product claims: foundations that last 18 hours, serums that contain wrinkle-erasing magic crystals, and, of course, nail polish that looks and lasts like gel, but doesn't require a UV lamp or the damaging removal process. And we're always a little skeptical — because if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
But in the past few years, affordable nail brands have doubled-down on the idea of long-wear, non-chip polish and seriously upped the ante in terms of user-friendly brushes, shades that deliver complete opacity with one swipe, and ridiculously shiny top coats. So, we decided to put four of the most popular formulas to the test — in the brightest red shade, which tends to chip fastest — to see if they really stood up to their claims. Check out our unfiltered reviews, ahead.
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The Polish: Wet n Wild 1 Step Wonder Gel

The Claims: "Provides up to 2 weeks of color and shine in 1 easy step."

The Tester: Lexy Lebsack, senior beauty editor

Wet n Wild 1 Step Wonder Gel Polish in Crime Of Passion, $4.99, available at Wet n Wild.
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Day 1

"I had heard great things about this polish firsthand so I had been dying to try it for months. A few initial observations: The polish smells a lot stronger than most, so apply it outdoors or in a well-ventilated room.

"The formula is a bit thinner than most regular polishes, so go easy or you'll end up having drips onto your cuticles. It dries very quickly and the brush is wide and flat, so the actual manicure was a breeze. I prepped my nails with a bit of hand sanitizer on a tissue (I was at work) to clean up any residue or oil, and the polish went on beautifully along with the accompanying base and top coat.

"The color is GORG and I could have stopped at one coat; it's very opaque and bright. The hue is a dead ringer for Deborah Lippmann's It's Raining Men, which is one of my favorite reds."
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Day 3

"By day 3, the polish had not moved — score! The shine dulled a little, but no chips, yet."
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Day 7

"By day six, I had a tiny chip or two. The polish had receded slightly from the tips — but it still looked darn good. By day seven, I had a few more chips at the fingertips, but nothing that would make me remove the polish. I kept wearing this polish for a few days after, so 10 days in total. And it was easy to remove. I would definitely use this polish again; I may even take it into a salon to see how long they can make it last. A+!"
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The Polish: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel

The Claim: Up to 14 days of color and shine

The Tester: Mi-Anne Chan, beauty writer

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Polish in Red Eye, $9.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Day 1

"As soon as I opened Sally Hansen's Miracle Gel Polish, I had a hunch I'd love it. The brush is super-wide, meaning it can coat my entire nail in one or two strokes. The formula is opaque and never left streaks. After applying two coats of the polish, I followed up with the brand's top coat which made my manicure super shiny."
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Day 3

"By day three I was surprised that the polish was still in perfect condition on my nails. I am very hard on my hands and this withstood a few hours of guitar playing (a hobby that usually wrecks any manicure)."
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Day 7

"The polish continued to impress me for days after that and remained flawless for six days before I finally noticed a tiny chip on my index finger on day seven. At this point, I resolved to take off my polish (which was easy and swift) and start fresh, but I could have rocked it for another day or two if I wasn't picky.

"All in all, I was really impressed by the quality of this polish. Sure, it didn't last two full weeks, but it sure-as-hell put the rest of the long-wear polishes I've used to shame."
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The Polish: OPI Infinite Shine

The Claims: "Gel shine without the light. Last up to 10 days."

The Tester: Jen Anderson, editorial assistant

OPI Infinite Shine Nail Polish in Big Apple Red, $12.50, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Day 1

"On first impression, the polish applied very easily, but the applicator isn’t my favorite. Personally, I’m a fan of larger brushes because I like being able to cover my entire nail in one swoop.

"That being said, I loved the formula, which wasn’t too goopy or thick. It was easy to spread out for an opaque, thin coat. I followed up with another layer of the color and the top coat. I’m incredibly impressed with how quickly it dried. For clumsy people like me, this is incredibly helpful. I can’t count how many times I’ve painted my nails and then somehow managed to mess them up 10 minutes later."
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Day 3

"The polish wore perfectly for three days. But on the third day, I noticed my first tiny chip. I have to be completely transparent: I’m really hard on my nails, and I have a feeling the combination of washing my hair and aggressively typing lead to the downfall of my manicure."
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Day 6

"After 6 days, I had more chips on the sides and tips of my nails. From a distance it didn’t look too bad, but I personally couldn’t stand it so I removed the polish with regular remover.

"While I might not wear this on a 2-week vacation, this polish is great for a big event or night out when you need a quick-drying formula that will look flawless. And the shade range is killer."
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The Polish: Essie Gel Couture

The Claims: "Gel-like perfection in an easy 2-step system [that] provides up to 14 days of color."

The Tester: Michael Rollings, Associates Partnerships Manager

Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish in Rock The Runway, $11.49, available at Target.
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Day 1

"As a chronic nail biter, polishes tend to have a short lifespan on my fingers. So when I heard that Essie was releasing an at-home gel polish, meant to last longer on the nails without the hassle of hitting up a salon, I was intrigued.

"The polish itself was really easy to apply, and the color was a stunning true red. Applying the gel top coat was really simple, too, and only took an extra minute or two. Once the polish had dried, I was really impressed with how shiny and 'well done' the mani looked, despite my novice skill level with painting my own nails."
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Day 3

"Over the next few days, it totally stayed put on my nails, and didn't peel or chip off in chunks like polish usually does on me. The shiny top layer left by the gel top coat also stayed put, which made it look like I'd just had them done, even after it had been a few days."
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Day 7

"At the one week mark, there was a tiny bit of wear and tear on the edges of my nails, but nowhere near what my nails usually look like after seven days. Overall, I was very impressed with the longevity of the mani, and it definitely helped me curtail my nail-biting tendencies, which is an added bonus!

"The polish came off easily — though I admittedly bit some of it off. (I know, I know...)"
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