8 Alternatives To Gel Manicures That Still Give You Strength & Shine

Photographed by Lani Trock.
Getting a gel manicure is the best way to ensure your mani lasts for a few weeks sans chipping or dulling. But the UV-cured polish comes with its own handful of problems.

Studies have shown that the light bulbs you put your hands under may pose a skin cancer risk, and are not regulated from salon-to-salon, or even machine-to-machine, for that matter. Plus, if you’ve ever had a gel manicure, you know what your nails look like after removal — it’s not pretty, nor is it healthy for your nail beds.

So set out to find the best alternatives in a new nail polish category that falls between normal polish and gel polish. Click ahead for the following brands that promise longer wear, endless shine, and simple removal with regular old polish remover.
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Orly Color Amp’d
Sold exclusively at Target, Orly’s flexible color, smudge-correcting polishes have a special sealcoat that locks in a manicure for a full week. The polish is also super-quick to dry, taking less than eight minutes for it to fully set — making this an awesome choice for a last-minute, paint-and-run mani.
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Caption Polish
Caption’s proprietary LacQ3 technology works as a three-step system to create the shiny, durable effects of a gel polish without a curing light or tough removal. The basecoat doubles as a smoothing primer, and the highly protective, glossy topcoat makes it so your polish truly lasts. It also has nail-hardening ingredients, and is free of DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde.
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Essie Gel-Setter Topcoat
Want to turn your favorite shade into a long-lasting gel alternative? Essie’s new topcoat was made to do just that with any polish. Simply apply as you would a normal topcoat, and you'll get a thicker, shinier finish, that wears hard like a gel.
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OPI Infinite Shine
OPI’s three-step system is formulated to last up to 10 days. The gel polymer topcoat actually cures in natural light, getting harder and firmer as the day goes on. When you’re ready to remove, use regular nail polish remover — no soaking required.

Related: How To Remove Glitter Nail Polish Without Destroying Your Nails
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SpaRitual Gold
The brand describes this nail system as “flexible,” and can double the length of your manicure. It also dries 60% faster than traditional polish, and has self-repairing smudge technology. Talk about the polish innovation we desperately needed! To make it last even longer, you can reapply the topcoat after three days of wear.
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CND Vinylux
CND Vinylux promises a mani that takes less than 10 minutes to dry. The topcoat has special ProLight technology, which helps the polish cure and become even more durable over time, as it’s exposed to natural light. The self-adhering color makes a base coat unnecessary, cutting down application time, and utilizing the special bonds in the formula for a long-lasting shine.

Check out YouBeauty editor Jessica Wakeman’s in-depth review of this product.
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Sally Hansen Miracle Gel
This part lacquer, part gel mani system lasts for up to 14 days, hardening further as it’s exposed to natural light. Patented “tube technology” allows nail care ingredients to release into the lacquer, keeping the film glossy and durable.
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Revlon Colorstay Gel Envy
A basecoat and color in one makes the application process a breeze. Four different polymers work to adhere this polish to the nail, giving you a long-lasting, bright color. The topcoat’s protective coating makes it so your mani will stay put — and can even be used with other nail lacquers outside of the system. It's a versatile topcoat you need in your arsenal.

Next: A Nail Cream for Gel Manicure Addicts
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