Getting a gel manicure is the best way to ensure your mani lasts for a few weeks, no chipping or dulling. But the UV-cured polish comes with its own handful of problems. Studies have shown that the light bulbs that you dip your hand into 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 exactly what your nails look like after removal — it’s not pretty, nor is it healthy for your nail beds. We set out to find the best alternatives, which make up a new nail polish category in between normal polish and gel polish. These brands promise longer wear, endless shine, and simple removal with regular old polish remover.

READ MORE: Lacquer Love: The Best Base and Top Coats

1Orly Color Amp’d

Courtesy of Orly

Sold exclusively at Target, Orly’s flexible color, smudge-correcting polishes work with the special sealcoat to lock in a manicure for a full week. The polish is also super-quick to dry, taking less than 8 minutes for it to be fully set, making this an awesome choice for a last-minute, paint-and-run mani. // Orly Color Amp’d Flexible Color, $10 each

2Caption Polish

Courtesy of Caption

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, tolouene and formaldehyde. // Caption Polish, $12 each

3Essie Gel-Setter Topcoat

Courtesy of Essie

Want to turn your favorite shade into a long-lasting gel alternative? Essie’s new topcoat was made to do just that. It works with any polish — just simply apply as you would a normal topcoat. The result is a thicker, shinier finish, that wears hard like a gel. // Essie Gel-Setter Topcoat, $10

4OPI Infinite Shine

Courtesy of OPI


OPI’s three-step system is formulated to last for 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. // OPI Infinite Shine, $12.50 each

5SpaRitual Gold

Courtesy of SpaRitual

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 a polish innovation we desperately needed! To make it last even longer, you can reapply the topcoat after three days. // SpaRitual Gold, $18 each

6CND Vinylux

Courtesy of CND


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. //CND Vinylux, $10.50 each

7Sally Hansen Miracle Gel

Courtesy of Sally Hansen

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. // Sally Hansen Miracle Gel, $10 each

8Revlon Colorstay Gel Envy

Courtesy of Revlon


A base coat 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 stay put — and can even be used with other nail lacquers outside of the system, making it a versatile topcoat to have in your arsenal. // Revlon Colorstay Gel Envy, $8 each (or $12 for a set of color + topcoat)

READ MORE: A Nail Cream for Gel Manicure Addicts