I Quit Gel Nails—5 Polish Alternatives That are Just As Good

So here's the deal: I recently developed an allergy to gel nail polish, which as a beauty journalist, came as a bit of a blow. If you've landed on this story, you might be in the same predicament and considering some gel-nail alternatives.

I love having my nails done, and I've always appreciated the longevity of gel treatments for making my beauty admin far more streamlined. Nail polishes chip way too quickly for my liking, not to mention I'm too impatient to let it dry in the first place and will inevitably smudge all of my hard work. 

However, every cloud has a silver lining, so I've taken this as an opportunity to explore some alternatives to gel nail polish. And honestly? I'm really blown away by some of the gel-effect nail polishes that are around right now.

Best gel nail alternatives: @betinalooney



Nail polish formulas have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and whilst gel-effect nail polishes might not last for weeks on end like their salon counterparts, I've found some seriously long-lasting ones that have made my manicures stay in place for between seven to 10 days of wear—with minimal chipping.

Plus, removing regular nail polish is way easier than gel (which makes switching up your nail colour more frequently far easier), and doesn't pose the same risk of damage when taking off gel nails at home. 

Scroll on to find the best gel-nail alternatives I've switched to and now swear by.

1. Chanel

Best gel alternatives: Chanel nail polishes: @eleanorvousden


@eleanorvousden for Who What Wear UK

When I recently sat down with celebrity manicurist and nail expert Harriet Westmoreland, she introduced me to Chanel's newly formulated Le Vernis nail polishes (the new shades are so chic), and my new favourite top coat, Le Gel Coat, which Westmoreland finished my pictured mani with. No joke—this French manicure lasted all week, and only started lightly chipping thereafter. As someone who is heavy handed, I found this to be seriously impressive. It adds a thick, glassy layer to the nails that really resembles gel and locks in the polish underneath. 

This makes a regular mani last for ages.

This is the perfect "naked nail" colour for my skin tone. 

2. CND

Best gel alternatives: CND nail polish: @eleanorvousden


@eleanorvousden for Who What Wear UK

CND is one of my favourite gel-polish brands, and it also has a range of at-home nail polishes which are equally as good. I discovered this loved-by-nail-technicians top coat back when I used to work for a nail magazine. It encases nails with a protective layer that genuinely locks in your polish for a chip-free finish for a good week. Apply ever other day and you can probably make it last for even longer.

A top coat that your manicure exceptionally long-lasting.

Best gel alternatives: OPI nail polish: @iramshelton



Celebrity manicurist Iram Shelton has long influenced me with OPI nail polish, which in my opinion, has the best range of pink and nude shades going. Bubble Bath is one of the most-loved, which offers a sheer wash of pink and suits everyone. The formulas are seriously long-lasting and glossy, so I always keep a few different shades in my roster.

Funny Bunny is a milky white favoured by many, including Hailey Bieber for her glazed doughnut nails.

4. Nails Inc.

Best gel alternatives: Nails Inc nail polish: @eleanorvousden


@eleanorvousden for Who What Wear UK

Nails Inc. has some of my favourite nail finishes for when I want to switch up my usual neutral mani. The Glowing Somewhere nail perfector is my go-to for replicating the chrome powder effect (which only works with gel polish) without the need for the actual powder. It has a milky finish and a subtle iridescence that makes it so pretty. Plus, Nails Inc. polishes have long-wearing formulations, so you can trust they'll last.

Best gel alternatives: Nails Inc nail polish: @eleanorvousden


@eleanorvousden for Who What Wear UK

Beauty editor Eleanor Vousden wearing Nails Inc. Glowing Out Nail Polish.

This sheer pink polish has become one of my favourites for achieving blush nails—it's like cream blusher for your nails.

The Gel Effect range has some beautiful shades—this is one of Nails Inc.'s bestsellers.

5. Manicurist

@whowhatwear.uk Mind = Blown. @manucurist is the salon-grade French nail brand fashion people love! #manucurist #nailtutorial #gelnails #nailtech ♬ original sound - Angelina

When Who What Wear UK shopping editor Remy Farrell tried the Manucuritst Green Flash Kit, I was immediately influenced. This might look like a gel kit, but this polish is in fact formulated without methacrylate monomers and HEMA, which are the molecules that can cause allergies in normal gel polish. Simply paint your nails, set them under the LED lamp and enjoy a chip-free mani for up to 10 days. It's a great option if you like the ritual of gel nails with professional results. It also removes like regular polish, too.

I'm adding this kit to my wish list immediately.

This dark pansy shade will see you through all seasons.

I've seen the shade Moon on nail techs and it's so pretty. It's a subtle, pearly shimmer.