I’ve Tried Every At-home Manicure System on the Market—and This $10 Product Is the Best

Updated: Mar. 11, 2024

Move over, pricey salon manicures—meet Sally Hansen Miracle Gel! Salty oceans, housework and nonstop typing don't even phase this two-step, UV-light-free polish that comes in every shade under the sun.

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Rd Editor Tested Sally Hansen Gel Nail PolishJill Schildhouse/rd.com

Remember during lockdown when everyone was suddenly trapped at home with gel polish or dip powder and no easy way to remove it due to nail salon closures? Well, that was the exact moment I vowed, “never again.” I hated feeling stuck and decided to cut ties with the never-ending cycle of expensive, time-consuming gel manicures. So I began searching for an at-home solution to keep my nails looking chic while saving some cash and time.

At first I thought nail stickers might be the answer to avoid clumsy polish application and still enjoy trendy designs. But the edges kept getting caught in my hair, causing them to peel away from my nail bed. Next, I tried various brands of polish from Instagram and Facebook ads that looked promising. This led to disappointment after they all chipped after a day or two, no matter how closely I followed every tip to make your manicure last longer.

I also experimented with several drugstore brands, but didn’t like the dull finishes. I found the brushes made the product difficult to apply. In addition, I steered clear of UV lights, as that wasn’t a step I was interested in continuing at home. Finally, I took a chance on a beautiful bottle that caught my eye at CVS one day: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel. And after applying two coats and the matching top coat, I ended up with a two-step manicure that lasted a full week—a miracle indeed!

What is Sally Hansen Miracle Gel?

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel is a two-step gel polish system that doesn’t require a UV light to cure. It’s made of patented ColorSet technology, which is a combination of polymeric film formers and a trio of oligomers. These all bond together to offer enhanced color clarity and shine, improved film flexibility and added strength to resist impact. In short, it’s chip-resistant for longer wear (think press-on nails, but the real deal).

It’s surprisingly easy to apply, too! Start with clean and dry nails. Use nail polish remover to wipe away any residue that may affect the product’s adherence (like lotions or oils). There’s no base coat needed, so next you’ll apply two coats of Miracle Gel color (step one). Allow a few minutes to dry in between coats. After the second coat is dry, apply the Miracle Gel Top Coat (step two) and allow it to dry thoroughly. I always err on the side of caution and wait a full 15 minutes before I touch anything. My patience is always rewarded, as I never end up with smudges or dents in my polish.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel product features

The Sally Hansen Miracle Gel system allows you to confidently skip salon gel manicures that cost $50+ a pop (not including the tip!), plus an hour of your time. Not to mention the annoying removal process, painful and damaging scraping and potentially harmful UV light.

Use two thin coats of any of the vibrant, pastel, earthy, fluorescent or glittery shades. Then top them with a single coat of the Miracle Gel Top Coat to lock your color in place and add some shine. The flat brush design makes it easy to apply neatly. Your DIY manicure should last five to 10 days, depending on your lifestyle. Another selling point: it’s a non-toxic nail polish!

How we tested it

 Sally Hansen Nail PolishJill Schildhouse for Taste of Home

The first time I applied Sally Hansen Miracle Gel, I will admit I somewhat babied my nails. I loved the outcome so much, I did my best to protect them in order to extend their life. I took extra care while cooking and cleaning, typing on my keyboard for hours on end, and giving my demanding toy schnauzer head scratches. On day five, one index finger revealed a small chip (looking back, I don’t think I sealed that tip properly), but the other nails didn’t start chipping until day seven.

Impressed, I decided to really put the polish to the test. I followed a fresh two-step application process and then jetted off to Mexico for five days. I really put my hands out there between packing, lugging my suitcase and bags around, spending plenty of time in the chlorinated swimming pool and salty ocean, playing in the sand and applying countless rounds of chemical-laden bug spray and suntan lotion. Still, my at-home manicure held strong. I didn’t have a single chip until a few days after I returned home.


  • Lasts an average of eight days
  • No base coat needed
  • Comes in 100+ shades that span the rainbow
  • The brush is flat and curved at the end, which makes for easier application at the cuticle
  • Salon-quality finish without a UV light
  • Easy to remove with regular nail polish remover (no scraping or special tools!)
  • Adds a protective layer to keep natural nails strong and healthy
  • No strong chemical odor
  • Separate options for Matte, Shiny, Crystal, Sugar or Unicorn top coats to lock in color
  • Not tested on animals and free of formaldehyde, DBP and toluene


  • Must use both steps (color and top coat) for successful results
  • Dry time of about five minutes between each of the three layers
  • Sheer colors may need three coats


How long does it take for Sally Hansen Miracle Gel to dry?

Since there’s no UV light, it’ll definitely take longer to dry than a salon gel manicure. Plan on giving Sally Hansen Miracle Gel about five minutes of drying time between each coat and another 10 to 15 minutes once you’ve applied the top coat. While you may be able to get away with a shorter duration, you could end up risking smudging or denting polish that hasn’t quite hardened yet. If you’re using it for a DIY pedicure, be sure to allow a little extra time before putting on shoes or socks.

How long should you wait between coats of Sally Hansen Miracle Gel?

The Sally Hansen website doesn’t mention letting the product dry between the first two coats of the Miracle Gel color (step 1), probably because you’re only supposed to apply a light coat. However, I’ve noticed my long-lasting results improved when giving it a full five minutes of drying time. After your second coat, the brand does recommend waiting five minutes before applying one layer of the Miracle Gel Top Coat.

Does Sally Hansen Miracle Gel need a UV light?

Nope! And that’s one of the best parts. Sure, a UV light helps things dry faster, but they have some health drawbacks (just like tanning beds) that I’d rather avoid. To me, the tradeoff of having to wait just a little bit longer for my nails to dry is worth it. Plus, because it’s not “cured,” it’s easy to remove with regular polish. It also doesn’t require any special tools that may damage your nails.

What other reviewers had to say

With nearly 18,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, it’s clear that Sally Hansen Miracle Gel polish is a real fan favorite.

D. Nelson says it’s the best regular polish top coat ever made. “I was a professional nail technician for 15 years and had access to many brands of top coat. I have also been through some indie brands of polish, so I am very confident in my statement that this truly is the best you can buy for gloss and protection of your color coat.”

Mamafirebird agrees. “My first application lasted 8 days, with no chips or tip flaking at all! I didn’t “baby” my hands, and did all my usual laundry, hand dishwashing, cooking, dog training, dog brushing and grooming, hair styling, and similar tasks that would cause conventional nail polish to flake off in under 6 hours. In all this activity, none of my nails cracked, split or shattered. And the tips stayed chip free the entire time—over a week!”

Even for those who are hard on their nails, like verified reviewer Gella, there’s a trick to extend the life of your manicure. She says: “Love Sally Hansen Miracle Gel! Looks like gel—shiny and thick enough. And 5 days without any chipping! Then it begins to chip just a little bit on the tips, I cover tips with a little nail polish and cover it again with the Miracle Gel top and here you are—2 to 3 more days.”

Product comparison

Everyone will have their own opinion about the best nail polishes, but few match up to the results of Sally Hansen’s technology. The closest product to the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel is Essie Gel Couture, which also doesn’t require a UV light to cure the polish—but it costs a few more dollars per bottle. Other non-UV-light polishes in this category—including OPI—offer gorgeous colors, but simply don’t deliver the long-lasting results, which ultimately wastes time and money.

Final verdict

I’ve now been wearing Sally Hansen Miracle Gel for several months and keep buying more shades: I’m up to 11 so far and anticipate buying more to round out my collection as the seasons change and hues brighten and darken. I love that I can count on this polish to last a full week, because I don’t want to have to paint them more frequently than that. And while they are a smidgen less durable than “real” gel, the cost savings, lack of UV light and time not spent in a stinky nail salon is the true miracle here.

Where to buy Sally Hansen Miracle Gel

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Top Coat Ecomm Via Amazonvia merchant

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel and Top Coat are available pretty much anywhere nail polish is sold, though you will find varying color options at different retailers. Start your search on Amazon, Ulta, Target, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens. You can also check out the brand’s website where you can virtually try on all the colors to pick the best hue for you. Then search for online retailers that carry your favorite shade.

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