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Road Test: The Best New At-Home Gel Nail Polishes

We tried 9 new gel nail polishes to find out which ones stood the test of time (and could survive the nail-chipping hazards of everyday life)
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In the two weeks after I first tried gel nails, I thought my life was changed forever. Cursed with dry, flimsy nails, I can't get a normal polish to stick around for two days -- let alone the two weeks that my gel nails lasted. It was only when I went to get it removed that I realized this gift from the nail gods was too good to be true. The gel formula had ravaged my delicate nails, leaving every last one of them peeling and weaker than ever.

Turns out, lots of women who have stuck their nails under UV light in pursuit of the perfect polish have similar stories to share. Thankfully, the nail world took notice, and came up with this solution: A no-light-required, at-home gel polish system that is easily removed with nail polish remover. In the past year, several of these systems have landed at Total Beauty's HQ, so for the sake of our nails and yours, we decided to put them to the test.

Over 14 days, 70 digits tried nine different gel polishes, engaging in our normal manicure-destroying activities: exercising, beach-going, dish-washing, etc. Here, find out how these no-appointment-required, life-resistant, stay-put gel nail polishes fared.

Image via Imaxtree

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Sally Hansen Miracle Gel, $9.99
Pros: The brush is wide, flat and rounded at the tip, making application a breeze. It comes in the widest range of colors -- 47 total -- and several different finishes.

Cons: Both staff members who tested this polish said it performed well (the longest-lasting polish of any tested), but didn't quite live up to the 14-day promise on the package.

Days before chipping: 7

Days manicure lasted: 9

Pros: The new spring and summer shades for Deborah Lippman are gorgeous, and the Gel Lab Set can be used with any of them. Plus, you can apply the base coat and top coat with nail polishes outside the Deborah Lippman collection, so the sky is the limit, color-wise. Bonus: Staffers loved the high-gloss finish of the top coat.

Cons: The priciest of the bunch, this set is also the most time-consuming. It takes a total of four steps: one base coat, two separate coats of polish and a top coat.

Days before chipping: 4

Days manicure lasted: 8

Pros: The rounded, full brush picks up just the right amount of polish for each nail, and the colors in the line are beautiful and sophisticated. For a staffer with dry, peeling nails, this polish remained chip-free for several days when other brands chipped immediately. Another tester said the high-shine lacquer looked exactly like a professional gel manicure.

Cons: The top and base coat can only be used with the L'Oréal Extraordinare line, which is somewhat limiting. In addition, each polish must be purchased separately for $7.99.

Days before chipping: 4

Days manicure lasted: 6

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CoverGirl XL Nail Gel, $5.99
Pros: One tester says this polish works especially well under duress: She put it to the test by going to the beach and lugging a bunch of equipment around for a photo shoot. "Usually my polish would have chipped in five seconds, but I stayed chip-free for another two days," says the tester.

Cons: If you like bold, bright colors you'll love this line, but the color selection lacks neutrals.

Days before chipping: 6

Days manicure lasted: 8

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