Salons only use the best gel nail polish brands. Besides, they need their service to be as best it can be.
As a Nail Technician and Manicurist, I have been working with a number of brands for a number of years.
It is my time in the Salon, and working with hundreds of clients at that time, that I have been able to identify what Gel Polish brands are the best, and which ones to avoid.
We simply only stock the very best, and those that didn’t meet our high expectations are no longer used.
Talking with my colleagues, and having conducted a lot of research, you soon learn to discover what to look for in a Gel Polish, and what is going to give you the best results for the best price.
I was recently asked the question: what Gel Nail Polish Brands are Used In Salons and it got me thinking.
So in this article, I would like to the different brands of gel polish, ranging from the least to the most expensive, that I use and provide my thoughts and opinions on these.
If you are relatively new to gel polish and feeling overwhelmed at all the choices, or if you are a seasoned pro but just want some further guidance, then this will help you.
So without further ado, let’s get started.
What To Look For In A Gel Polish
I want to start with the bases and the topcoats before I move onto the Gel Polishes themselves.
I’m going to basically talk about three things with each one that makes for a good gel polish.
The first is Opacity. A good polish is one that is opaque in two coats.
You can have some that require more coats and those are nice colors, but the best ones usually have two.
Its good to look for those with 0 or little to no shrink back.
This will prevent the need to fight shrink back and since there are polishes out there that you will not need to fight the shrink back, it’s advisable to opt for those.
This way you will not have to constantly fight the pullback from the cuticles or the tip.
Another thing to consider is Wear.
A good gel polish has to wear well and be able to keep your manicure looking fresh for at least a week/two weeks.
The Brands Used In Salons
So with these three essential things to always consider, let’s first take a look at the Bases. These will need to be applied before moving onto your Topcoat, and then Gel Polish.
The Brands Used In Salons
Initially, at the salon I was using the CND Shellac on clients at the salon for a long time because it really does have the easiest soak off and is a bit kinder to your nails.
I did stop using this because one thing is its UV cure and I found that it was kind of hit or miss when being used under an LED lamp, especially if you have to wipe the sticky layer for problem polishes.
So if you are using a UV Lamp its a terrific option, but if you have an LED Lamp then this probably isn’t the Gel Polish for you.
My preferred base and the one we often use is the Gelish.
The main thing I really like about it is a thicker gel than a lot of the bases are.
Additionally, the short stubby brush while it’s kind of weird to look at, is actually my favorite brush to use. Make sure that you get as close to the cuticle and its kind of nice to kind of scrub that into your nail and not have to worry about pooling or too thick of a base coat.
I do find that if you are using a longer brush with and the base coat is thin in consistency, you tend to apply too much of the base coat. Remember, you don’t want too thick of a base coat.
The Gelish Base Coat provides great wear and a lot of the base coat will be leftover.
The Essie Base Coat has one the absolute easiest removals, and it also helps to resist your nails from chipping which is a nice bonus.
But overall, my preferred base to use in the Salon is the Gelish base because I always get consistent results on myself and many clients – particularly because of the brush.
Now as far as the top coats go, it will once again depend on personal preference in which one you will want to use.
Interestingly, I don’t like the Gelish Topcoat simply because it’s hard to get thin enough coats, where it doesn’t start pooling around cuticles.
I also don’t like that you need to almost end up having to flash cure each nail. Whilst the Gelish Top Coat does have a lasting shine, you don’t want to have to mess with pooling.
IBD is a good top coat – it is shiny and when compared to say my favorite which is The Kiss, it’s not quite as durable – it’s almost like it’s more porous and it almost has a slight rubbery feel to it.
I have noticed that it doesn’t last nearly as long in the tips as the Kiss Top Coat Gel does.
Gel II is a good top coat as well – it is very shiny and provides lasting results.
Surprisingly, I’ve never really had much success with the Sally Hansen Salon Gel polish. It’s kind of thin and it tends to pool a little bit.
It’s shiny but then again I think there are better alternatives out there.
Last, but definitely not least, my favorite top coat is the Kiss Top Coat Gel.
It’s very, very durable, and will last around two weeks without any sign of wear – it also feels solid and provides a strong coating.
It also remains shiny during this period. It also doesn’t provide that rubbery feel. It’s slightly thicker than some of the other gel polishes so you don’t really have to worry about the pooling around your cuticles so much.
Now moving on to some of Gel Polish brands that we stock in our Salon.
These are more premium, so ounce per ounce these are not necessarily the cheapest brands but they are great to try.
Firstly, these are all fantastic brands.
The only one that I have really had any problems with is the FingerPaints Gel Polish.
For some reason when I have swatched it, and I am not the only one who has encountered problems when using it (as when I asked colleagues they also encountered this issue) but it had this strange pitting effect.
When you paint it on the nail, before you can even stick it under your lamp, it starts developing almost like these divots.
It’s almost like the gel and the color was separating into these slight little divots along with the nail and nothing I could do, no extra shaking of the bottle, warming, wiping the sticky layer – nothing helped for this.
Now there are some people who do not experience this or run into any problems, but there are others who did, so I know it isn’t just me.
With SensatioNail, you can pretty much find any color that you’re interested.
Now this is a great brand. It takes a little bit longer to soak off than some of the other brands I’ve used before but it’s still brilliant Gel Polish.
I typically do not receive any shrink back issues with most SensatioNail products so this is one of the reasons I really personally like it.
With Sally Hansen, my experiences when working with it in the Salon have not been overly positive.
I have received shrink back issues with this, particularly the Commander in Chic range.
Beautiful colors but again, it’s always advisable to find brands where you don’t have to fight to shrink back and if you have that problem then there are always plenty of alternatives so you don’t need to stick with it.
With the Gelaze, it’s an all-in-one base and color. You do have to use a topcoat with this, but it looks great with a nice consistency. When I swatch it, I typically find it to come out really well.
ASP. Now a lot of you may have heard of this brand but may not have tried it.
We use it regularly in the Salon as we really like this brand. I’ve been personally using it for a long time and I have three or four colors from their range.
I haven’t had any issues with this brand, and you always seem to get good coverage, no-shrink back, and nice
Red Carpet Manicure is a good brand, but depending on the color will determine whether you may experience shrink back issues. They have a terrific line of colors and the wear is great.
All of the brands above offer Starter Kits. So if you’re first getting into it, and you want to try them out, you can pick up the starter kits for these brands.
Now moving on to the least expensive brands that we like to stock in our Salon.
The IBD is terrific, most colors are Opaque on two coats but there are some that are not.
The Just Gel in red is one of my absolute favorite Reds to use – it’s got terrific coverage. This color applies really well so we often get asked for it on a daily basis.
I have noticed with some of the IBD colors that you can get tiny chips in the tips but not really to where it’s an issue or that anyone’s going to notice.
Gellen Soak Off Gel Polish – this is a good brand, terrific soak off, generally good opaqueness some require more than two coats than others and a ton of colors so this is a good option.
It soaks off really really easy and usually, the entire sheet of polish will come off instead of just kind of flaking off.
The IBDs kind of flake off when you soak them off, whereas Gellen comes off in one sheet.
Another brand is NSI. I’m not the biggest fan of this brand because you have to really shake the bottle to get the gel mixed.
I do notice with NSI some shrink back and it feels as if the formula is slightly inferior compared to some of the others that we use. As such, we have decided to stop stocking this one for now.
With TruGel, some of colors are not opaque in two coats and you really really have to shake these colors up to get them blended really well.
But having said that, the wear has always been great once they are blended and there has been no cases of shrink back.
Now onto the medium-range brands that we stock. There’s not actually too many brands in the medium range, gel polishes seem to be either quite cheap or quite expensive.
Artistic Color Gloss – this is a good brand, I personally own quite a few colors and most of them are Opaque in two coats and you don’t get much shrink back with them either. They also wear really nice.
I also like Gel II, but the only drawback with this brand for me is soaked off. Because the base gel is built-in, it can take a little longer to soak off with this (sometimes up to 30 minutes to soak off completely).
But if you want a polish that you can wear for a lengthy time this is it and you can get it in almost every color.
All of which have been Opaque in two coats. Again great wear, and little to no shrink back on most of the colors.
The only minor downside to Gel II is the initial smell, but you can get past that once it dries.
Now onto the Deborah Lippmann. This Gel Polish has a really nice coverage on swatch and wears also very well before soaking off very easily. Its also fully opaque in two coats.
Now we get to the more expensive brands. Ounce for ounce, CND Power Polish Shellac is the most expensive really as far as the upper end of the polishes and you’ll end up getting half as much as what you will get if you decide to get from pretty much any other polish.
And another downside is that its a UV only cure (will not work under an LED Lamp).
Also a lot of the colors have horrible applications, like terrible shrink back, streakiness, kind of a goopy of consistency to them.
For example, the midnight swim color is very hard to work with. And as this is a hybrid pot product with gel and nail lacquer, its hard to get the best wear from it.
With Gelish, you get great wear accross all of the different color lines, however in terms of application, some colors are more difficult to work with.
For example, the color Up In The Blue – provides an excellent application, its Opaque in two coats, you dont’ get any shrink back and you also get great wear.
However, the You Glare I Glow, is very hard to work with – streaky, gloopy, and it tends to tug and pull the Polish across the nail.
The streakiness does tend to even out after a second coat, but you shouldn’t need a second coat to overcome the shrink back.
There are simply other brands out there that you don’t have to fight the shrink back, which is the worst defender when it comes to working with Gel Polish.
If you can find one that applies great, wears great, then go with that product.
Next up is Orly Gel FX. Personally, I do not like Orly and I have not had one Orly polish that has had good application.
Shrink back is common and I think it just has something to do with the amount of pigment to gel ratio.
You have to shake these up constantly. These also have some of the worst soak offs.
Three coats has taken over an hour before to soak off! So following this, we have discontinued using Orly in our Salon and I know that a lot of Salons do not use it for this reason.
Cuccio is a brand however that we stock as they provide a great range of colors and you can find them in duo packs.
This is where you get a regular gel polish that matches the gel. Slight shrink back issues but nothing that would stop us from stocking it.
Ellie Couture is another great brand – again lots of nice colors and terrific soak offs with Ellie Couture.
Most of them are Opaque in two coats and they do wear nicely. But, some of the colors we have had shrink back issues and some of the colors have fading issues but that’s consistent with a lot of the gel brands – especially purples and some Pink’s.
You kind of have to watch out for fading with these colors. Couture is also at a great price point which is another reason why we stock it!
Its time for AzureBeauty. Know a lot of people like AzureBeauty, and from my experience, I can see why. They mix well and you can get some great color sets.
I have a lot of clients who really like the AzureBeauty gel color range and they always state how much they love how it wears.
Now, last but definitely not least, here is my absolute favorite brand of nail polishes and one that our Salon swears by. Its called LeChat.
We regularly stock the Perfect Match – a boxed set where you get the regular nail polish color and you also get a gel polish color.
They have a great range of colors with glitters and creams, shimmers and frosts and a really good selection.
Almost all of the colors are Opaque in two coats, except the ones that aren’t designed to be opaque in two coats.
The formula is nice, slightly thicker than some of the other gel polishes out there but it still has a great work-ability to it.
It does not pull on the nail so you don’t get that streakiness that you can get with some polishes.
It provides beautiful wear and lasts for up to and over two weeks. It’s mine and many of my colleagues and clients’ favorite.
There is zero shrinks back with any of the colors that I’ve used.
So there you have it, the Gel Nail Polish Brands Used In Salons.
These are the brands that we stock and that I use on a daily basis. I’ve worked with thousands of bottles of different brands so I’ve experimented with quite a few.
If you are looking for a Gel Nail Polish brand that truly delivers, I would suggest you get the LeChat.
Hey – I’m Jemma – a certified nail technician and manicurist with over fifteen years of hands-on industry experience. I created AlmondNails.com to share all that I have learned about the nail industry – from the different types of manicures available, suggestions for wear, recommendations for keeping nails strong and healthy, all the way through to providing the best nail salon tips and practices.