2014 Holiday Gift Ideas: Gel Polish Starter Kits

Part 2 of my Holiday Gift Ideas series is about gel polish starter kits.  If you’re thinking about getting into gel polish or know someone else who is, this may help narrow down the options.  Most of the kits that I’m writing about today are meant for the at-home DIY user. I’m going to list them in order of retail price from lowest to highest.

There of course are other starter kits out there, but these are the ones I’m most familiar with and stand behind.  I personally prefer lamps that fit the full hand and not just 4 fingers, because who wants to spend the extra time to cure each thumb separately?  I also recommend going with a kit that has a higher powered lamp if you plan on branching out and trying other brands. The 6 watt lamps don’t always cut it… 12 watts or higher is my preference.

Sensationail (Most Budget-Friendly)

Let’s kick off the list with a very budget-friendly option, the Sensationail Gel Polish Starter Kit.  If you’re not sure about gels and just want to give it a try, this might be a good place to start because this kit won’t break the bank.  It includes all of the basics that you need to apply a gel polish manicure.  The bottles sizes are small at 3.7ml, but that’s enough to do at least 10 manicures.  A little goes a long way with gel polish.

This kit does not include remover, so you will need to also purchase a bottle of acetone which you can pick up at your local drug store.  Sensational kits and colors can also be found in most drug store and big box stores!


  • Retail Price: $59.99 ($36 on Amazon)
  • Lamp:  4-finger, 7 watt LED lamp with a 1 minute timer (chirps at 30 seconds, turns off at 60 seconds)
  • Colors:  1 color is included (3.7ml).  The kit that I linked to includes the color Raspberry, but there are a few different starter kit colors to choose from.
  • Essentials: base coat & top coat combo, primer, cleanser  (NO remover)
  • Extras: lint-free wipes, nail buffer, manicure stick

Red Carpet Manicure (RCM) Pro 45 Starter Kit

The RCM Pro Starter Kit also includes all of the essentials to get started. The bottle sizes are slightly larger than Sensationail at 9ml.  RCM does have a less expensive kit than this one with a portable light, but it’s extremely low-powered so I didn’t list it.  These mini lamps are already pretty low-powered at only 6 watts so I wouldn’t recommend going any lower.  RCM can also be purchased at many drug stores, big box stores, and beauty supply stores.

rcm kit

  • Retail Price: $89.99 ($79 on Amazon)
  • Lamp: 4-finger, 6 watt LED lamp with a 45 second timer
  • Colors: 1 color is included, Red Carpet Ready (9ml)
  • Essentials: base coat (9ml), top coat (9ml), prep (9ml), cuticle oil (9ml), cleanser (2 oz), remover (2 oz)

Couture Gel Polish Starter Kit

I haven’t written much about the Couture brand on my blog because Michelle over at Manic Talons has covered this brand pretty well. She has swatched all of their colors, which you can see here. Couture is a good quality brand and if you have troubles with soak-offs, their base makes the soak-offs faster and easier than most.

The Couture Gel Polish Starter Kit is a great value because you get full-size products and a higher powered lamp that fits your whole hand instead of just 4 fingers! The Couture lamp is comparable to the Melody Susie 12W LED lamp that I reviewed, which works great. And you also get to choose which color you want with your kit, so you aren’t stuck with a color that you might not want or like.

Couture also has a Deluxe Kit for $129 that includes 3 colors instead of 1, but you get a better value by buying the starter kit with one color and then buying additional colors separately since they are only $12.95 each.


  • Retail Price: $99 (buy it here on Couture’s website)
  • Lamp: full-hand 12 watt LED lamp with 30-second drying time. 30s, 60s, 90s & 30m timers.
  • Colors: 1 full-size (15ml) color of your choice
  • Essentials: base coat (15ml), top coat (15ml), cleanser, remover
  • Extras: manicure tool kit & a free cosmetic case

Gelish Complete Starter Kit

The Gelish Complete Starter Kit is very similar to the RCM kit, except it contains two full-size bottles of color and it has some extra tools.  In my opinion this kit is a little over priced.  If you’re going to spend close to $100 on a kit, go for a higher powered lamp!  See the kits listed just above and below.


  • Retail Price: $115.99 ($93 on Amazon)
  • Lamp: 4-finger, 6 watt LED lamp with a 45 second timer
  • Colors: 2 full-size (15ml) colors – June Bride & Good Gossip
  • Essentials: MINI Basix kit which includes base coat (9ml), top coat (9ml), ph bond (9ml), cuticle oil (9ml), cleanser (2 oz), and remover (2 oz)
  • Extras: orangewood stick, nail file, plastic cuticle pusher with prep tabs

Gelish PRO Kit

The Gelish PRO Kit comes with all full-size (15ml) bottles of Gelish AND the 5-45 LED lamp.  The lamp is 18 watts, cures the full hand, and has a 45 second timer.  It retails for $149.99 alone, so this kit is a great value!


  • Retail Price: $199.99 ($129 on  Amazon)
  • Lamp: full-hand 18 watt LED lamp with a 45 second timer
  • Colors: 2 full-size colors (15ml); Light Elegance & Hot Rod Red
  • Essentials: Full size base coat, top coat, ph bond, and cuticle oil (15ml each).  MINI size cleanser & remover (2 oz each).


I hope you found this information helpful! My next post will be about LED & UV lamp recommendations.

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9 Responses

  1. Phyllis Hughes says:

    Great reviews! Only one problem; I bought the Gelish Starter Kit a week ago from Amazon. I did my nails for the first time last night and even though I had a few booboos, I love it. I’ll get better. I’m getting my order ready for some more colors, the Gelish Structure, some brushes, and maybe some acrylic powder. I’ll want to purchase a stronger LED lamp, but that will wait a while.

    I found getting thin layers hard. The brushes seemed very generous. I suppose like everything else, I’ll get better as I use them. Now for the really hard thing; settling on the one or two colors when I really want to buy about ten!

    Hugs, Phylly

    • Casey says:

      Hi Phyllis! Personally, I’d suggest you try the Gelish MINI bottles from Sally Beauty Supply! While you are still learning/getting better at applying the polish, the brushes are smaller and MUCH easier to work with, in my opinion. And seeing the colors in person at Sally’s is a plus :) The Gelish Mini bottles are a little more expensive per mL, but Sally’s almost always has coupons available (check RetailMeNot.com), and sometimes has sales on Gelish Mini. Also, check their clearance section for good deals on colors from the prior season. Once you are a total pro at application (which will be very soon!), the Gelish full-size bottles on Amazon (like Andrea links to here) are a much better bang for your buck, and the bigger brush won’t faze you one bit by then.
      Welcome to my new favorite hobby :)

      • Phyllis Hughes says:

        Thanks, Casey, what a good idea. Really, for most colors, I think the mini-size will be just fine. I tend to move on to other colors pretty fast. Of course, there are always a few colors that I go back to again and again, like deep dark red. There is a Sally’s not too far from me. I wonder if it is open today. Maybe I’ll make a run up that way to see.
        Hugs, Phylly

        • Andrea says:

          I agree that the MINI bottles are a lot easier to use for application. It’s easier to control the polish and apply in thin layers with the smaller brushes. And a little goes a long way… the mini sizes are more than enough polish for at-home use. Practice makes perfect too… you’ll get better the more you do it. Sally’s will probably have some great Black Friday sales this week, so maybe wait for the ads to come out :)

  2. Lynette says:

    Re. the Gellish Pro kit: Is this lamp the 18 watt version that you have and love??? I thought it was about $200! Too good to be true?

    • Andrea says:

      I have the Gelish 18G lamp which is 36 watts. The 18G cures most colors in just 20 seconds, darker colors require the full 30 seconds.

  3. Cathy says:

    I’ve been struggling to cure darker gel polishes (Gelish, OPI and Sally Hansen) with my 6 watt RCM lamp. Will the 18 Watt Gelish lamp be my solution?

    • Andrea says:

      Yes, absolutely. The 6 watt lamps don’t cure heavily pigmented colors well. Even the 12w Melody Susie lamp cures the darker colors much better.

  4. Anne says:

    I started out with the Sensationail just to see if I liked doing my own. It is a great bargain and I like their polish–but it is only four finger. As a side note, it does a great job curing CND Shellac; I don’t know why but it does.