The DIY Gel Manicure That Lasts A Whole Week: An Essie Gel Setter Review

by - August 30, 2017

I may be a little bit nail-polish obsessed.

What's funny is that until college, I honestly didn’t like the look of my nails painted. And I didn’t care enough to keep up with them if I did paint them, so they were usually chipped and gross for weeks following. That was not the best look!

My roommate during my freshman year of college LOVED painting her nails. She did it constantly, like at least once per week and sometimes more! And in the name of procrastination, like any good college student would, I started joining her when she took a study break to do her own nails. Soon after, my love of a good at-home mani developed. Now, years later, I've continued to make a DIY manicure part of my weekly routine! (Thanks for starting this obsession, Bethany (; )

Doing my nails is a great way for me to take care of myself and spend some time pampering… Nothing else makes me feel like I have my life put together more than a perfect polish!

I've tried a LOT of nail polish brands, and Essie is hands down (no pun intended!) the longest lasting nail polish I’ve encountered. I can usually get a solid 4-5 days before it starts chipping, even without a top coat! That felt like a huge difference to the 3 days, sometimes even 2 I got from other brands. I've ended up with a big collection of Essie colors over the years, which is mostly thanks to so many friends who have helped feed my obsession. One year I ended up getting 6 different colors from different friends and family during one Christmas season!

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I’ve always wanted to try a gel manicure but have always talked myself out of it… First of all, I’m cheap, and they aren’t. Secondly, I have super thin nails and I’ve been afraid such a hard to remove polish would DESTROY my poor, weak nails. But when I saw Essie had a gel top coat I just KNEW I had to try it!

You all, this Essie Gel Setter top coat has for real changed my life.  It is so easy to get a long lasting mani at home! After 7 days, I only see a little wear at the tips and a bit of growth at my cuticles. Don't believe me? I took a photo every day for a week to prove it to you!

Nail Color: Brides No Grooms

Look at that awesomeness! A whole week, and I haven't had to touch up my nails once!

So, let's talk details. 

The Essie Gel Setter top coat sells for $10 ($9.50 on Amazon!), or you can find it in sets with a color polish for about $15.  You can use it with any Essie nail color, which means you don't have to buy any special nail polishes, like you have to with the Essie Gel Couture line and many other drugstore gel systems. 

This top coat applies like any top coat, just a little bit thicker. You use a base coat if you'd like, apply two coats of color and then a layer of top coat. Even though it seems thick going on, it actually seems to dry faster than a normal polish or top coat, which is always helpful for avoiding smudges! And since there are no extra steps, like special base coats or UV lights, a gel mani with this process doesn't take any longer than polishing your nails at home usually would.

I can easily get 7 full days of wear when I wear this top coat paired with an Essie polish! Sometimes I can get an extra day or two by adding another layer of top coat on day 6 or 7. 

I know professional gel manicures last longer than a week, but they also cost significantly more! A $10 bottle of this stuff lasted me a solid 18 months. With a base coat, a few layers of an Essie polish, the cost per wear is $0.50It would take 70 at home, weekly manicures to reach the same cost as one salon gel manicure that lasts 2-3 weeks. That's almost 18 months of DIY manis for the same price as one professoinal gel mani! The savings are literally insane! Plus it's become a relaxing ritual for me to spend some time doing my own nails once a week.

Of course, even the most beloved product is never 100% perfect. The biggest down-side to the Gel Setter is that once it starts chipping, it keeps chipping. It's so shocking to me almost every time because manicure looks basically perfect... until all of a sudden it's a mess. But 7 days of looking good is definitely far better than the 4 or so days I get without this top coat!

Another negative for some people may be that Gel Setter works best with Essie nail colors. For me, that wasn't a problem because Essie was already my favorite brand and I had been stocking up for years. I have quite the collection now! But a little secret... most of my Essie polishes have come from Marshalls or TJ Maxx for $4ish bucks :) That makes them the same price or cheaper than most other quality polishes! Totally worth starting a collection of your own!

Overall, this is one of my most favorite, holy-grail beauty products of ALL TIME. I love having pretty nails but refuse to pay to get them professionally done. Essie Gel Setter lets me have the quality manicure I want but by DIY-ing it without leaving home! 

If you're ready to try your own Essie Gel Setter DIY Manicure that will last you a whole week, here are a few of my favorite colors to get you inspired!

Have you tried Gel Setter before? What did you think? Do you have an all time favorite beauty product you love as much as I love this one?! Share with me in the comments below!

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  1. It's awesome this stuff works with the regular Essie polish. How does it get removed? Do you need 100% acetone? I did a gel manicure for my wedding and I swore never again because the process of getting it off took me literally hours, and the acetone really messed with my nails :(

    1. I get it off with normal nail polish remover! It takes a little more work but nothing like I've heard a true gel manicure can be! I just hold the cotton ball on each nail for about 10 seconds before start rubbing on it. Destroying my nails was a huge reason I was afraid to try gel manis and this one doesn't cause any damage at all!

  2. I adore the Gel Setter! It's been a great addition to my manicures, without spending a lot at the salon.