Thursday, 29 August 2013

Review: Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Starter Kit

It's been over a year since we reviewed the Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Pro Kit. Are gel nails still a thing? Most certainly - the gel trend has continued to rise along with the current "nail boom". We've seen high street and high end polishes mimicking the gel trend with gel-style polish ranges and high-shine topcoats. That glossy, bullet-proof finish is still very very much in demand.

We've also seen a rise in the availability of gel nail home kits, and gel colours in consumer-friendly bottle sizes (which cost £11-£12, rather than the £25 or so you pay for an OPI or Gellux gel polish colour). Superdrug are selling a home gel nail system in store, and there are several companies offering them online too, not least Red Carpet Manicure.

We previously showed you the Red Carpet Pro kit, which includes a large mains-powered LED light with timer. Today's post is about the Starter Kit, which has a portable lamp without a timer. It's powered by 4 AA batteries (not included), can also be plugged in at the mains, and it's smaller and lighter.

Everything else in the kit is the same - you get two 59ml bottles, one of prep solution and one of remover (which is basically acetone - ouch, cuticles), a bottle of nail colour in Red Carpet Reddy, a prep coat, base coat, UV top coat and cuticle oil, all 9ml.

The price difference between the two kits is around £25 - which would be nearly enough to buy 2 more gel colours from Red Carpet. The Starter kit is £65, and you're looking at £89.95 for the Pro kit.

So do you really need the Pro kit?

My results with the Starter kit are shiny, glossy, indestructibly strong and in every way a convincing gel manicure. These photos are taken after a week of wear. You can see there's no chipping, dulling or cracking, and the finish is as glossy as a fresh manicure.

The application process is pretty slow - the base coat, top coat and each coat of polish needs to be cured for 2 minutes, and you need to do 3 cures on each coat (one each for the fingers of each hand, and one for the thumbs). All those 2 minute cures add up, time-wise, but on the upside there's no drying time afterwards. Once you've completed all the cures and wiped the nails down, they're fully hardened.

If you're using the kit for the first time, read all the instructions before you begin. They're not written in a very helpful style, and some of the key information isn't presented in the order you need it - for example, I'd painted all 10 nails before I realised that they needed to be cured in separate stages. (Red Carpet - if you need a copywriter, drop me a line.)

It's worth noting that the Pro kit also needs each hand and the thumbs to be cured separately, but there's a shorter curing time with the full-size lamp, so you'll get your manicure done quicker with the Pro kit.

I did have to keep an eye on the clock during the curing phases, as there's no timer, but this wasn't much of a hardship. If I were doing gel manicures regularly, I would want the timer. But for personal use, I think the Starter Kit is fine.

Removal is interesting. It's done using the foil method, which is more commonly used for removing gritty and glittery polishes. First you scuzz up and ruin the shiny surface of the nails using a coarse file, which feels strange and somewhat rebellious. Then, after soaking cotton wool in the Erase acetone solution, you wrap it onto the nail using kitchen foil. After 10 minutes, remove the foil. With regular polish, the polish usually dissolves and comes away on the cotton wool. But with the gel manicure, the polish cracks and flakes off, rather than dissolving, so you end up with a strange shattered effect on your nails. Sadly I didn't take pics of this - I didn't expect it to be so remarkable, but you can see in this post at

Two tips I got from my friend Vix, who does gel manicures professionally...

  • Keep the base coat, colour and top coat well away from the cuticles. As the polish starts to grow out, any polish or base coat stuck to the cuticles will pull away, leaving a ragged edge that you will be tempted to pick at.
  • If you get bored of the colour during the life of your gel manicure (which can be 3 weeks) you can put ordinary polish on top, and remove it with ordinary acetone-free nail polish remover without harming the gel manicure's finish.

You can buy both kits, and a range of gel colours, at Red Carpet Manicure UK

Disclosure - PR sample

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating our copyright.

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