How easy is it to do a professional manicure at home? Hannah Rochell tests a gel manicure kit to see if it's up to scratch

Any products in this article have been selected editorially however if you buy something we mention, we may earn commission

I've been curious about gel manicures for a while now, but have heard so many scare stories about them ruining your nails that I was a little apprehensive when asked to try one for this column. Still, I wouldn't be your intrepid beauty budget guru if I didn't exercise a little risk now and again, would I?

I tried a home kit by Red Carpet Manicure Professional (£89.95, ) which contained all sorts of goodies including an LED light to set the gel and three different shades of polish. When I sat down to read the extensive instruction booklet I was terrified! Seemingly written by a strict school mistress, it was littered with specific guidelines of what NOT to do. "Remove any colour from the skin BEFORE setting under the LED light"; "the surface of the nail will remain somewhat tacky. DO NOT TOUCH THE NAIL". OK, OK, no need to shout! Anyway, carefully, I began the manicure.

It's basically what I would usually do - base coat, two coats of colour and a top coat - but you cure each coat under the LED light as you go ("BE SURE NOT TO LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THE LIGHT"). Providing you read the instructions properly, it's pretty straightforward but does take a long time - about 45 minutes - and I wouldn't recommend doing it if you aren't very good at painting your own nails, or you'll panic about curing the polish onto your skin. Not the kit for those who are short of time and a bit clumsy.

The results were brilliant, though. The super-glossy finish looked really professional and it was dry straight away (which is extremely useful when you remember you had put a wash on before starting and still need to hang it up). The manicure is supposed to last two weeks, so I set about doing as many activities that would normally chip my nail polish as possible during the fortnight. These included:

  • Washing up without using rubber gloves
  • Knitting and sewing
  • Playing my bass guitar
  • Tree climbing (yes, this actually happened)
  • Gardening

So far, so perfect. Five days into the experiment I saw my mum, who regular readers of this column will know is a beauty therapist. As a test, I didn't mention the manicure but she commented almost straight away on how lovely my nails looked. In fact, I got compliments from people right up until the day I removed the shiny varnish from my digits. It did start to chip and lift on the ends of my nails after a week and a half, but this is still much longer than a regular polish would last and the glossy finish didn't diminish at all.

However, being the sort of person who removes nail varnish by picking it off rather than using varnish remover (it's a challenge once I start - can I get a whole nail off in one piece?) I thought this would be a good time to say goodbye to the manicure as peeling it off can also peel off the top layer of your nail (ouch!).

Taking the varnish off had been playing on my mind the whole time. "Will it come off? Will my nails look awful at the end of this?". The removal process is almost as lengthy as the application; buffing each nail to take the shine off, soaking a pad in the removal formula (which smells much nicer than regular nail polish remover), placing the pad on the nail and wrapping each finger in tin foil for 10 minutes. During which time you might feel a bit like Edward Scissorhands.

Tentatively, I removed the first foil wrap and the polish just fell off the nail. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it was AMAZING. I'm looking at my nails now and they are in fantastic condition, with no sign of any colour around the edges or cuticles as can happen when you've worn a bright colour.

In short, I am a total convert. I loved the professional finish I could achieve at home, the durability of the colour and the ease with which I was able to take it off. I can't wait to do my toenails and forget about them for a couple of months. And as I write this now, I'm plugging in my LED light to re-do my fingers; my nails just look naked now without their sleek gel polish.