Home » What’s the Real Difference Between Shellac Nails and Gel Manis?

What’s the Real Difference Between Shellac Nails and Gel Manis?

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Now that lockdown is being lifted, what’s the one beauty appointment you’re going to book? Nails you say? Us too. After all, when it comes to looking default polished (pardon the pun) having Shellac nails or gel nails is a winner.

Neither chip and look incredibly slick, but which should you opt for? Shellac nails or gel nails?

Before you hit up the salon to pre-book your appointment, keep scrolling for the answers to all the gel versus Shellac nails questions you’ve been asking.

What Are Shellac Nails?

“CND shellac nails combine the best properties of gel (for wear and protection) and the best properties of polish (for glorious color and shine),” says Arnold. What is shellac? It’s a patented system that includes a branded base coat, color coat, and top coat. With over 100 shades, there’s something for everyone, from ethereal pinks to dark

The manicure is cured with a special LED lamp made exclusively for shellac, so there’s virtually no drying time, according to Arnold. “Curing is one of the most important parts of the process,” she explains. This is when ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths hit molecules called photoinitiators in the gel formula and activate them. “When the product formula is specifically calibrated to the light energy output of the lamp, [then] proper adhesion, wear, and removal are assured.”

She adds, “These groundbreaking features were made possible with an intensive R&D process and technology that has roots in aerospace polymer coatings along with 13 patents. I often say it’s not rocket science—but it’s close!”

How Are Shellac Nails Different From Gel Nails?

Let’s tackle the shellac vs. gel debate. The fact is, the differences between these two nail types are slim, but it does have an effect on your overall manicure experience. Essentially gel nails use a semi-permanent gel to color your nails, whereas shellac nails use semi-permanent polish. There are also nearly triple the amount of color options for gel nails as there are for shellac nails, but there are still plenty of shades to choose from for either.

Arnold says the removal process is one of the biggest things that sets a shellac manicure apart from other gels or gel polish. She explains, “When acetone-based remover is applied, the coating actually breaks into tiny pieces and releases from the nail,” allowing for a seamless removal (more on that later).

How to remove Shellac nails

It’s always going to be best to head to a salon to have your gels or Shellacs dissolved by a pro. If you do want to do it at home, however, know that because shellac is a polish, it’s easier to remove than gel and kinder to your nails as you don’t have to buff your nail plate to ‘break’ the bond.

When you remove gel nail varnish, you file the top layer off and then soak your nails in acetone, but when you remove shellac nails, you simply soak in acetone. Pro tip: cover the skin around your nails in Vaseline before, to stop it from drying out from the remover.

How to remove gel nails

Again, you can ensure a fuss-free removal by heading to the salon to get them removed by the pros, But, given that this takes an hour-ish out of your day and costs around a tenner, plenty of people prefer to DIY it.

First off, you need to break the bond between the gel and your actual nail. Very, very gently, buff the nail. This will break the gel’s seal. Next, cut out ten pieces of cotton pad, one for each nail, and soak in acetone nail varnish remover. Cut out ten pieces of tin foil. Pop each cotton pad piece on top of a nail, then cover with one of the tin foil pieces, twisting at the top.

Chill for 15 minutes, unwrap and gently push off, using a cuticle stick.

How Long Do Shellac Manicures Last?

“A manicure applied following the proper CND Shellac system will deliver 14-plus days of high-performance, high-shine, trouble-free wear,” Arnold says.

We can attest, the finish is very durable and rarely chips or peels. This manicure does stand up to most household chores like washing dishes.

While this finish is known for its durability, some chemicals can damage your manicure, so you should still be careful and wear gloves when cleaning and doing other harsh tasks.

How much should a Shellac treatment cost?

As with most beauty procedures, the cost of a shellac manicure can vary. You can expect to pay between $40 to $60 for the salon service.

How much should gel nails cost?

Similarly, it’s going to vary depending on where in the country you are and how bougie your salon is. But around the £25 mark is ballpark.

Can you get Shellac nails at home?

Sadly, the official CND Shellac service is an in-salon only treatment. But you can certainly have a crack at getting a close effect, by using a gel-style nail varnish. Gelish and OPI brands are both good, with a decent base coat and gloss top coat. Barry M also have a Gelly Hi-Shine range, with pots of polish costing less than a fiver.

Always remember to buff your nails before you start to give the polish a better chance of adhering.

Are Shellac nails bad for you?

There’s been a lot of debate as to whether shellac and gel nails could be implicated in cancerous cells, because they use UV lights to cure your polish.

Like anything to do with UV, caution is always key, so apply an SPF30+ sunscreen at least 20 minutes beforehand.

Are gel nails bad for you?

It’s the exact same story as above. Apply sunscreen to be safe, and you should be fine.

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