What is the difference between Shellac & Gel nails?

What is Shellac?

Let’s get one thing out of the way…Shellac refers to the brand ‘CND Shellac’ NOT a type of nail service.  All to often people enter the salon asking for “Shellac nails” while the salon are actually applying gel or another system…don’t get fooled!

CND Shellac is a ‘hybrid’ nail system that promises a mirror shine and longer lasting finish than regular nail polish.  The ‘hybrid’ part means that it is somewhere in between gel nails and regular nail polish – it looks like gel but applies like a nail polish.

Shellac vs Regular nail polish

Pros of Shellac:

  • Lasts for longer without chipping
  • Due to the science behind it (Shellac has small tunnels), cuticle oil (preferably Solar Oil) can be absorbed through the Shellac to the natural nail
  • Quickly disguises moderately uneven or ridged nails
  • Regardless of colour, removes after a 10 minute soak leaving nails undamaged

Cons of Shellac:

  • Cannot be removed with regular nail polish remover (however we do sell DIY kits)

Gel Nails

Most gel systems are similar in application and removal (although takes longer) than Shellac.  It takes longer to remove gel because it is thicker and therefore, generally more durable.

The main difference is that Shellac is applied over natural or already extended nails, whilst gel, can be used to form the nail extension itself (like acrylic).

Pros of Gel over Shellac:

  • It is more durable so lasts longer
  • You can create nail extensions

Cons of Gel over Shellac:

  • Can cause damage to nails
  • Needs to be removed by a professional nail technician
  • Application and removal process generally takes longer


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