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SHELLAC Manicures: Are They Worth the Hype?

CND for Jeremy Scott Spring/Summer 2018

Jennifer Graylock/Stringer/Getty Images

All manicures are not created equal. If you've heard about SHELLAC and assume it's the same as a gel mani you can get at almost any nail salon, there are quite a few things you should know about this space-age service. Is it worth the hype?

We think so. Not only have we tried it for ourselves, but we also spoke with Jan Arnold, co-founder and style director of Creative Nail Design (CND), to get the lowdown. Keep scrolling to find out what makes a SHELLAC manicure so special.

Jan Arnold of CND
Jennifer Graylock/Stringer/Getty Images

What Is a SHELLAC Manicure?

"CND SHELLAC combines the best properties of gel (for wear and protection) and the best properties of polish (for glorious color and shine)," says Arnold. The patented system includes a branded base coat, color coat, and top coat. With over 100 shades, there's something for everyone, from ethereal pinks to dark metallics.

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. When the product formula is specifically calibrated to the light energy output of the lamp, [then] proper adhesion, wear, and removal are assured."

What Is Curing?

Drying process in which ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths hit molecules called photoinitiators in the gel formula and activate them.

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!"

Are SHELLAC Manicures Safe?

Here's one thing to remember with any manicure that uses a lamp that emits UV light, as CND's does: Protect the skin on your hands with SPF to avoid any UV damage and accelerated aging. If this is a concern for you, CND recommends applying sunscreen 20 minutes prior to your appointment.

CND for Michael van der Ham Autumn/Winter 2013 Collection

Staying Power

"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. However, some chemicals can cause damage, so you should still be careful and wear gloves when cleaning and doing other harsh tasks.

The Removal Process

It might be tempting, but you should never attempt to peel off a SHELLAC manicure, as you can do a lot of damage to the top layers of your nails if you do. It's best to go back to the salon for proper removal. The process can take anywhere from five to 15 minutes.

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. This is because SHELLAC has a unique formula that forms tiny microscopic tunnels throughout the coating when cured in the CND LED lamp. When it’s time to remove, the acetone penetrates through these tiny tunnels, all the way to the base layer and then releases from the nail—no scraping and forcing the coating from the nails."

CND for Jeremy Scott Spring/Summer 2018
Jennifer Graylock/Stringer/Getty Images

The Final Takeaway

If you have brittle or thin nails to begin with, you might want to take some steps to improve your nail health before trying SHELLAC (or any gel manicure). Apply cuticle oil twice a day and use a good hand moisturizer regularly. These keep your skin and nails from getting dehydrated, especially around the time of your salon visit when they'll be exposed to some chemicals.

"For best results when getting a SHELLAC manicure, clients need to ensure their nail pro is trained and certified by CND, as they will truly understand the proper protocol to apply, and most importantly, remove SHELLAC to preserve the integrity of the nail underneath," Arnold says, adding, "…the product was designed as part of a system—all the layers work together to deliver that 14-day flawless wear and preservation of nail health."

Find your nearest CND SHELLAC nail pro and go get yourself a next-level manicure.

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