Shellac Manicures Are All Rage: Are They Worth the Hype?

Updated 04/21/19
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Offering brilliant color, a high-gloss shine, and two weeks or more of great looking nails, it's hard to resist the allure of CND Shellac. It promises zero-drying time and is designed to outlast and outshine gel manicures, but is it right for you and are they worth the price?

Let's look at the pros and cons of this very popular manicure option before you head to the nail salon.

What Is a Shellac Manicure?

According to the CND website, a Shellac manicure is a patented "formulation of solvents, monomers, and polymers" that are "hypo-allergenic...containing no formaldehyde, toluene, or DBP." The website claims that there's no drying time and that nails have a "14 Day Wear Mirror Finish".

During a CND Shellac manicure at a salon that offers the service, you don't soak your nails first. Your manicurist will file and shape your nails and may push back your cuticles. Oil is typically not used as it can interfere with the polish adhering to your fingers.

Your nails are painted with a base coat, at least two coats of color, and a top coat. In between layers, you insert your hand into a UV or LED lamp to dry the polish for 30 to 60 seconds. The process takes about 45 minutes. In the end, your nails are completely dry with no extra drying time required.

CND Shellac offers over 100 shades and there's something for every style, from bright reds to metallics and even a deep black. Whether you're looking for a classic blush pink or want something a little wilder like an electric blue or green, you're likely to find it. The top coats also offer a variety of finishes, including metallic, glitter, and pearl.

How Long Does It Last?

I've had the CND Shellac manicure twice and both times it lasted the two weeks as promised. The polish stays super shiny and doesn't chip.

The biggest problem is the way it looks at the base of the nails. You can definitely see where the color starts and stops as the nails have grown out and my cuticles did start to ragged toward the end.

The Advantages

Aside from being one of the longest lasting nail applications, there are a few distinct advantages to Shellac. The fact that there's no extra drying time is also a major plus. You can walk out of the salon and dig in your bag for your car keys the second you're done.

This manicure also stands up to most household chores like washing the dishes without gloves (not recommended for the healthiest skin). It's a very durable finish that rarely chips or peels. However, some chemicals can cause damage, so you do still want to be careful and wear gloves when cleaning and doing other harsh tasks.

The Downsides

Aside from the growth issue previously mentioned, there are some downsides to the CND Shellac manicure. One of those is the UV light that is often used to cure the polish. Some salons may use LED lights, though the UV exposure may cause damage to your skin and cause age spots. For that reason, it's best to always apply sunscreen or an SPF moisturizer before you walk into the salon.

The other issue is that the polish can be hard to remove and will take from five to 15 minutes, depending on the top coat. Fortunately, it is easier than the average gel polish and it doesn't require you to soak your entire fingertip in acetone. Instead, the Shellac system requires some soaking time with acetone nail polish pads that targets the nails more directly.

If you have brittle or thin nails, the Shellac (or any gel mani) may not be the best choice. The chemicals may further damage your nails, so you might think about trying to improve their health before trying one of these manicures.

Useful Tips

Overall, CND Shellac is a great product and it can offer you a long-lasting manicure. There are a few things that you can do to ensure your nails look great and stay healthy.

  • Apply cuticle oil twice a day and use a good moisturizer regularly. These will keep your skin and nails from getting dehydrated, especially around the time of your salon visit when they'll be exposed to some chemistry.
  • The home products that promise to be similar to Shellac may not live up to your standards. The kits can be expensive, the curing lights are typically not up to par with the salon's, and you're going to put in a lot of work to get a great look. You might find that the nail salon is a better deal in the end.
  • It may be tempting, but it's best for your nails if you do not peel off the Shellac. You can actually do more damage to the top layers of your nails than the chemical remover, which CND claims leaves your nails healthy. It's best to go back to the salon for proper removal.
  • For the long-term health of your nails, take a break every now and then. It doesn't have to be between every Shellac application, but giving your nails some time to breathe on occasion is a good idea.

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