Saturday, 21 May 2011

What are Shellac and Gelish Nails?

November 2012-  a new post had been published to further update my advice on Gel Polishes which also discusses the difference in the different brands including, gelish, shellac, artistic, GeleSSe, Colour lock etc: -

I am getting lots of messages from people asking what exactly are Shellac Hybrid UV Polish and Gelish Gel Polish?  Or what is Semi-Permanent Polish Manicure?  So hopefully the below will answer any questions you have.    Oh - and yes, all of these are available as treatments here at Beauty by Theresa - available in the Cheadle, Staffordshire Moorlands and Stoke on Trent areas.

Well firstly - none of these systems extend the nails so for those of you that have been put off having your nails done because you dont want them extending - then Shellac and Gelish dont come into the same category so is a great option for you!

Shellac is probably more polish like in the look and feel, but dries in a different way than polish.  A special CND Shellac UV lamp is required to properly cure the colour, so therefore can only be applied by a trained professional.

CND's (Creative Nail Design - the maker of Shellac) have a well promoted tag line:
  • On Like Polish
  • Wears Like Gel
  • Off in Minutes (really!!)

On Like Polish - So the first one is self explanatory as I said above.   Wears Like Gel - what this refers to is the fact that with the right care and attention the polish can last up to 14 days without chipping, peeling and smudging.  The no smudge element is fab - especially as soon as the manicure is finished everything is completely dry - NOT like a traditional polish so you dont have to walk around for hours on end waiving your hands about like a raiving lunatic! :)   Off in Minutes (really!!) - because of the nature of the ingredients in the Shellac, trying to remove like normal polish wont get you very far - but it only takes 10 minutes to do!  Really!!   It is recommended that a professional removes the product and if done correctly (it is a fairly easy process) then your own nails underneath will be in great condition!  with NO DAMAGE!

Why would you have this type of manicure?

Well - due to the fact that it doesnt chip or smudge makes it more  low maintenance during the 2 weeks of wear.  No removing and re-applying every few days like regular polish cause it looks worn!  This factor alone makes it very attractive to many people - just one salon appointment every 2 weeks - and perfect looking nails every time!  Another great thing about Shellac is that it is fab for holidays and special occasions too as they last for up to 2 weeks, easily.

See the attached video for details of how shellac is applied and how it is removed!


Who is Shellac not ideal for?

Like I said before if you are looking to have your nails extended or lengthened then it is not for you.  If you have pretty poor nail condition with peeling etc then Gelish may be a better option for you.

Gelish (by Nail Harmony) is very similar to Shellac in that it is applyed in the same way - and wears in the same way - like a polish that doesnt chip.  What I have found however, that it can last a little longer - 3 weeks in many cases.  I think this is due to the fact that there seems a little more strength in each of the layers.  And, the top coat is more resistant to Acetone - so for people like us nail techs that use acetone based solutions to remove clients nails etc it is an added bonus for our own nails.  You can also use a special LED lamp to sure Gelish which is quicker (it wont cure Shellac though).
 What Gelish does have extra - is an additional product in its range called Structure.  What this allows you to do is to add additional support to the nail to add extra strength - and also lets you add the correct structure to the nail (those of with Ski jump nails or damaged nails) to make it look more "normal".

Therefore, I do find that if you want to grow your nails longer then Gelish gives you more support to be able to do this.  It is possible to extend the nail very slightly with the use of this structure gel too by using a plastic tip, but I wouldnt recommend a full set of nail extensions with this because they wont be as strong as say the traditional harder Gel or Acrylic nails.

Gelish does remove in a similar way to Shellac - but I think takes a minute or two longer - perhaps due to the slight additional strength in the product.  As the top coat is acetone resistant you need to buff the top coat off first (which isnt needed with Shellac) - so if the quickest and easiest soak off is important for you then Shellac may be better. 

Shellac is currently available in 24 colours, but does have an additional 6 shades coming out in September 2011.   Gelish is available in an incredible 72 shades? (I have actually lost count) and does have occasional special additional colours (like the Japan Appeal duo).    What you can do with both systems is layer the colours to make an even bigger colour range.   You can have french style, colours  (shear or opaque) or clear.
I have also found it is easier to do different nail art effects with these systems too - perhaps because the colours them self dont start try dry until they go into the UV lamp giving more time to play about with it.   You can get colour fade where one colour blends into another too - one of my favorite looks.  These two pictures are examples of really simple nail art and colour fades.  they have both had different colours layered too!

With this type of manicure you need to remember that what needs to happen when the manicure is grown out in say 2 or 3 weeks time.  I dont recommend you do this yourself so you really need to go back to the salon to have it removed - and probably like most of my clients have it reapplied as you found it so easy to wear!   So, even though they are really maintenance free during the time you wear them you do need to keep up with a regular salon appointment to make the most of the system.  If you start to peel away the system yourself then you potentially risk peeling layers of your own nail away (not as much as if you pick at say acrylic nails though) - so please dont do this!

I myself have worn either Shellac or Gelish for the last 12 months or so and I have to say my natural nails have never been in such good condition.  Most nail techs use themselves as models for trying different nail stuff so we do tend to abuse our nails!  So for me to have my nails in such good condition it is a really big thing!  The two pictures above are of my own natural nail length.

If you have never tried this type of manicure then all I can say is - give it a go, then you will understand all that I rave about.    

I hope this answers all your questions about Shellac and Gelish but if not then please feel free and ask away here.  If you are not near me and want to have this treatment done let me know and I will contact the relevant people to find a tech in your area.

Enjoy your manicures x x x


  1. Thanks for all your views on this post and it is great to see so many of you increase your knowledge because of this.

    I wanted to tell you all about the more recent post I have done on how to achieve a glitter/colour fade with this type of product, including the Artistic Colour Gloss that I am also big fan of:

  2. Hello,
    I wanted to ask you one question ..... can I use a normal not too expensive UV lamp to cure both Gelish and Shelllac?
    Thank you Kate

    1. Hi Kate - thanks for your question.

      All manufacturers recommend that you use their preferred lamp to get the optimum cure from the products.

      However, I use the shellac UV lamp to cure gelish and that works fine. However, the gelish lamp does not cure shellac.

      Gelish will cure with other uv lamps (needs to be at least 36w)but you may need to adjust your cure time accordingly.

      If you want one lamp that is most effective for more than one system then I would recommend the Shellac uv lamp. It is not too pricy and is pretty robust. But if you are looking to speed up your treatment time for Gelish then get a LED lamp.

      HTH x x x

  3. my topand base coats seem really think with Gelish is there a away to thin them?

  4. Hi Marlena.

    Are your base and top coats really cold at the minute? if so try and warm them slightly naturally to see if that helps?

    If not do you think they may have been in too much direct sunlight? if so then i am not aware of anything that can make it thinner so i reckon you contact your distributor.