We’ve all had a point where we were new to the nail game and wondered what the difference between Gel and Shellac is and which is the better choice for you. If you are still wondering which is right for you, hopefully this guide will help you out!

Gel vs. Shellac Nails

A Shellac Manicure and a gel Manicure are basically the same. Both give a long lasting finish and both have to be cured under a UV lamp to dry. The difference between the two is that Shellac is a gel nail brand by Creative Nail Design (CND), while “gel nails” or “gel Manicure” are the terms used generically for nails done under a UV lamp


Gel Nails

Gel nails are pre-mixed monomers that polymerize when cured. Because they are in their monomer state when uncured, they look and apply like a gel but when cured under a UV light they harden and give off a glossy shine. There are two types of gel, hard gel and soft gel.

As implied by its name, hard gel becomes tough enough to be used as nail extensions, once it’s cured. In contrast, soft gel, also known as soak-off gel, are too soft to be used for this purpose and are used only as polish.

Soft gel is applied just like traditional polish: First the base coat is applied, followed by one or two coats of color, then the top coat. The difference between soak-off gels and traditional nail polish is the curing process. Soak-off gels need to be cured under LED or UV light while traditional nail polish are air dried.

Hard gel requires a more strategic application because of its thicker viscosity. The application is similar to how acrylic is applied but one major advantage of hard gels vs. acrylics is that it’s easier to achieve your desired thickness by applying thin layers. An important thing to remember: because hard gels are thicker, they usually take longer to cure.

A lot of nail enthusiast pick gel manicures over acrylics because they are gentle to the natural nail and the polish doesn’t clip, crack, or chip for at least a couple of weeks.


Shellac Nails

As mentioned earlier, Shellac nails are branded gel nails that are made by CND and are designed to outshine and outlast regular gel nails. The creators of this product also claims that there’s no drying time and that nails have a “14 Day Wear Mirror Finish.”

Aside from being one of the longest lasting nail applications, the “no drying time” feature of Shellac gives great convenience. Immediately after getting your nails done, you can rummage inside your purse without worrying about chipping or damaging your nail polish.

The very durable finish of Shellac nails rarely chips or peels. It can stand up to most household chores like washing dishes but some chemicals can cause damage, not just to your nails but also to your hands, so, wearing gloves is still advisable.

The removal of Shellac nails is a more “nail-friendly” process than when removing gel nails. After using acetone nail polish pads for the required soaking time, you will only need to apply moisturizer to complete the process. Meanwhile, the average gel nail removal typically includes nail buffing to totally remove all products from your nails. This may seem nice but remember that when your nails are buffed, the top layer, which helps protect your nails is removed


Useful Tips

In addition to using only the best products for your nails, here are some tips that can help make sure they stay beautiful and healthy.

  • Moisturize your hands regularly and apply cuticle oil twice a day to keep your skin and nails hydrated.
  • You may be tempted to polish your nails at home using a product similar to Shellac however, if you do not have the right equipment, like the UV lamp for curing, you may end up disappointed and not achieve the result you expect.
  • Do not attempt to peel off Shellac when you no longer want them. This my damage the top layers of your nails. Instead, go back to your Nail Salon to remove them the proper way.