The Rundown on Shellac Manicures

Who doesn’t love a manicure? You get to sit and relax for 30-60 minutes while someone gives you hand massages and makes your nails look all pretty! They are one of my favorite luxuries. Unfortunately, manicures typically chip very quickly. I’ve tried all the tricks: applying a topcoat every other day, drying your nails individually after a shower, etc. Nothing works. It’s not a good feeling to know you paid $20 and got two days of chip-free nails.

Not a fan of regular manicures, but don’t want to ruin your nails with acrylics or gel nails? Well, a couple weeks ago I found a solution for all of you manicure lovers out there! This past spring CND came out with Shellac nail polish. You might be saying Shellac, hmm what is this exactly? Shellac is a cross between gel nails and traditional nail polish.  It gets applied like regular nail polish, but dries like a gel. Shellac gives your manicure a little more stability than the usual manicure, allowing it to last longer.

My nails at week 1

Shellac manicures take slightly more time because after each coat you have to put your hand under UV light. You are not getting as much UV light as you do with gels or acrylics. It is totally worth the few extra minutes, because immediately after you take your hand out of the UV light for the last time, your manicure is completely dry. I walked out of the salon a little hesitant, as I’m used to having to sit and let it dry for awhile before touching anything. I put my gloves on and when I took them off later, no smudges! It was a miracle; I could go about my regular business immediately after getting my manicure.

Unfortunately, you can only receive a Shellac manicure at a salon; you cannot do it yourself from home. Salons everywhere are starting to offer this service. It is about 50% more in price, than a typical manicure costing anywhere from $30-$40.

Right now, there are still a limited number of colors: shades of pink, red and brown. You can also mix and match these colors to make new colors. When I got Shellac, I had the manicurist do a French manicure, as they are my favorite. Coming in March, more colors are going to be released according to CND, “we know you are awaiting NEW colors…and they are ON THEIR WAY!!! Twelve new Shellac shades will be available March 1st (…and yes, BlackPool – a gorgeous, rich black – is one of them!) Find them all at your CND distributor, and at the upcoming ABS Show in Chicago (March 13-14).”

My nails at week 3

Shellac manicures are guaranteed to last up until 14 days. I kept my Shellac on for three weeks, and while it didn’t chip, my cuticles were showing BADLY as my nails grew.  Also, after 14 days, it becomes harder to remove the Shellac.

To remove Shellac, you either need to go back to the salon or you can do it from home. You need to soak cotton balls in acetone and then place on each nail. Wrap the cotton ball in foil and let it soak for about ten minutes. I recommend doing only one hand at once, so you can still use your hands, if necessary. This works just as well as getting it removed at salon without the cost.

Some people say they get bored of their color and wouldn’t want the same color on for two weeks.  I can see their point, but two weeks isn’t that long to me, and I just love looking down at my polished smudge free nails!

Want to get the look without shelling out the money? Read on to learn how to get gel nails at home.

Shellac is amazing, and I am in love. Don’t just take my word for it though- go try it for yourself!

  • Cathy

    I have had shellac three times and I just peel it off my nails every time as soon as one chips. I am very disappointed that this last time I had it done it lasted just 7days!!

  • KKK

    Hated the manicure. I felt like my nails were pulling up and drying out from this stuff. Now I'm trying to get this off my nails.

  • Joanne

    I started getting shellac manicures months ago every 2-3 weeks. Now it's 2 weeks. The last 3 manicures did not last. My nails started splitting sideways…. It started with my thumbs, now I have 2 more fingers splitting sideways…It costs $32.00 each manicure. Could it be the buffing that splits thems? Usually after a week or less a nail starts to split sideways. I never had split nails before the manicures. I also use the oil daily on my nails. I did my own nails for years with no splitting. A friend talked me into a manicure and now I'm stuck with the splitting… What's wrong with this?

    • annehouseman

      If your nails are splitting, something's really wrong. If I were you, I'd stop getting these manicures immediately and let your nails grow out and repair. You don't want to get an infection! You might want to ask your doctor if they know what could be causing it, such as a fungus or something else. Either way, I suggest to play it safe and lay off the gel for a while.

  • Beatriz

    Shellac manicures are great! our clients at Happy nails by Betty are loving it, we have a special price of $24 for our Shellac, call at 305 9474488 in North Miami Beach

  • linda

    i have great nails. never had a manicure. there was a lady who did friends nails and told me if i ever wanted to have my nails done she would be happy to help. so i tried it. my nails were already long, shaped and ready to go. i told her do not cut or shape and i wanted the french manicure. she said for a little extra she would guarantee that it stayed 3 weeks and if it chipped she would fix. so i paid the extra and it worked! they were gorgeous for 3 weeks. i work at computer, normal housework, dishes, laundry, cleaning. it was beautiful! i have moved since then and no one can give me what she did. just never lasts as long and i refuse to put fake ones on to keep from chipping. my nails are still in great shape —- never hurt them at all.

  • Helen


    What is the difference between Shellac and Gellac?

    • lisa

      Shellac is a "hybrid" of a gel and a polish where as the Gellac is a pure gel.

  • myra

    wore acrylic nails for approx. 2 yrs. had them removed and same day and gel shellac procedure performed. Lasted just a few days. Should I have had a "wait" period between changing from the acrylics before trying the gel. Any prep work I should do to my nails. My reg. nails are extremely thin and papery feeling from the acrylics. Need help.

    • lisa

      the cnd shellac is best on healthy/strong nails because it really doesn't have any strengthening ability to it.
      the best thing would probably be to let your nails "breathe" for a while before putting any other type of artificial enhancements on and just get regular manicures and/or using one of those nail strengthners like Nail Tek.

  • chris

    to stop chipping I apply a nail oil each night and rub in this penetrates the nail and keeps things healthy

  • Fresh

    I had shellac and after a week it started to fade, but I wash my hands a lot… I peeled off the gel and all my nails have white looking cracks and looks super damaged! I did love the mani but I wasnt aware of the removing process…

  • Sunny

    Shellac was more harmful on my nails than acrylics. I had acrylics on my nails for 5 years straight and my nails have never been in the state they are in now that I switched to Shellac. They are soooo worn down, thin, chipping and even split down the middle. I think it is the removal process that is so rough on them that it just isn't worth it. With acrylic I only had to switch them out every 4-5 months, but with shellac it is every 2-3 weeks to they get worn down too often. Plus, I'm lucky if Shellac even last a week on me. One time, I had 4 nails chip w/in 24 hours and, no, I am not a contruction worker or anything labor intensive with my hands. In short, Shellac ruined my nails and was way worse on my nails that acrylics. Plus, acrylics don't chip like Shellac does. Will never Shellac again!

  • carol

    When I finish my Shellac manicure by removi the tacky film with 90% alcohol and a lint-free pad, some of the polish comes off, too. Any suggestions about how to avoid this problem? Thank you!

    • Lucy

      Have you tried curing the top coat for a little longer?

  • Annie

    MY nails are very thin. After getting my nails done I itch underneath my nails

  • Lisa

    I just got the shellac for me and my daughter and after wearing acryllics for 10 years it is a very nice change to know that I do not have to end up with paper thin nails! I wasn't told that they would have to sand the shellac off but only use 100% acetone to remove. I waited a month for my new nails to grow back after removal of the acryllics, hopefully this will work because regular nail polish chips on me in a matter of hours, if this works it will be a godsend!

  • hilary

    I love my shellac nails they last so long n stay shiny…I wouold recommend getting the stuff n doing it urself seeing as how its only. Polish n ud pay for the kit in 3 visits 2 the nail salon…the only thing I'm curios about is if my nails should take a break frm it periodically? My nails r thin 2 begin with but they peel from time to time n i noticed them peeling more recently jus curious if its from the shellac or becuz sometimes I peel the polish off instead of soaking?

  • jesica

    we use the shellac at our shop and people seam to like it ………

  • Confused

    I have done Shellac twice and both time it started chipping after one week. I hear great results for others, but why is it not working for me!!!

  • Christine

    Got a shellac this last weekend. LOVED IT>>> My manicurist said that you SHOULD NOT HAVE TO FILE IT OFF… wrap the nail in acetone soaked cotton, and after 10-15 minutes, you should be able to scrape it with an orangewood stick.

    Also, if you have damaged nails (I had a peely one) the shellac may not adhere as well as to totally healthy nails.

    It is better than the gel because if done right, you shouldn't have to 'rough up' the surface of the nails to apply the shellac, and you shouldn't have to file it off.

    If the finish gets dull just take a cotton soaked in alcohol and shine them right up. LOVE THIS!

    For me, getting out of the parking lot without a smudge after my manicure is worth the extra price.

    Love the idea of sunscreen before the manicure, and will do it!

  • Dee

    I got my first Shellac manicure on Sunday at Tina's Nails in Alameda. I had acrylic nails for years and had the acrylic removed. I thought my real nails would be super soft from the years of acrylic, but me, taking vitamins, my nails were hard. I got the Shellac and I LOVE LOVE it. Iwish I owuld have found this sooner.

  • Donna

    I just started getting shellac nails. I so far just love it. I have it done every three weeks because the french manicure grows out much nicer then the color . I did hear about the cancer aspect of the lights, and it does scare me. I pray its safe because my nails never looked this good. e

  • flo domings

    I have had three shellac manicures and the first two the shellac was removed by sanding the nail and then soaking them in acetone. The third time the shellac was removed by sanding only. Which is the safest way to remove the shellac?

    • Gina

      Ohhh…no, no, no! Don't file or scrape. I hear people say that they break the shell of the first coat of Shellac before applying acetone, but never file off your shellac. It defeats the purpose of using the nail plate-friendly gel system. Dip a small, dime-sized cotton ball in acetone, apply to finger, then wrap finger in acetone. Leave on for 10-15 minutes, then scrape residue with an orange wood stick. If there is still some product remaining, then feel free to apply the cotton ball and foil that you already used. I hope this works for you. Good luck!

  • Tommy

    French MANICURE????? What the heck…the French didn't invent this one. It's a throw back to the Victorian Era when women used the chamois buffer and the chalk pencil. The French Had nothing to do with it…and French Pedicure?? What in the world do women do with that look?? It looks like you have to have your toenails clipped because they are too long and my nutty grandaughter paid $45.00 to have her nail tipped in black and her toes too…Heck I could have done that with use motor oil by dipping her fingers and toes into that and saving the $45.00 price. That's what the finished product looked like. Yep, it looked like she had been hanging around my garage.

    • Happy

      Are you really so bored that you have nothing better to do than dog on manicures?? It's a beautiful day… go for a walk!

    • SHELLE

      Jeez dude, chill out….I think you're on here to let some aggression out. Calm the F down….


    I can't understand the misnomer in calling this a Shellac Manicure. For one it's not Shellac…it's a Polymer that's light activated from UV Rays. Shellac is made from Insect Dung and alot of it. Also Bat I am sure you don't want that on your nails. Quit calling things that they aren't…call it a UV Manicure or something…IT'S NOT SHELLAC…GET YOUR STORY STRAIGHT.

    • Gina

      I believe it's called Shellac for marketing purposes. Of course, it's not the commonly-recognized hardware store Shellac. Moreover, the gel polish (or lacquer [LAC]), as it sometimes called) forms a hard shell (SHELL) at the conclusion of the UV curing process. Hence, put the two names together and you get Shellac. I figured it our after reading several articles because I was wondering the same thing. Not false advertisement, just rudimentary marketing ploys:)

    • Guest

      People call it Shellac because that is what the "brand name" is…

  • Shellac Me

    Love, love, love my Shellac. I'm a little rough with my nails but the Shellac withstands the test. It usually takes me 30-45 minutes to get them done which is longer than a normal mani but it surely beats me repainting my naik sin three days. My nails are growing and are much stronger because of the shellac. Nothing but goo dthings to say about this new process. Speaking of, I'm in need for a new set as we speak. They are passable but like someone mentioned, the cuticles are dreadful after a week. i usually apply oil and it helps for a few days.

  • fey

    my nails were beautiful then i got the shellac. ever since the salon removed it my nails wont grow back. they keep splitting down yo yhe quick. its been two months or more. iv tried nail repair products w/no improvement! i dont even bother to put nail polish them anymore. a few woman told me the same thing happened to them. re: chipping the first chip happened a day or two after shellac was applied. i think solution used in salon to remove shellac is not just acetone. even though the solution covered nails up to first nuckle, the skin on my fingers up to the 2nd nuckle began to turn white. the fumes caught my breath and am sure if repeated exposure would've triggered acute asthma attack. my manicurist was in obvious distress as she wasn't wearing a mask. i strongly encouraged her to do so, but it was only after realizing she could not continue without putting one on. now im so embarassed & try to hide them. i think the product should be banned. i can only imagine what long term exposure to those fumes will do to manicurists lungs not to mention brain! they'd be safer sniffing airplane glue!!

    • Guest

      Wow! Sorry you had that experience. I think you need to try a new nail tech……just sayin….sounds like a horrible experience. I have had Shellac nails since it first came to our beauty supplies and love everything about it. If you put it on and take it off right you shouldn't have those problems.

    • samina

      try nailtiques plus 2. the product is absolutely amazing. i have what i think are the worst natural nails on earth, genetically speaking. i dont damage my nails, bite them, or do acrylics, etc. they just suck,.. since using this product my nails have made a 100000000% improvement, they're even growing, and the one pinky nail split down the center, healed up. i then used it on my friend who's been addicted to acrylics for years. she has that weird moon shaped groove on her nail bed. we first buffed and dusted, then painted nailtiques…. voila, cant see the ugly grooves anymore. ive got all the women in my office using this stuff. give it a try, but just that brand Nailtiques Plus 2. I've tried the others, they just don't work as great. Good luck.

    • Guest

      Do not blame the shellac on this problem you are having, it sounds like the problem is your salon. The acetone is applied to the nail only using a cotton ball then wrapped with foil. Ten minutes later the polished is removed with minimal effort. I have asthma and did not experience any strong odor, so I am wondering what chemical they were using on you. In my experience the polish lasted more than two week and had to be redone because it had grown out. I hope you are able to try the shellac again, I am a fan.

    • Guest

      It sounds like your tech is having you soak your fingertips in straight Acetone. The Acetone should be placed on a cotton ball and then on your fingernail which is wrapped in foil. My first two times, I had the "dipping" method which is very harsh and everyone, except me was in a mask. I went to a better salon and received the correct method of removal.

  • Lori

    For all of you nail techs out there, be careful about how you market Shellac. In opposition to the above article, Shellac is NOT guaranteed for 14 days. The company tag line is, it lasts up to 14 days….. people tend to convert the 14 days into 2 weeks… the key words here are "up to". Depending on your client and how they use their hands on a daily basis, I find that the Shellac will last from about 9 to 16 days. I explain this to my clients, emphasizing the fact that it will still be a beautiful, brilliant manicure lasting much longer than traditional polish manicures. The minute you guarantee for the full 14 days, you will find yourself replacing at no charge… be careful. This is a long awaited answer in our industry to the age old question, " Why can't someone come up with something that lasts longer than 2 days?" Kudos to CND !

    • mariea

      thats the best advice i have ever been given …. " up to " thanks lori much apperciated ….


  • mariann

    thank you so much for the hint to apply sunscreen prior to getting the nails done i will do so

  • LuAnne

    I have good nails but never could get them to be all the same length. Polish never lasted for me either with housework and frequent hand washing from being a nurse. This is the best thing since crispy creme donuts!! I had one in a salon and was hooked. I ordered the thermal spa light and polish from amazon and have been doing my own for about two months. No damage at all to my nails. I've heard it can damage your nails if you peel it off. So don't. If you are worried about uv exposure wear cotton gloves with the tips cut off or apply sunscreen before putting them in the light. Since i've been doing this I have not broken a single nail. They are shiny and strong. I believe all the cons are to keep it in the salon but if you can polish your own nails you can do this for a fraction of the cost.

    • Barbie

      What thermal spa light did you get from Amazon? What did it cost?

  • Sheila

    I am a nail tech. and been doing nails for years. The shellac is great, but I put one coat of gel under it and it works better. On some people it will leave white spots on their nails and make them extremely thin. Don't know why it does on some and not all. I love the way the shellac lasts. Some people have problems with it and other don't. But all and all I like it and use it daily.

  • Barb

    My nails are VERY thin and damaged. Over a period of several years, I have tried acrylics, fiberglass, silk and gel nails. All promised to not harm my nails and ALL of them did. I've been unable to have decent looking nails that grow ever since my first attempt with acrylics. They are thinner than ever, split very easily, and have vertical lines. I don't think I'll even try the shellacs, although I'd love to think that they would truly work without further damage to my nails.

    • Colleen

      I would stay away from Shellac. I found the process dries the nail and even though the polish didn't chip the nail underneath was weak and cracked easily. I'm going back to regular manicures!

      • Penny

        I wonder if you were using a cuticle oil twice a day to keep cuticles soft and to get moisture down to the nails. My nail tech says it is formulated to be poreous, so if you don't take care of your nails then they will not be good to you. If you have weak nails I would suggest getting a Shellac manicure. It helps keep the nail strong. I have problems with chipping and cracking and now I have no problems.

  • Dutch4

    if the shellac is applied correctly by a professional that follows all of the manufactures steps as they were designed you will not have any damage to your nails. this also goes for the removal of the shellac. i am hearing to many many people comment on various sights that the nail bed is being buffed or filed prior to shellac use. Run from a nail tech. that is doing this to your nails in a shellac application. The whole point of shellac is to be green with your nails. Wear it for two weeks and remove it in about 10 minutes with no damage to your nails. I have worn shellac for about 7 months now. I change it every 2 weeks. i started after 18 years of acrylic nails. my nails are healthy too. If you are worried about the UV lamps find a nail salon or nail tech. that have the new LED lamps that can cure the shellac or gel nails. If you are having a bad experience with shellac then one of the steps is missing in the application or removal of the product.

    • Katie

      My CND Shellac nails peel after 5 days. Any help???? What UV light do you recommend – Amazon has so many not sure which one. Don't want to spend too much but want to be sure I get one that works.

    • Lynne

      I did not use anything to remove my shellac. I kept the shellac on until alot had already chipped off and then picked off the rest. Is this bad? I am having problems getting nails to grow.

  • Susie Petersen McBride

    Has anyone had a bad experience with this if you remove the shellac and go back to your normal nails? I am still trying to get my nails in good condition after acrylics. its been two years.

    • A-List Nails

      lots of cuticle oil should help

    • Lynne

      I had shellac put on my nails the last week of January and I am just now getting them to grow. It scared me because it's so abnormal to not have your nails growing out. I started taking vitamins in hopes it would help. I would like to get this done again for vacation but am scared. Anyone else out there have this problem.

    • D. Cole

      If you have not had any type of artificial nails on in 2 years (this includes glue on, press on), then I would think your nails are as good as they are going to get on their own. Your nails have had plenty of time to grow out, from cuticle to end, more than once. I am a nail tech with over 20 years experience and am constantly telling people that artificial nails only require removing the shine from the nail; NOT filng the living daylights out of them. Only the surface must be gently "roughed up" to enhance adhesion. If you have pits, gouges or any other damage, you are going to the wrong person! But many, many people have picked and pulled the acrylic/gel or other artificial product and dtheir nails to peel and pit, also. It's like gluing something to your sheetrock and then being surprised that a big chunk came off when you pulled it down! As for the Shellac system, I'm sold! There should be no damage to the nails even when removed PROPERLY! But don't pick and peel it off and think it won't cause your nails to peel. Take off as directed and your nails should be in the same condition as before the application.

    • Emcclure

      It is not as bad as acrylics. I had acrylics for at least 20 years. I started to finally grow my own nails after two years of no acrylic. Recently I got into the Shellac manicures and I love it. It is the only way for me to keep my nails at a decent length. Just don't pick the Shellac yourself and you will be fine. If you pick it off without soaking you tear layers.

  • Dana

    You do NOT have to get the shellac at a salon! Amazon sells the UV lights, the shellac base coat, top coat and colors. I am not a nail professional and I do it at home with absolutely no problems. It's like using regular nail polish, only you have to "cure" the coats under the UV light. After the top coat cures, soak a cotton ball with 91% alcohol, wipe the tacky finish off and you are done! Instantly dry, ready to do whatever you want. After a few uses, it will pay for itself with no having to pay the prices at a salon!

    • valerie

      Im not a professional either and love these. I have had some problems with it being tacky.

    • Hannah

      Hi, when you say wipe with Alcohol to get rid of the tacky finish – is this the same as acetone?? Thanks.

      • Guest

        No, it's not the same as acetone. The Alcohol wipe is the final touch that removes the tackiness without removing the polish.

        • Beauty

          So true! I do my own shellac every two weeks and I purchased all the stuff on Amazon. And you simple wipe with rubbing alcohol to get rid of the tacky feeling. Before I purchased the kit from Amazon, I actually went to the salon twice to do my nails and paid close attention to the procedure 🙂

  • Kate

    I've had one and unfortunately, it will be the last one I get for a couple of reasons. I've had two in situ cases of melanoma and my dermatologist and plastic surgeon both warned me about the ultra violet light box that is used to seal the nails. I have two 2 inch scars on each arm from melanoma and a scar on my forehead from a basal cell cancer. It's important to me to share this information in hopes of keeping other women from going through the same thing. I urge readers to do your own research and speak to your doctor before regular use of gel manicures. Keep in mind that it may take many years before more conclusive research comes out because skin cancer can take years to appear. When I was a child, the available sunscreens, Coppertone and Sea n' Ski, had an SPF of 4! This was prior to the great SPF's we have today.

    "When asked for his final recommendation by co-host Dr. Travis Stork, Dr. Ordon suggested women opt for regular fan dryers during their manicures and pedicures. In his opinion, using the UV nail dryer is not worth the skin cancer risk."

    I'd also like to mention that I have thin nails and they're still recovering from the one and only gel manicure I had. They may not be quite as tough as acrylics but, they still damage your nails. During the last week I had them on, my nails started feeling very sensitive. I'd just gotten them to the point of being in good shape prior to the gel nails and now, I'm starting from scratch again. I'm sticking with Essie Ballet Slipper or another natural looking regular polish.

  • Barbara

    I got a Shellac manicure two weeks ago before travelling. I was trying to time my manicure with packing and looking chip-free for my trip…not to worry! This is amazing! I can't image doing anything but this. I get so tired of getting a manicure and two days later (if you're lucky), it's chipped or peeling or tired looking. I intend to go back to the salon to get it removed. I'm hoping that it's not damaging to nails b ecause I'm a believer!

    • Jennifer Gorden

      I know! I'm the same way- I can't imagine spending the money on a manicure and not getting shellac. Let me know how your nails are when you have it removed. I didn't have a problem though and I don't think you will either. Good luck!