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Difference Between Shellac And Gel Nails | Face-Off: Shellac vs Gel | Featured

Nail Face-Off: Shellac Vs Gel, What’s The Difference And Similarities?

Shellac or gel? That’s a question we ask ourselves at one point on our nail care journey. While both polish types have their pros and cons, let’s find out which one will better suit your own style and expectations, and put an end to the wild shellac vs gel debate.

RELATED: What Are Soak Off Gel Nails & Why You Need To Try It

In this article:

  1. General Description
  2. Polish Formula
  3. Application and Cooling Time
  4. Durability of Gel and Shellac Mani
  5. Removal Process

The Ultimate Guide on Shellac vs Gel Polish: Which One Is Better?

General Description

What Is a Gel Manicure?

Gel is a super durable nail polish that hardens under UV light exposure. Some brands also offer LED curing gel polish. It builds up solid coats covering the nail plate for a perfect long-lasting manicure.

There are over 380 shades of thick gel polish available in the market.

If you want to do your manis home, you can find gel polish and UV lights in cosmetic retail stores, as well as online.

What Is a Shellac Manicure?

Shellac is a long-lasting and easy to remove nail polish that gives nails a chic glossy finish. It’s made out of solvents, as a mixture of traditional polish and gel polish.

The thin liquid nail paint is available in 116 colors. But due to its CND patent rights, you can’t buy the polish from a retail store or make a shellac mani at home.

As shellac’s only distributed to verified salons, if you wish to try it out—you might have to pay a visit to a nail care professional.

Polish Formula


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Both gel and shellac nails have similar characteristics—they are solid, glossy, shiny, and durable.

Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the two from just a glimpse or a photo. But there’s a difference between shellac and gel nails in their formula and qualities.

Shellac is a patented gel polish hybrid. It’s a combination of gel and traditional nail paint. This type of coating is rich in color, protects the nails, and it’s easy to take off.

Gel polish is a thick liquid gel used as a nail coating. It’s a mixture of acrylic monomers and oligomers. The coating is hard and glossy, increases nail endurance but it’s hard to take off at home and can ruin your natural nails.

Application and Cooling Time

Shellac application starts with a polish bottle shake to mix up nail paint solvents. You can apply it directly on the nail, without filling it to expose the rough surface. It cools immediately under UV light.

On the other hand, when using gel, you do not need to shake the bottle. But what you do need to do is apply a base coat to firmly bind the gel to the nail surface. Gel cools instantly upon UV or LED light exposure.

You might need to apply two coats for a firm color and for durability. Always seal gel-based polish with glossy or matte top coat. And don’t forget each coating has to be cured under a nail lamp.

RELATED: DIY Gel Polish Nail Remover Without Breaking The Bank

Durability of Gel and Shellac Mani

Gel polish is currently taking the lead in long-lasting qualities. Gel nails are hard and solid, they can last for up to three weeks without falling apart.

Shellac polish is also extremely durable. It can last for two weeks before chipping, beating traditional manicure that chips in a week.

After 14 days, nails usually grow out and it’s time for a mani change anyway.

Removal Process


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Manicure Shellac Removal

Shellac removal process is a breath of fresh air compared with gel mani. You can go to a professional and get it done with a fast acetone-based remover for less than 15 minutes!

The remover dissolves the shellac and breaks the coating up. If that isn’t cool enough, there is no scraping involved in the procedure so your nails don’t have to suffer during nor afterward.

If going to the nail salon is not on your schedule, you can remove the shellac at home by following these tips:

  • Place a cotton pad soaked in acetone on each nail plate.
  • Use aluminum foil to wrap the cotton pad around your fingernails.
  • Wait 10 minutes, remove the foil and the cotton pads.
  • Wipe your nails clean with acetone.

Gel Nails Removal

Gels are ultimately harder to remove. There’s a lot of scraping and filing involved in the process and it really weakens natural nails.

The removal of gel mani requires a long acetone soak and filling. I would recommend a visit to a nail salon to ensure minimum nail damage.

Important: Whatever you do—never peel off a gel coating! It hurts the nail surface, making your finger plates thinner, fragile, and really rough.

Shellac Vs Gel Face-Off: The Final Verdict

Shellac nails are great if you plan on removing your polish at home and want to avoid damaging your nail plates. The downside is you have to visit a professional to get your nails done, and you are a bit limited with color choice.

On the other hand, gels offer a wild color palette, so if you are opting for a particular look and hue—better go with gel polish. You can easily do your mani and cure your gel coats at home with a UV nail lamp.

For the removal, though, I’d advise you to go see a professional or proceed at home with care and caution (no peeling or clinging)!

Check out this helpful video on how to remove gel nail polish at home by Popsugar:

As you can tell, there is no real final verdict when it comes to gel vs shellac. Both polish types have their respective pros and cons. At the end of the day, the decision is all up to you and what you want to get out of a manicure.

Where do you stand on the shellac vs gel nails debate? Which one would you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments.


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