Shellac vs Gel Nails – Which is Better?

In principle, going to the manicure salon ought to be calming. However, things may rapidly get out of hand when presented with numerous nail paint options and little to no information. Nail technicians are usually not patient enough to give adequate information about each polish, so you must make a choice that aligns with what you want and make it fast.

Read on to find answers to your concerns about gel versus Shellac nails before calling the salon to make an appointment.

Shellac Vs. Gel – Overview

A gel manicure and a Shellac manicure are the same: long-lasting polishes cured under UV lamps. The difference is that gel nails/ manicure is the generic term for nails done under a UV lamp, while Shellac is a brand of gel nails by the company Creative Nail Design (CND). 

Shellac Nails

The word “Shellac” is just a trademarked name from CND, the first nail company to bring this type of semi-permanent polish to market, and it is frequently referred to as your standard “gel mani” or “Shellac gel mani.” This comes off as confusing because then people do not understand what the difference is.

A lot of people call this type of nail shellac gel nails. This is because the product comprises half regular nail polish and half gel and is typically applied with two color coats and a topcoat. Between each coat, you cure the color and set the polish by putting your nails under a special UV light. Shellac combines benefits like no dry time, long-lasting results, shine, color, and easy removal.

Gel Nails

It is a non-exclusive product called “hard gel” and is formed of acrylic oligomers and monomers that blend when exposed to UV light.

The process for getting a gel manicure is largely the same as getting a regular manicure — your nails are filed, shaped, and cut but there are several key differences.

Like traditional lacquer, gel nail polish is applied using a brush and cured using a UV or LED light to help secure it for all-day use. Each gel layer’s cure time will be between 30 and 60 seconds. As soon as the last topcoat cures, you’re prepared to leave the salon rather than wait for the nails to dry.

Gel manicures are designed to last around three weeks. Because of natural nail growth and wear and tear, anything beyond that wouldn’t look as good as it should.

Differences Between Shellac and Gel

Gel manicures and Shellac nails have a solid reputation for providing long-lasting nail color. The decision between the two depends on how frequently you want to change the look of your nails.

Think of shellac nails and gel nails as sisters—they’re in the same family, and people often can’t tell the difference, but there is a difference. No two things can be the same.


After either a gel manicure or Shellac application, nails appear natural and glossy. Depending on wear and tear, they maintain a freshly-manicured appearance for up to 14 days. Nails with gel or Shellac are not as flexible as natural nails, but they tend to be more flexible than acrylic nails.


The difference between gel and shellac nails is in the formula that gives them identical glossy, long-lasting appearances. The patented Shellac nail lacquer was developed by Creative Nail Design. Shellac nails combine two forms of nail coating: gel (for protection and durability) and regular nail polish (for color and glow ). The final result is more natural.

On the other hand, gel nails are made with liquid gel and are not exclusive to one polish distributor. Gel polishes are made with acrylic monomers and oligomers that harden under UV light to create a hard, glossy coat.

As a result, shellac nails are thinner than gel nails and not as heavy.

Application Process

When making gel nails, technicians usually start with a manicure. They then roughen the nail bed with a file or buffer. Next, they dehydrate, clean the nail bed with alcohol, and apply the base coat. All polish coats must be cured under a UV or LED lamp for 30 seconds.

After the base coat come two coats of color, each cured under a UV or LED lamp. Last comes the top coat, cured under the same lighting. Finally, the nail tech removes a sticky film residue using alcohol.

The application process for Shellac is mostly the same. However, one key difference is that the nail tech doesn’t roughen the nail. Dehydration and cleaning with alcohol are the only preparation for the nail bed. Another key difference is that Shellac requires curing under a UV light for one minute.

Removal Methods

In turn, this makes the gel manicure removal different from Shellac removal. Due to the makeup of the gel, removal is a little more challenging than with Shellac, and it is harder to remove since it is thicker, whereas Shellac is a thinner polish and can be removed much more quickly. 

With gel, it can take up to 50 minutes to get rid of. Moreover, To break the bond for the gel, it has to be filed first then your nails are soaked in the acetone. In comparison, Shellac is just covered in the acetone caps and takes a speedy 15 minutes to remove.

A trained nail tech can remove both without damage, but generally speaking, removing gel polish requires a lot of scraping and filing down, which is annoying, time-consuming, and can be a little rougher on the nails. On the other hand, Shellac is much easier to take off (and, thus, less prone to damage your nails).


Though there are spare differences in the cost of both nails, they are almost similar, but shellac nails seem to be on a slightly higher spectrum. This depends on where you reside and how fancy a salon is. The type of nail design you want and how you want it done.


Since Shellac has a little bit of normal nail polish mixed in the formula, inevitably, gel nails last longer. Although Shellac is slightly more susceptible to chipping than gel, both still last much longer than regular polish.

Shellac or gel nails are excellent options if you want a manicure that will last for a long time. Both types of manicures have a 10 to 14-day lifespan. However, because shellac nails are partly made with regular polish, they are more prone to chipping than gel nails.


The color selection also varies quite a bit. For Shellac, there are only 132 shades available, but for Gel, there are 388 available shades. That’s quite a difference, and it changes the game a lot, as choosing the color is the most crucial part of a manicure. The more you have to choose from, the better.

Safety and Health

There has been much discussion on whether shellac and gel nails could be implicated in cancerous cells because they use UV lights to cure your polish.

Like anything with UV, caution is always key, so apply an SPF30+ sunscreen at least 20 minutes beforehand.

Is There Anything More I Need to Know About Gel and Shellac Nails?

One issue that holds true for both gel and Shellac nails is that coatings on top of your nail beds prevent them from being able to “breathe” and therefore prevent the nails from looking their best. 

However, your nail bed and cuticles are still alive, so taking good care of them is crucial. As a result, avoid attempting to take them off and go to a salon for professional removal instead. You may also follow the following instructions for safe DIY removal.

So, Which Is Better, Shellac or Gel?

Choosing colors is a thing to consider when deciding between gel and Shellac. Gelish colors are 388 strong, with various natural and brilliant tints, whereas shellac colors are less robust at just 132, giving you fewer options.

Everything depends on what you’re looking for.

Choose shellac nails if you want to remove the semi-permanent polish by yourself to reduce the risk of damaging your natural nail.

However, if a certain color you’re looking for isn’t available in the selection of shellac nails, consider gels instead. Just make sure you get a professional to get them out afterwards.

It is fair to say that each polish has its good and bad sides. You can weigh the pros and cons, but don’t forget that it is subjective. One manicure may be effective for some people but not for others. Different nail health and nail kinds may react differently to gel and Shellac. The greatest advice is to experiment with both and find which suits you the best.