The Difference Between Gel Polish and CND™ Shellac™

March 17, 2018

But wait, you say – I thought Shellac was a gel polish?

Technically, Shellac has now started calling themselves gel polish recently because everyone else have been doing so for a long time. There is a common misconception that anything to do with gel is called Shellac, which just isn’t true – Shellac is a very specific nail treatment that is owned by CND only. Gel polish, on the other hand, comes in many forms from different brands. Think of it in relation to Hoover and vacuuming: Hoover is a brand that became so normalised that we call all forms of vacuuming ‘hoovering’, when in fact we could be using any other brand to ‘hoover’. Gel polish and Shellac are two different things with overlap.

Now, the age-old question these days: which is better, gel polish or Shellac? Of course, customers like yourself just want to know what the actual difference is – that way, you can decide yourself which is better suited for your nails and needs. But it’s also a pain in the backside to have to flick through the scientific jargon about polymers and monomers, when you just want to know the difference between the two, spoken to you like a normal person.


Which is Better, Gel Polish or Shellac?

The important thing to note is what you mean by better. Are you thinking about the durability of each type and whether one lasts longer than the other? Or are you concerned about the health of your nails and therefore wondering, which is healthier, in the long run? Or are you thinking about the aesthetic of the nails – which one is better looking? I’m not here to pass judgement, only to provide you with the right information in the simplest way so you can make that judgement on your own. I’ll start by breaking these individual things down!


Durability – Which Lasts Longer?

Short answer: gel.

Long answer: In essence, gel polish is simply a diluted version of gel. This means that it still has most of the same properties as gel if we compare it directly, the sturdiness and seemingly indestructible wear of gel polish makes it more durable than Shellac.

Gel polish is usually said to last up to three weeks, whereas Shellac generally stays on for 10-14 days.

This is due to the fact that Shellac, as an 8-patented brand manufactured by CND only, is a combination of the gel and nail polish. Whilst stronger than normal polish, Shellac is still able to chip more easily in comparison to gel polish. When Shellac was being created, CND’s main focus was not about the strength, but for colour purpose and to ensure it was able to come and off easily, like a normal polish.

CND also has a range of Creative Play Gel Polish, which is more durable than Shellac.


‘Healthiest’ Option

Short answer: Shellac.

Long answer: As mentioned above, gel polish is simply a diluted version of gel, which means that the removal process is completely different to the removal process of Shellac.

During the application of Shellac, micro-tunnels are left behind once the solvents evaporate. To remove, the nails simply need to be wrapped in foil and soaked in the CND Offly Fast without any buffing beforehand. Within minutes, the remover penetrates the Shellac and falls down the micro-tunnels, making the removal quick and easy – there is little scraping needed after, in order to remove the Shellac off your nails completely. Therefore, there is also little damage needed to remove the Shellac safely.

In contrast, gel polish needs to be removed through a much tougher process of buffing and soaking. In addition to this, prior to the application, the nails need to be buffed quite intensely to ensure that the gel polish adheres to the smooth nail’s surface. Whilst this is not a problem directly, if carried out by a professional, there is still a smaller margin of error to ensure your nails are not damaged in the process. If carried out unprofessionally, your nails could be weakened quite easily with every revisit for your nail treatment.


Photo credits to Creative Academy London.

The example image above shows the Shellac on the right two fingers after being wrapped and soaked in the CND Offly Fast for 8 minutes. The micro-tunnels I mentioned can be seen if looked very closely; the fact that you can see it already falling off easily means that it will completely come off without any excessive force.

As the gel polish is attached so firmly to your nail, it would be harder for you to chip it. There is the danger of weakening and damaging your nails, if you choose to pick the Shellac off yourself at home without the proper removal. Aside from that, it’s safe to say that Shellac has less threat of damaging your nails than gel polish.


Which Looks Nicer?

Short answer: Dealer’s choice.

Long answer: As mentioned earlier, Shellac is a patented brand that combines a gel and nail polish formula, created by CND. The gel technology allows Shellac to cure and remain durable, but the nail polish formula allows the Shellac to maintain its shininess and overall cleaner, more natural look.

On the other hand, as the only brand to manufacture Shellac, there is a more restricted choice of colours. CND continue to constantly develop and release more colours, but gel polish is used and manufactured by several different companies and brands, which provides them with a larger plethora of colour choices. However, CND also have a range called Creative Play Gel Polish, which is their own brand of gel polish with a wide variety of fun colours, too.


So – Which is Better, Gel Polish or Shellac?

I’m not here to provide you with a definitive answer, because there wouldn’t be one. Each person has different wants and needs to fit their own lifestyle, so I can provide you with the information in a simplified manner for you to read through and make your own judgement. Either way, gel polish and Shellac are both more than adequate choices!

CND’s range of products for the nail professional and salons can be found here. Sweet Squared is the official CND UK distributor.

If you’re unsure where to start looking for places to have your nails done, Belle Cour Salon offers both gel polish and Shellac treatments, carried out professionally by CND trained nail technicians.

– Lily Pad