gel vs shellac
Beauty & Fashion

Gel vs. Shellac: The Comprehensive Guide for Nail Enthusiasts

In the dynamic world of nail care, two contenders stand out: gel and shellac. This article dives into the nuances of Gel vs. Shellac, offering insights to help you make an informed choice for your next nail treatment.

What is Gel Nail Treatment?

Gel Nail

Gel nails have become a staple in the beauty industry, revered for their durability, variety, and glossy finish. The process begins with the preparation of the natural nail, followed by the application of a base coat, gel polish, and a topcoat. Each layer is meticulously cured under a UV or LED lamp, ensuring a robust bond and a long-lasting finish. This curing process is what sets gel apart from traditional nail polishes, resulting in a chip-resistant and more durable nail treatment.

There are two primary types of gel nail treatments: hard gel and soft gel. Hard gel is used to create nail extensions. It is more rigid and can be sculpted to extend the nail length or provide a desired shape. Once cured, it provides a strong, protective layer over the natural nail. Soft gel, commonly referred to as gel polish, is more flexible and applied similarly to traditional nail polish. It’s ideal for those seeking a durable manicure without the extension of the natural nail.

The advantages of gel nails are numerous. They offer an impeccable, shiny finish that lasts significantly longer than regular nail polish, typically up to three weeks without chipping or peeling. Additionally, gel nails provide a protective layer that can strengthen and promote the growth of natural nails.

However, the removal process of gel nails requires soaking in acetone and can be harsh on natural nails if not done correctly. Regular gel manicures may also lead to nail dehydration and brittleness over time.

What is Shellac Nail Treatment?


Shellac is a branded form of nail product that has gained popularity for combining the ease of polish with the performance of gels. Often referred to as a ‘power polish,’ shellac is applied much like traditional nail polish but offers the durability and shine of a gel treatment. The application process involves the use of a base coat, color coat, and topcoat, each of which is cured under a UV lamp for a few minutes.

Unlike traditional nail polish, shellac does not chip or smudge and maintains a high-gloss finish for up to two weeks. It’s thinner than gel, which means it feels more like natural nail polish and less like artificial nails. This makes shellac a popular choice for those seeking a more natural look while still enjoying the benefits of long-lasting wear.

One of the biggest advantages of shellac is its ease of removal. The process is quicker and generally less damaging than that of gel nails. Shellac can be removed by wrapping the nails in acetone-soaked pads, minimizing the exposure of skin and nails to acetone and reducing the potential for nail damage. However, it’s important to note that while shellac is more convenient and less damaging in the short term, frequent use and improper removal can still lead to nail dehydration and weakness.

Both gel and shellac treatments have revolutionized the nail industry by offering long-lasting, durable, and aesthetically pleasing options for nail care. The choice between gel and shellac largely depends on personal preference, lifestyle, and the health of the individual’s natural nails.

What’s the Difference Between Gel and Shellac

Gel and Shellac

1. Durability and Longevity

Gel Nails: Known for their exceptional durability, gel nails are resistant to chips and scratches. They typically last up to three weeks, making them ideal for those who don’t want frequent salon visits. The robustness of gel makes it suitable for nail art, extensions, and shaping.

Shellac Nails: Shellac offers a good balance of durability and natural appearance, usually lasting about two weeks. While not as strong as gel, shellac is less likely to cause damage to the natural nail over time.

2. Appearance and Finish

Gel Nails: Gel nails are renowned for their glossy, vibrant finish. They can be sculpted and shaped to a desired look, offering more versatility in terms of aesthetics. Gel is available in a wide range of colors and can incorporate various artistic designs.

Shellac Nails: Shellac provides a thinner, more natural look compared to gel. It’s known for its high-gloss finish and offers a more polished, traditional appearance. The color range is somewhat limited compared to gel but still offers a variety of shades.

3. Health and Safety Considerations

Gel Nails: The removal process of gel nails involves soaking in acetone, which can be drying and potentially damaging to the natural nails and cuticles if done frequently. Prolonged exposure to UV light during the curing process has raised some health concerns, though the risk is considered low.

Shellac Nails: Shellac is generally considered to be less damaging to the natural nail, primarily due to its easier removal process. The exposure to UV light is still a concern, but the shorter curing time slightly mitigates this risk.

4. Maintenance and Removal Processes

Gel Nails: Maintenance of gel nails requires visits to a professional, as the removal process can be complex. It involves buffing the nail’s surface and soaking in acetone, which requires care to avoid damaging the natural nail.

Shellac Nails: Shellac is easier to remove than gel, often requiring only a 10-minute soak in acetone. This ease of removal makes it a more convenient option for those who prefer to change their nail color frequently or have less time for salon visits.

5. Cost Comparison

Gel Nails: The cost of gel nail treatments is generally higher than shellac due to the materials used and the complexity of the application and removal processes. The longevity of gel nails can, however, make them cost-effective for those looking for a longer-lasting option.

Shellac Nails: Shellac treatments are typically more affordable than gel. The lower cost, combined with the reduced frequency of salon visits due to easier removal, makes shellac a cost-effective choice for regular nail care.

In conclusion, both gel and shellac offer unique benefits and drawbacks. Gel nails stand out for their durability, versatility in design, and long-lasting wear, but require more careful maintenance and removal. Shellac, while not as durable as gel, offers a more natural look, easier removal, and is generally kinder to the natural nail. Your choice will depend on personal preference, lifestyle needs, and how much you value factors like longevity, natural appearance, and nail health.

Popularity and Trends


Trends in the Fashion and Beauty Industry

Gel Nails: Gel nails have been at the forefront of nail fashion trends for several years. Their ability to maintain a high-quality, glossy appearance for weeks has made them a favorite in fashion runways and among celebrities. The versatility of gel, allowing for intricate designs, bold colors, and various textures, keeps it popular in high-fashion and everyday wear.

Shellac Nails: Shellac has carved its niche by offering a balance between the traditional polish look and the durability of gel. Its popularity has risen with trends favoring more natural, minimalist beauty routines. Shellac is frequently seen in professional settings and is a preferred choice for those seeking a sophisticated, understated look.

Consumer Preferences and Market Trends

Gel Nails: The market for gel nails continues to grow, driven by consumer demand for long-lasting beauty solutions. Innovations in gel nail formulas and the rise of at-home gel nail kits have broadened their appeal. However, some consumers are shifting towards more natural options due to concerns about nail health and environmental impact.

Shellac Nails: Shellac’s appeal lies in its ease of application and removal, making it a popular choice for DIY enthusiasts and those with busy lifestyles. The growing trend towards quick, efficient beauty treatments has bolstered its popularity. Furthermore, as consumers become more health-conscious, the less damaging nature of shellac compared to traditional gels is a significant draw.

Influences from Celebrities and Social Media

Gel Nails: Gel nails often feature prominently in celebrity fashion, with many stars showcasing elaborate gel nail designs on red carpets and social media. Influencers and beauty bloggers frequently post about their gel manicures, further driving interest and experimentation among their followers.

Shellac Nails: Celebrities and influencers who advocate for natural beauty and wellness have helped popularize shellac. The product is often mentioned in social media posts focused on sustainable and less harmful beauty routines, aligning with a growing consumer preference for eco-friendly and health-conscious products.

Technological Advancements and Innovation

Both gel and shellac treatments have benefited from technological advancements in nail care. Innovations in product formulations and curing techniques have improved their quality, safety, and environmental impact. As the industry continues to evolve, both gel and shellac are likely to see enhancements that align with emerging beauty trends and consumer preferences.

The popularity of gel and shellac treatments reflects broader trends in the beauty and fashion industries. Gel nails remain a popular choice for their durability and versatility, particularly among those who favor bold, artistic nail designs.

In contrast, shellac appeals to a market segment seeking a more natural, easy-to-maintain option. Both treatments continue to evolve, influenced by celebrity endorsements, social media trends, and technological advancements, ensuring their ongoing relevance in the dynamic world of nail fashion.


In the Gel vs. Shellac debate, both treatments offer unique advantages. Your choice depends on personal preferences for durability, appearance, and maintenance. As the nail care industry evolves, we can anticipate further innovations in both gel and shellac treatments, offering even more options to beauty enthusiasts.

AboutCorinne Switzer

Corinne is an avid reader and takes a keen interest in conspiracy theories. When not busy with her day job, she likes to indulge the writer in her and pens columns on a wide range of topics that cover everything from entertainment, healthy living to healthcare and more.