Is your city London?
Home Magazine Gel Nails and Shellac Nails: A Comparison

Gel Nails and Shellac Nails: A Comparison


What is the difference between gel nails and shellac nails? These two terms are often used interchangeably to denote any type of long-lasting manicure. Another popular explanation is that the difference comes down to the chemical formula. We have asked nail artists to shed a light on this matter.

Gel Polish is a Gel-Based Nail Product

Gel polish is a type of nail product for long-lasting manicures. It is a hybrid between a gel and a regular nail polish. It requires a UV, LED, or CCFL light to harden and lock onto the nails. The result is a hard, even coating that preserves brightness and shape for several weeks.

There are several types of gel manicures:

  • A three-step gel manicure is the most popular variant. It consists of a base, a color coating, and a topcoat.
  • A two-step manicure includes two stages as the color component also serves as either a base or a topcoat.
  • A one-step gel manicure uses a product that includes all three necessary components: the base, color, and top layers. It is applied in one or several layers.

Shellac is a Brand of Nail Polish

Shellac is the predecessor of modern gel polishes that was developed by Creative Nail Design. In 2010, the company rolled out an innovative new product – CND Shellac: a nail polish that lasts for about two weeks. It was the first commercial nail polish that needed a special lamp to harden.

The technology was soon adopted by other companies, and the word ‘shellac’ started to be used as the general term for such products. Since then, its formula has changed and many other types of long-lasting nail coatings have appeared. Shellac is a patented formula and the brand still belongs to CND. The company stresses that it contains non-toxic, hypoallergenic components.

Another difference between shellac and other gel polishes application and removal technology. Shellac nails can be removed easily, without scraping or a prime coating. The nail artist needs only a special removal tool and degreaser.

Gel Nails Versus Shellac Nails: What is Better?

Pros of gel nails:

  • a vast choice of colors and textures that allow for the creation of countless designs
  • durability – gel nails can last for up to four weeks
  • resilience – protection for nails
  • suit any length
  • can help to smooth the nails
  • affordable.

Cons of gel nails:

  • long application process
  • application and removal can damage the nails
  • the quality of cheap gel polish might be questionable
  • cheap acidic base coatings can cause an allergic reaction and damage the nails.

Pros of shellac nails:

  • original formula is safe and hypoallergenic
  • offer a bright, smooth coating
  • beautiful, deep shades available
  • last for 2-3 weeks
  • easy to apply and remove
  • do not damage the nails.

Cons of shellac nails:

  • expensive
  • requires touch-ups more often
  • more suited to short nails
  • coating is thinner and provides less protection; it does not help to adjust the shape of the nail plate.


  1. Gel polish offers long-lasting manicures which harden under a special lamp.
  2. Shellac is a brand of gel polish with a patented formula produced by CND.
  3. The phrases ‘gel nails’ and ‘shellac nails’ are often used interchangeably.
  4. Some manufacturers use the word ‘shellac’ for marketing purposes, as the original product has a strong reputation

Our gallery of nail artists’ works features a lot of design ideas of gel and shellac nails. Check out the photos and find inspiration for your next manicure!


Choose the city
  • London
Log in
  • Закрепляются работы в каталоге работ в топе
  • Закрепляется карточка мастера в каталоге услуг
  • Со страницы мастера убираются другие мастера
  • Отображение на главной странице
  • Модерация работ и фото профиля в течение суток
  • VIP техническая поддержка