Gelish vs Shellac (Comparison by a Nail Enthusiast)

A lot of my friends have asked me one question: “What type of manicure is better: Gelish vs Shellac?” And this isn’t surprising for me. Every woman cares about her skin, body, hair, and of course nails. And to achieve the best result we strive to buy only the best products. Hence the question of what is better for me – gel or shellac.

Nowadays, women do their own manicures at home but want to have the “professional salon” effect. You can get desired results with new-age nail polishes – gelish and shellac. But how to choose the best between them? And what is the difference between the nail coatings?

Unfortunately, many people believe that gelish and shellac are the same nail polishes but with different names. It’s not true. In this blog post, I’ll break all the myths, and finally give you the answer to this unsolved mystery.

Gelish came out before Shellac, but without the marketing power of CND, they are not as well known. Shellac is a permanent nail polish, whereas Gelish is a gel polish. Now, let’s discuss the good and the bad about each.

Gelish Gel VS CND Shellac​

Gelish Vs Shellac Art

If you searched "whats the difference between shellac and gelish" you'll find the answer here.​

Before making the conclusions about what is better: gelish or shellac, we must find out as much as possible about them both. Please note that Shellac is a luxury beauty brand and Gelish is an affordable representative of the mass market, and for this reason not only quality, but a price are so different.

CND Shellac Nail Polish Review

What is the CND Shellac nail polish? This product has been created by an American company CND Cosmetics. Shellac combines the qualities of both, gel and regular nail polishes together: the same comfortable way to apply and long-lasting effect without any chips for a few weeks.

The Positive Side

If you want some sexy and fun colors, Shellac is the way to go. It gives you a beautiful glossy look on a thin long lasting manicure. Painted nails always look sexy, especially when we select some bright original colors. Do you want to seduce your lover tonight? Then it’s time to pick up one tempting Shellac shades and make your nails look stunning.

As of now, Shellac Power Polish comes in 116 sexy designer shades.

Remember, if you want to have healthy and shiny nails apply shellac nail polish with a thin layer. If you make it thicker, your nails will look a little bit unnatural. Moreover, the thick layer always leaves your natural nails dehydrated and looks like the surface of mars. Fortunately, you can solve this by applying cuticle oil and filing them.

Hydrate Your Nails

Every manicure I do, I apply cuticle oil - CND Solar Oil after I finish. I also recommend for customers to always have it with them so they can keep their cuticles healthy. Get a small one to carry around with you, and a bigger one to refill. It usually lasts me longer than a month.

Since it is a thin layer manicure, it is easier to take off because they are less chunky and the nail polish remover breaks it much faster. If you have already experimented with the different nail polishes, then you know that the gel removing process can take up to 50 minutes. I think it’s crazy to spend almost an hour on doing things, which does not bring you any pleasure. It’s much better to choose CDN Shellac and clean your nails from lacquer in 15 minutes.

Getting a Shellac Manicure is a pleasant 45-minute process with no extra drying time. It lasts for 2 whole weeks. If you start doing activities that involve smacking your hands or nails around, don't be surprised when it starts chipping. Anything will chip if you hit it hard enough. Remember, it's just nail polish, not wolverine claws.

This is what Shellac Nail Polish looks like 2 weeks (14 days) after I did it for one of my clients. I think that result is pretty nice!

It totally passes the two-week wearing test. After that, expect it to chip just from moving around in your bed or doing the dishes. Thereby, as soon as first peeling occurs, it’s time to remove your mani and let your nails have some rest. Nourish your nails, cuticles and hands in order to make them look healthy and beautifully.

As you already know, Shellac is a luxury brand, so prices are rather high. However, if you agree with the saying “the avaricious pays twice”, then do not hesitate to buy the beauty products of the best quality for yourself.

Usually, when a client asks how much is a shellac manicure, I give them the base price, usually around $40. There's a few more costs on top such as labor and extra products. Read the blog post for more info.

The Negative Side

There's plenty of people that think putting your hands underneath a UV lamp to dry your nails is dangerous to your skin. Did you know that the UV rays in the lamp are the same as the ones in the Tanning Beds? It would take a LOT of manicures to do any harm. But, anyway, it would be much better for your health to do Shellac once a month or just go with a normal LED lamp manicure.

Another thing you need to know that Shellac is a little more time consuming to take off the first few times than Gelish gel nail polish. Over time you do get used to it and it becomes quicker. You should soak your fingernails in acetone nail polish remover (or natural nail polish remover, thought it will take much longer), and put time into properly gently scraping everything off. After all of this, you need to file your nails, apply cuticle oil and moisturize your hands.

If you would like to read more, see my full step by step process regarding how to remove shellac nail polish here.

If it starts chipping, you may feel the urge to peel it away. But don't do this; it will just turn out worse. You should care about your nails, if you want them to look healthy with and without manicure! Here's an example of my client’s nails 16 days after. Literally 2 days after 2 weeks. She couldn't resist the urge to peel after it chipped. Looks so ugly! Please, be wise and learn from her mistake.

Since Shellac lasts for two weeks, your nails will grow and you will start to see borders at your cuticles.

If you decided to buy a CND Shellac product for a first time, or if you don’t paint your nails regularly, then I strongly recommend you to buy a small bottle! Normal-sized bottle works well just when it is half-full! I noticed that with the pass of time, my Shellac Top Coat liquid became too thick, and it’s better to throw it away than try to apply it on the nails. Choose a mini bottle and you will never face this problem.

Before you make up your mind about Gelish vs Shellac, let's find out more about Gelish.

Gelish Nail Polish Review

The Good

​One base coat, one color coat, and one top coat makes the application of these gel nails very quick and easy. If you value every minute of your leisure time, then you will enjoy this advantage fully. You need only 15 minutes to paint your nails, so you will have finished your mani before the new episode of your favorite sitcom will end.

As of now, there are 223 colors, which beats the 116 designer shades from Shellac, however, besides 40 shades, the rest of the colors are very generic.

Do you like gel nail polishes with the bright shiny sparkles? Then it’s more likely you will not find a perfect shade in the luxury Shellac collection. Just look through the great collection of the Gelish products and you will never be disappointed: you can find here a lot of “sparkling” options to light up your party.​

Another great advantage of the Gelish is a great variety of the mini gel nail polish collections. You can purchase a mini set of 2, 4, 6 or 12 different colors (9 ml each) and make some experiments with them. I am addicted to Gelish shades variety, so it’s extremely difficult for me to choose only one of them. For this reason, I adore purchasing these mini sets with the perfectly matched colors! Making a manicure feels like being an artist, so beautiful pallet is a must have.

The great news is that Gelish updates its collection regularly, so I always know that new shades are trendy and worth my attention. By the way, buying mini sets, you save few bucks at a time. And I can add that “fantastic four” set, which consists of 4 full-sized bottles: foundation, top it off, pH bond and nourish products, is an economical offer as well.

Talking about prices, Gelish nail beauty products are considered as affordable ones. Of course gel nail polishes costs more than ordinary lacquers, but comparing to the other gel polishes brands, Gelish set reasonable prices. Thus, paying around $15 you can get a full-sized Gelish product instead of the mini Shellac product of the same value.

Gelish Gel Nails last for a long three weeks, however they are prone to chipping very early on if the process is done incorrectly. After a proper manicure, I get my first chip usually about 2 weeks in. Then again, it happens with Shellac sometimes as well.

The chemical compounds that are behind these gel nails are stronger than Shellac, making them brittle and more resistant to chipping. That honestly depends whether or not you apply that top coat. Without it, expect chipping in 4 days. Thus, be ready to buy and utilize the Shellac top coat to ensure that your manicure will not disappoint you in a few days.

Also I can add that a gel nail polish protects your nails from the mechanical damages. When you do a lot of washing or cleaning, then you quickly face some cheeps or peeling, but your nails stay safe. I think that it’s much better to spoil your manicure, than broke your nail.

Not only quality, but also a quantity is important. Gelish bottles contain 9ml (mini) or 15 ml (normal-sized), while Shellac products contain only 7.3ml and 12.5 ml respectively. May be you will not notice this difference while selecting a gel nail polish at the beauty shop, but for sure you will feel it in practice. There is no doubt that bottles with amazing Gelish products will serve you for a longer period of time.

The Bad

One of the main takeaways I learned when doing a Gelish Gel Nail Polish manicure was to make sure to keep the foundation on the nails and ONLY on the nails. If it is outside, it will ruin your manicure when you try to clean it afterwards. 

Do not be afraid, if you cannot make it properly from the first try. It is not that hard, you just need some practice.

Gel requires a really strong bond to your nails, therefore you will have to lightly file your nails to remove the nail shine before you apply the base coat. In other words, you have to damage your nails a bit. Sounds creepy? Of course, this procedure is not healthy for your nails, but it harms you in times less, comparing to the acryl or any other types of extensions. Beauty requires sacrifice, thus mechanical damages are worthy of your perfect long-wear manicure.

Curing Gelish Gel is confusing, it doesn't matter if you do it to their instructions, it's basically a trial and error process. Sometimes it comes out unfinished and you have to cure them again. Consequently, you will need more time for drying your nails while you will practice. Keep it in mind that you should not try to make your first Gelish manicure 15 minutes before going to a party. The first step is always the hardest.

Another bad news is that Gelish beauty products also thicken fast, if you don’t close the bottle properly. If you are not obsessed with the saving few bucks on a full-sized packages, I can recommend you to purchase the mini-bottles. At least, liquid will not deteriorate and you will be able to use your beauty product till the last drop.

Let's do a little comparison table of Gelish vs Shellac

Gelish Gel

  • Cured under LED or UV Lamp
  • 30 Second Curing Time under LED
  • 10-15 Minutes to Apply
  • A "quick" nail polish for 3 weeks
  • 223 Colors
  • 15-30 Minute Soak Off Process

CND Shellac

  • Cured only under UV
  • 2 Minute Curing Time per Coat
  • 45 Minute Process
  • Higher Quality for Shorter Time
  • 116 Designer Shades
  • 10-15 Minute Removal Process

Gelish Gel and CND Shellac are different types of nail polish and each of them has its own unique qualities. It’s clear now, that the Shellac gives you more of a quality manicure whereas Gelish nail polish is quick and easy in application. It's always up to you which nail polish brand or product you end up buying. I wish that my little Gelish vs CND Shellac review will help you to make a right choice.

If you're thinking of doing nail technician courses, learn how to do a Shellac manicure because the process is much more complicated and they want you to know how to give a quality manicure. Then you will not face any difficulties with the applying of Gelish beauty products: it will feel like driving a car with the automatic transmission, when you already know how manual transmission does work.

gelish vs shellac uv lamp

PS. This is the UV Lamp I use for my CND Shellac manicures. I don't buy into the whole UV lamps are bad for your hands and you shouldn't use them idea. However, if you want to be on the other side, an OPI LED lamp is great.

Thank you for reading this post! Let me know what kind of nail polish you use and which one you’ll buy next time; Gelish vs Shellac.

  1. Thank you so much for this post! I am a newbie to the Gelish/Shellac world and had no idea where to start. This was a tremendous help!

  2. I just bought my 1st gelish polish and it was 1$ more than shellac which I been using shellac since it came out. With gelish they do have more colors to pick from that are fun colors. I put shellac on some of my fingers n gelish on the rest. So it’s a good test to try them both.

  3. Educational post. I’ve done both systems and love Gellish system and it’s less expensive to buy here in canada depending where you buy from. I’m a professional hairstylist and even with my discount it’s expensive but worth every penny both systems. 15 ml is $21.95 Gellish and if in sale $19.99. CND is a tad more expensive.!I don’t soak off nails but rather use nail machine to take off colour and base if needed. I bought a new curing machine LED and so much faster and better than my UV older one. Colours are out of this world preety. I put acrylic on first cause my nails are brittle or soft then add gel system. I just find it lasts longer and nails are stronger that way for me and a few ladies I do it also like it. Thank you. 🙏🏻

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

BrokeMyNail is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.