If you follow nail trends, you must have heard of Shellac – a new system from Creative Nail Design (CND). The Shellac manicure is becoming tremendously popular due to its long-lasting shine and chip-free results. The system boasts of 14-day wear, but can last longer. Also, compared to acrylics or gels, Shellac can be removed without filing – which means it’s healthier for your natural nails.
The term “shellac” automatically connotes the high-gloss varnish for wood furniture, floors and ceilings. Its nail polish counterpart functions similarly. The system offered to professionals includes a base coat, top coat and 12 polish colors that cure in a UV lamp. A Nails Magazine article explains how UV curing works: “manufacturers use chemicals called photoinitiators in their gels. The photoinitiators react when exposed to various wavelengths of UV light . . . When the photoinitiator is exposed to the proper UV light wavelength and intensity, it gives off a particle called a free radical. The free radical will initiate a polymerization reaction with the resins in the gel system.” In less scientific language, the polish hardens into a polymer – i.e. shellac (a natural plastic) – which is much more durable than regular polish.
Although I rarely have manicures, I went to try out the Shellac to see if it would be worth purchasing and applying myself. A Shellac manicure costs between $25-$40, depending on the salon. As I conversed with my manicurist, she told me that she reluctantly needed to raise her prices due to the cost of the product. She has to replace the bulbs for the UV lamps about every 3 months, and each polish bottle lasts only for approximately 9 clients. When I first researched Shellac, Amazon.com sold each bottle of polish for $40. Now they retail between $18-$28 on the site. Although purchasing the correct (9 watt) UV lamp can run anywhere between $30-$90, the long-run savings would be worth skipping a bi-weekly manicure. Certified professionals can purchase the whole kit for a few hundred dollars through nail tech catalogues, so if you know someone licensed, you could use their account to purchase. Yet, let me for a moment expound on the joys of being pampered at a salon, which cannot be duplicated at home. The warm soaks, hand massages and delicious-smelling lotions will undoubtedly keep manicurists in business.
Some salons are layering colors to create new ones since there are only 12 available, but more are being released in March. Note that Shellac does work as a system; using just the top coat over regular nail polish will not produce the same results. Also, other UV gels may require different lamp wattage, so making sure to use the correct lamp for the curing process is crucial. To remove Shellac, an acetone soak (10-15 minutes) will work, but frequent soaks can dry out and weaken natural nails. Instead, CND recommends the Shellac Remover Wraps, but these are not always highly reviewed by independent sites.
So far, my Shellac has remained brilliantly shiny and chip-free, even with a sharp pants hanger clip mishap that scratched one nail. After a week, my growing nail is starting to show near the cuticle, so even if the polish remains in tact, I will have to re-paint my nails or add some nail art to hide the gap. Overall, Shellac is an exciting development, and other products are following and improving upon its science. I’d love to hear your experiences and feedback with Shellac, especially if you’ve tried the application at home. Raise your polish bottles: here’s to virtually indestructible, shiny nails!
For FAQs about Shellac, go to: http://cnd.com/Products/PDF/4965_Shellac_Q&A_Consumer.pdf