Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Shellac vs Gelish - which is best?

What’s so great about gel nail polishes?
In this article I compare Shellac ™ by CND and Gelish ® by Nail Harmony, two of the most well known and loved gel polish brands on the market. To keep things simple, I'm concentrating on these two, however there are a number of gel nail polish brands available. To be honest, apart from reading a few reviews and comments on internet nail forums, I don't know as much about these other products. I've listed some of them here with links if you're interested: Gelcolor by OPI, Axxium by OPI, Gelac by IBD, Gelez by EZ Flow, Gel FX by Orly and others.

Gel polishes have become popular in the last few years for good reason. They dry instantly, last at least a good two weeks, and are relatively easy on and off. The long-life and durability of gel polishes make them a good choice all year round, but especially so over summer when sun, sand and surf bring The Curse of The Disappearing Manicure (see previous post).

Which came first, Shellac or Gelish?
In branding Shellac, CND use the phrase “The original power polish”, while Nail Harmony use the phrase, “The original brush-in-bottle, high-shine gel nail polish.” to describe Gelish. Frankly, I think they were both actually launched around the same time. However, without the marketing power of CND, Gelish had a softer introduction than that of Shellac.

Is Shellac a Gel Polish?
Creative Nail Design (CND) make a point of differentiating their Shellac ™ brand from other competing brands by stating that Shellac is not a gel polish. Instead, as mentioned before, they call it The Original Power Polish ™.  They also warn customers not to accept “gel polish” substitutes that claim to be the same. Other brands, such as Gelish, Gelcolor, Axxium, Gelac, and Gelez do actually call themselves “gel” polishes. I cannot clarify what the difference is, and I don't really want to get into that kind of detail because in my opinion, for the most part, they are all basically the same. All brands apply smoothly like polish, use a base coat, colour and top coat, and are cured under UV light – in the case of Gelish you can also use an LED lamp which makes it much quicker to apply. All gel polish brands are removed by either soaking or wrapping the nails in acetone.

Best Colour Range, Gelish or Shellac?
Gelish currently offers 112 colours while Shellac is offering 40 colours (including 3 primaries, 3 secondaries and 3 chromes) and 15 "Effects" (pearls, shimmers and sparkles). Both Gelish and Shellac colours can be mixed and layered to create new colours.

Which is safest, Shellac or Gelish?
Both Shellac and Gelish are Formaldehyde, toluene and DBP free (no nasty chemicals). There is an argument between those that use Shellac and Gelish that Shellac is better because you don't buff the nail beforehand therefore you aren't 'damaging' the nail. This isn't true! Gelish does require a light buffing of the nail plate however this doesn't harm the nail whatsoever, as long as its done properly! If you are completely against having your nails buffed then Gelish can be applied without - I have yet to witness a breakdown in the product because this step has been missed.

Which lasts longer, Gelish or Shellac?
Gelish advertises a 3 week manicure, while Shellac claims 2 weeks plus duration in their marketing. The good news is that both products look stunning and last as long as they claim to!

We offer clients the choice of both Gelish and Shellac treatments at The Royal Nail.
I don't think it's a matter of one being better than the other, just that they are different and serve different types of clients. Clients who are used to wearing Shellac know that it is a great product. And lets face it, CND's superior marketing power has made it much more well known than Gelish. However, I do believe Gelish is more durable and better for people who are hard on their nails. Personally I think both brands are great, and at the end of the day the choice is down to you as a client because both Shellac and Gelish are fabulous!

How about you? Got a preference? Tell us your experiences with Shellac or Gelish or other gel polish brands. I'd love to hear your thoughts (feel free to comment below).

The opinions expressed in this post are not necessarily those of Nail Harmony or CND.


  1. I do have a question about gel polish, I had it done over xmas and thought it was fantastic until it came time to remove it. it started to lift and peel and it was taking thin layers of nail with it. so I went back and all they did was soak my finger tips in acetone and scraped the rest off but it left my nails in a bit of a mess, is that suppose to happen?

    1. What you are wanting is called sculptured acrylic nails. They don’t use plastic tips. They use a temporary form placed under your real nails and build the acrylic out onto the form to the length you want. Once it dries, they pull the form out and go to the next finger till all are done.Loceryl 5

  2. I'm sorry to hear about your gel polish experience. You may want to come to us for a nail strengthening polish to be applied to your natural nails. Ask for our manager, Hien Bushell, and tell her what has happened. She will be able to advise whether a nail strengthening polish is the right thing for you.

  3. What is the best LED Lamp that fits the whole hand for Gelish nails, please?

  4. I'm can't say for sure what's the best LED lamp, but the Gelish® LED 18G Lamp is right up there. It cures five fingers at a time in just 5 seconds and is available in 110 and 220 Volts. Here's a link to check it out: http://www.nailharmony.com/products/led-lamps.html

  5. Gelish is generally preferred by my clients at GelMe. However shellac is being asked for more and more.

  6. Thank you for this article. My sister and I are on opposite sides of the court when it comes to this subject. She loves CND Shellac and I love Harmony Gelish. I will admit I haven't tried CND yet but I just can't get over Gelish's color options. Especially Rio Neon Shake It Til You Samba and High Voltage. We're currently trying to buy our mom her own UV light and polishes but we haven't decided which brand to get her (I'm ordering so it'll probably be Gelish ;D ).

  7. Thanks for your feedback. Gelish does have an amazing color range. But whatever you choose, Shellac or Gelish, I know your mom will be proud of her two generous daughters! :o)

  8. Hi, I would like to ask you one question. I just bought my Gelish kit but have no money for the lamp yet. Is it ok if I use any other LED Lamp for now??? How many watts is the best for it please?? Thank you :))

    1. Hi, sure you can use another LED lamp for now. The Nail Harmony Gelish LED lamps available are 30 - 36 watts, so you should probably look for something with this capacity. However, I've seen 18 watt LED lamps for sale online, and guess that this lower wattage will only result in slower curing times.

    2. Shellac is your friend <3 Personally, I love shellac, it is basically lasts 2-3 week. Recent I have got PolyLock™ Hybrid gel polish kit at Runway Professional which instead of shellac. I feel , it is much better for nails.:)

    3. Wattage isn't the only thing you need to look at unfortunately :(. If you look up Doug Schoon he is a scientist who specialises in all things nails and explains that not all lamps are created equal. :) Good luck

  9. Hi there
    How did you find the runway kit? Im looking at at getting it for myself but there aren't too many reviews on it.
    If I bought the kit am I able to buy opi or other reputable gel polishes to use under the lamp
    Also, are there any aussie stockists of gelish or just ebay

  10. Great article - just a little input. Gelish was created in 2009 whereas CND shellac came out in 2010. Both fab products, just a shame that CND Shellac stole the claim to be the "original" with their almost falsely marketing skills... So what came first Gelish or Shellac.... it was Gelish.

  11. Two of my nails have split below the quick since using shellac Manicure. My nail person applied "powder" to repair the crack, then reapplied the Shellac to the mended nail. Good as new!! No need to cut the nail. She recommended having the "powder" strengthener applied to all of my nails at my next appointment, to prevent further splitting. She said the mend would not need to be reapplied at each manicure: only when it grows out.