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What Is Shellac Nail Polish? A Perfect Manicure In Salon Or At Home

Updated on July 18, 2014

What’s All The Fuss Over Shellac Nail Polish & Manicure?

Lately I’ve been curious about the fuss over shellac nails. As far as I knew, shellac was a product you might find in the home improvement aisle - and I wasn’t sure how this related to a manicure. As it turns out, shellac for nails is a breed all of its own. In this article, I’ll explain what shellac is, the difference between a shellac manicure and regular nail polish, and how to go about getting a shellac manicure - at home or in the salon. Curious? Let’s jump in!

CND Shellac: Many Benefits

  1. zero dry time
  2. 14 days or more of non-chip wear
  3. super high-gloss color
  4. does not damage nail plate (when properly applied & removed)

What You Need To Know: Shellac Nail Polish Is A Breed Of Its Own

The first thing you need to know: when we’re talking about shellac for nails, we are referring to a very specific type of polish developed by Creative Nail Design (CND). CND Shellac is a patented product - no other nail polish can call itself ‘shellac’. A hybrid between a gel polish and a regular polish, CND Shellac is unique in that it has qualities of both gel and regular nail polish: it is cured with a UV light and dries to a hard surface, yet it also behaves very much like a regular nail polish - looking and feeling more natural when dry.

With this many pluses, it’s no wonder so many people have become hooked on Shellac manicures. Want to know how to get your hands on one - er, how to get one on your hands? Read on!


Tip: Start With A Basic Manicure

It’s always helpful to start with a basic manicure - cleaning up the cuticles and shaping the nails - but don’t use any oils or lotions, as these will interfere with the Shellac’s ability to bond to the nails.

So What Is A Shellac Manicure - How Does It Work?

A Shellac manicure follows a very specific procedure, and requires specific ingredients and equipment. A professional nail salon with technicians trained in the CND method is recommended, and will definitely give the best result; and I would definitely recommend trying one from a reputable salon to see how you like it. If you fall in love and want to wear Shellac manicures on a regular basis, you can continue at the salon or invest in the supplies to do it yourself at home.

The supplies are readily available online, and as long as you study up on the process and follow the instructions to a T, it’s possible to achieve a great Shellac nail manicure at home. A small investment in the supplies will quickly pay for itself if you wear Shellac more than a few times per year.

Step-By-Step: How To Apply & Remove Shellac Nails

What Is CND Shellac - A Patened System

Because CND Shellac is a patented system, it’s important to use only CND nail products to do your Shellac manicure wether at home or in the salon. The formulas are designed to bond together, and work specifically together. Mixing in different brands alters the chemical formulas and compromises how the manicure will perform. With other products involved, it may not bond to the nails, endure for weeks, or remove easily. You can use a substitute for the UV lamp - the CND lamp is high quality and will serve you well, but you can also use a less expensive alternative - it will do the same thing.

Let’s Go Over What The Shellac Manicure Process Is

1. Prepare the nails:

The nails are prepared with CND Scrubfresh - which cleans the nail plate and creates a suitable surface for the polish to bond with

2. Base Coat:

A thin coat of CND Shellac UV Base Coat goes on

3. Cure Base Coat - UV Lamp

Nails go into the UV lamp for ten seconds to cure the base coat

4. Apply CND Shellac Power Polish & Cure

- One coat of CND Shellac Power Polish UV Color Coat goes on

- Nails go into the UV lamp for two minutes to cure the first coat

- Second coat of CND Power Polish goes on

- Nails go into the UV lamp for two minutes to cure the second coat

- One coat of CND Shellac Power Polish Top Coat goes on

- Nails go into the UV lamp for a final two minutes to cure the top coat

5. Wipe Down & Condition

- Nails are wiped down with 99% Isopropyl Alcohol to remove any residue and activate maximum shine.

- Solar Oil is added to each nail and rubbed in well.

So I Know What Shellac Is & How To Do A Shellac Manicure - But How Do I Remove My Shellac Nails?

While your Shellac nails will look great for 14 days or more, eventually the natural growth of your fingernails will leave a noticeable gap between your cuticles and your nail color - so after two weeks or so it will be time to remove the Shellac manicure. If you get your Shellac manicure done in a salon, your nail technician can deal with removing it for you... but you can easily remove Shellac nails at home, too.

To remove a Shellac manicure, each nail must be soaked in 100% acetone. Acetone is very hard on the skin, and you should never dip your fingers into a bowl of acetone as some suggest; and if a salon ever recommends this to you, head for the door. Instead, follow the CND recommended method which is much safer - and easy to do at home.

In this method, you apply acetone to each nail and allow it to soak in - by wrapping each fingertip in either foil or the official CND wraps. If using foil, you’ll saturate a cotton ball with acetone and place it on the nail, wrapping foil securely around the tip. If using the CND wraps, you would saturate the cotton pad in the middle of the wrap and apply one to each finger. Usually it is easier to work on one hand at a time if you’re working at home.

After allowing the acetone to penetrate the nails for at least ten minutes, you can apply pressure to the nail and gently massage the acetone pad into the nail; then, twist as you pull the pad off the fingernail. The polish should lift off and you will be left with some loose flakes on the nail. Grab an orange wood stick and gently slide these bits off the nail.

If a few remnants of Shellac nail polish are left on your nail, you may do an extra swipe with some acetone in a cotton ball; and finally, you should be left with a smooth and perfect nail bed, ready for a new manicure.

For more information on this removal process, see my article specifically on removing Shellac nails at home:

Nail Poll

What intrigues you most about Shellac nail polish?

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Now You Know What Shellac Nails Are And How To Apply A Shellac Manicure, Go Enjoy One!

I hope this has been helpful in explaining what Shellac is and how to wear and apply Shellac nails. They are a unique type of manicure and promise not to disappoint. Now, I’d love to hear from you! Were you as confused about Shellac nails as I was? Do you have any experience with wearing a Shellac manicure? After reading this, are you curious and ready to try one on? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section!


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    • profile image

      Tore Thorne 

      15 months ago

      I've had 4 professional shellac manicures and my first shellac pedicure today! After trying shellac I wouldn't use regular nail polish again as I love the hard wearing factor! It's great!

    • manicuregirl profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Canada

      The glitter line would go on after your main colour coat, but before your top coat. You'd want to use a Shellac polish to make the line, then cure, then do your top coat and cure. It looks really lovely doesn't it? Thanks for your comment!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I love the gel lining. I work in the hatoispl so I can only do gel nails and I always get the grow out' base problem too. The glitter line is such a brilliant idea. Do you use regular polish for that? and do you tend to put a top coat over as well??


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