What Is the Difference Between Gel Nail Polish and Shellac Nail Polish?

Learn the difference between gel and shellac polish.

Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

If you're looking for a manicure that won't chip, both gel and shellac polish claim to do the trick. While scoring a chip-free mani that stays fresh, shiny and beautiful for weeks sounds appealing, you should still do your research before getting a long-lasting gel or shellac slicked on your nails. There are a few differences between the two.

The Basics

Even though gel and shellac aren't exactly the same thing, the basics are pretty identical. Both gel and shellac manicure processes leave you with a mani that will last you up to two weeks. They both involve painting your nails and placing them under a UV lamp to dry, and they're both more complicated to take off, requiring you to soak your nails in acetone to remove.

First There Was Gel

Gel polish has been around since about 2009. Since its debut, the product has spread like wildfire. Imagine, the promise of a chip-free manicure. It's like the Holy Grail of beauty. To get a gel manicure, you'll need to visit a salon. Gel is too involved to try to DIY. A manicurist will apply a gel on your nails, harden it under a UV light and then smooth it with an electric file before applying polish.

Then There Was Shellac

Shellac is much much newer than gel, and manufacturers claim it is a better product. Think of it like a hybrid between gel and conventional nail polish. Shellac is applied basically like gel, except it skips the filing process, which according to the inventors of shellac polish, makes it easier on your nails. Coats of shellac polish are applied to the nails. After each coat, nails are put under a UV lamp to dry.

The Cost

Both gel and shellac will cost you a pretty penny. Both processes will run you anywhere from $35 to $60 per application. You'll only need to reapply about once every two weeks, so if you get weekly manicures, it may even out financially. When you're ready to remove your gel or shellac, you'll have to go back to the salon. Doing it yourself is a little tough and can cause damage to your nails if you don't know what you're doing. Getting just a removal generally costs about $5.

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