Shellac vs Gelish (Comparison by a Studio L)


Many of you readers will of heard of both products, Shellac and Gelish, but after all the big question is which is best? Below I am going to explain and attempt to weigh out the pro’s and con’s of both systems and try to make it easier for you to come to a conclusion yourself over which is better for your clients and your nails personally.

The differences:


Both systems are seen as competitors as both names have become well known in the industry however they are completely different products and work in different ways. Firstly CND’s Shellac is known as ‘ The Original Power Polish’ and Nail Harmony’s Gelish knows themselves as ‘The original brush-in- bottle, high-shine gel nail polish.’ Both slogans are completely true even though they both claim themselves to be ‘the original.’ This is because Shellac is a form of permanent nail polish whereas Gelish is a gel polish (a gel in the form of a polish) Many people believe Shellac to be the first but this is more down to CND’s amazing marketing team compared to Nail Harmony’s at the time. Shellac will only last around 2 weeks and Gelish will last 3 weeks on the average person. Unfortunately, not everybody can be kind on their hands so it may not last this exact amount of time. From personal experience I’ve found Shellac easier to work with, it seems a lot smoother as the consistency is slightly thicker and rarely shrinks back from the free edge giving a neat finish.

The similarities:


Both systems come in the form of a bottle, are instantly dry when leaving a salon, will not chip/smudge for at least two weeks and can be quickly applied and removed to natural nails. Shellac and Gelish are painted over natural nails to give a clean, perfectly polished look and are ideal for people that don’t want the ‘enhancement’ appearance These manicures both consist of a base coat, two coats of colour and a top coat.

Which is the safest?

Personally, I find both products safe to use on natural nails, but only if you look after your nails. Nails should be treated like jewels, not tools! Gloves must be worn at all times when washing up and gardening and a nail oil such as Solar Oil needs to be applied twice daily to stop the natural nail becoming dry. The good thing about Shellac is that there’s no buffing included at all, not even during the removal. I’ve found myself having to buff the nails of a few naughty clients who refuse to use their Solar Oil though. To apply and remove Gelish you must lightly buff the nails but this will not damage or harm the nails at all. I’ve now witnessed the removal of both systems and Gelish does come off a lot cleaner and lifts naturally away from the nails whereas Shellac you must scrape off. Both systems do NOT use primers instead CND use Scrub Fresh and Nail Harmony use PH Bond. Scrub Fresh temporarily dehydrates the nail ready for application whereas PH Bond brings the PH of the nail to neutral. Again both will not damage the nails. Gelish contains properties that adhere to the Keratin in the natural nail allowing the Gelish to bond whilst working with rather than against the natural nails.

The Lamps:

Shellac use a UV lamp which has caused a huge argument over whether this is safe for your hands. Please see my blog post The Daily Fail to read further into why this is a load of baloney created by The Daily Mail. During a Shellac Manicure, the UV lamp is switched on for a total of 12 minutes and 20 seconds. This is barely any time at all and for a therapist, it shouldn’t be a problem to work with. One of the major down sides of a UV lamp is that the builds regularly need changing every 3-6 months as the light bulbs inside emit light through a gas cylinder. This gas cylinder will slowly stop working, therefore the Shellac will not cure and set completely. The price of a UV CND Lamp is £99.95 + VAT and a pack of 4 replacement bulbs is £34.95 + Vat.

Gelish advises using a LED lamp to set the Gelish under. LED lights have not yet been accused of causing any harm to any clients and there are no claims of the light causing skin cancer…yet anyway. A Gelish manicure is considerably shorter than a Shellac one, the hand is under the light for a total of 2 minutes unless you’re wanting the French Manicure effect which takes 2 minutes and 15 seconds. This is perfect for any client who’s on the move all the time. An LED lamp with emits light without needing to change the bulbs as they are not created using a gas cylinder. The price of a Gelish 18g LED lamp is £299.95 +VAT.

The initial costs of a Shellac lamp are much less that a Gelish one however in the long run and LED Gelish lamp is much more cost effective.

Colour choice:

There is a clear winner in this category I’m afraid…GELISH! They have a total of 146 colours ranging from dark to light, block to shimmers and glitters and plenty more. Nearly all the colours are fashionable and trendy and so far I’ve failed to come across any I dislike. The less pigmented colours seem a more watery consistency, however, every colour should be painted thinly of the nails. Their new Love In Bloom collection is absolutely stunning, all bright unusual block colours perfect for the Spring and Summer seasons. Shellac has a total of 51 colours. Although I do like the majority of colours throughout the entire collection there is a lot of reds and a few colours no one would ever wear. A few colours are also very difficult to paint with such as Iced Cappuccino and Silver Chrome as the brush strokes always show through and give a messy finish.

My conclusion:

Through researching and using both products my conclusion is that both are fabulous. Shellac gives a lot smoother, neater finish, however, Gelish is ideal for someone who is hard on their hands as it’s a lot harder wearing. Personally many of my clients would prefer to go three weeks with a gel polish than going only two weeks using a permanent nail polish. CND has a better reputation for themselves so far down to their marketing power but I believe Nail Harmony are slowly creeping up and may take the lead with their amazing training and colour choice.

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

shellac vs gelish

CND Shellac and Gelish Gel are different types of nail polish and each of them has its own unique qualities. Now, It is clear, 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 CND Shellac vs Gelish review will help you to make a right choice.
Thank you for reading this post! Let me know what kind of nail polish you use and which one you’ll buy next time; CND Shellac vs Gelish.

For Studio L Manicure & Pedicure Pricing and Booking please please click here or email us: lalande@studiol.com.au

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