Gelish vs shellac


Shellac by CND and Gelish by Hand and Nail Harmony are two of the most popular options available for the revolutionary 2-week manicure. These products are similar in nature and in application, though there are some basic differences.


Gelish is a mixture of gel and pigment. Shellac is a mixture of gel and polish. Both products offer a minimum of 2 weeks of chip free nails and no dulling of the shiny finish. While the formulation does not sound like a big difference, it can contribute to slight differences in how it wears long term. Each person will have a slightly different experience just because of natural nail types being slightly different.


Buffing the natural nail is the main difference between Gelish and Shellac nail polish for fingers. With Shellac, the natural nail is not buffed at all. With Gelish, the natural nail is buffed before applying the first product in the Gelish process. The Gelish website recommends buffing away the natural shine. On most clients this means little buffing.


Before removing Gelish the “surface” must be broken by buffing. This means buffing away the top layer of the Gelish to make it able to absorb the soak off liquid. Once the surface is broken then the nails must soak for 10 to 15 minutes. After soaking the nails and removing all the Gelish, the natural nail surface needs to be buffed again. With Shellac there is no buffing involved, though the soak off procedure is similar. Gelish takes an extra five minutes to soak off, which means an extra five minutes with the finger exposed to acetone.

Color Selection

Gelish has 72 colors available to Shellac’s 24. The 24 Shellac colors can all be layered leading to 576 combinations of two colors. If you use three separate layers of color, you have more than 620 septillion options. Gelish is not often layered color over color like Shellac is. Some Gelish users give a beauty tip of layering glitter layers over solid polish colors, though this is much more traditional than the layering done with Shellac.

Finding a Salon


Both companies have websites for their products with a search option. By entering your zip code or address, you can find nail technicians near you that offer the Shellac or Gelish services.

Using these search functions and a home zip code in the San Francisco suburbs, there were 92 salons offering Shellac within 25 miles. Using the same zip code as the search area, there were three salons offering Gelish. This is a vast difference, and if it is easier to find a technician who offers the product near you, this can make your decision easier.

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