Gel vs Shellac nails – what’s the difference

Whether it’s a manicure or pedicure you’re after, there are many different options available to make sure you are perfectly polished on both fingers and toes. Gone are the days when nail polish only looked good for a couple of days before it started to chip, now you can have pristine nails for weeks at a time but it can be a minefield deciding which products are right for you. However, you may be wondering what the difference is between normal nail polish, gel and Shellac, so here we finally explain it all.

Normal Polish vs Gel and Shellac Nails – the product and formulation difference

Normal nail varnish is the classic polish most of us are familiar with from our childhood. Although thankfully modern brands have much more refined formulas than what your mother used to wear so they’re much safer for your nails. There are endless brands, high street and designer, that you can choose from, you can apply it yourself, and you don’t need any special equipment for it to dry. Just make sure you wait at least 20mins before doing anything with your hands as you can easily smudge normal varnish if it is not fully dry.

Gel polish is an entirely different type of varnish, which doesn’t air dry, but cures under UV or LED light. You can buy home gel nail kits, but it is best it is applied by a professional nail technician. There are many brands of gel polishes such as OPI, Jessica, Gelish etc, however Shellac is the oldest and most well known of them all, hence why Shellac manicure has become synonymous with gel manicure. Much like Klenex has become the generic term used for tissue.

So to recap, the main difference between normal varnish and gel, is the formulation as the key ingredient in gel polishes is photo-reactive meaning that it must be set under the LED or UV lamp. This also means that you don’t have to wait for gel to dry, you can use your hands and feet normally, immediately after it’s applied.

Normal Polish vs Gel and Shellac Nails – the colour and longevity difference

There is a wide choice of colours to choose from for both normal and gel polishes, but the main difference you’ll notice is how much shinier gel polish is, and how much longer it lasts than normal varnish. Although there are some high shine top coats for normal varnish, it’d be difficult to get the same level of shine as you can get with gel polish. Not to mention that gels can last up to 3 weeks, while normal polishes will most likely fade and chip within 3-5 days.

Normal Polish vs Gel and Shellac Nails – the removal difference

The last big difference between normal polishes and gels is in the removal method. You can remove normal polish yourself with cotton and nail polish remover or acetone.

Gel nails should be removed professionally with a soak off solution, as peeling them off can lead to significant nail damage over time.

Would you like to know more information about the different nail treatments we offer? Simply give us a call on 02071013534 or email . To book an appointment, simply go online at or download our app. New customers enjoy £10 on their first treatment with discount code NEW10.

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