Organic Nail Care Part Two: Shellac
Posted on July 13th, 2012

A new craze that goes by the name of shellac has recently exploded onto the mani/pedi scene thanks to its long list of benefits when compared to other types of manicures. But you may be wondering if this technique, that has been given such high praise, is a little too good to be true. In the second part of our Organic Nail Care series we’ve broken down the pros and cons of shellac for you!

What is shellac?

If you’re familiar at all with a mani/pedi, then you’ve probably heard about the new technique known as a shellac manicure. For those of you who have never heard the term or who aren’t sure of what it is exactly, don’t fret; we’ve got you covered!
Shellac is the trademarked product of Creative Nail Design (CND), a beauty supply store based in California. After five years in the developmental stages, CND released the first ‘hybrid’ nail polish and called it shellac. The product is half regular nail polish, half gel and is typically applied with two colour coats and a top coat. A couple minutes under a special UV light between each coat then helps to cure the colour and set the polish. The product is sold only to licensed professionals to ensure safer use and application. There are also similar product sold by other companies which essentially do the same thing - Axxium is one.

Why use shellac? - The Good

Shellac is a hybrid of gel and common nail polish so it has benefits from each. Like a gel polish, it is durable, smudge proof and has long lasting colour while on the other hand, it goes on smooth and does not require filing like gel manicures do. This is important because the filing process done during a gel manicure can damage the nail bed. Shellac Nails are also very convenient because they are quick to dry. With shellac nails you won’t be caught trying to fish things out of your purse without wrecking your nails; just a couple minutes under a UV light and you’re ready to go!  The nail color also typically lasts longer than polish alone - often 2 weeks.

Why not use shellac? - The Bad

Now onto the interesting part. Why shouldn’t you have a shellac manicure done?
While shellac is quick to apply, it is not as convenient as it may seem. First of all, to have your shellac nails applied or removed you must go to a salon because shellac is only sold to licensed professionals, which means it is impossible to do yourself. There is also usually a fee charged for the removal of the shellac and although there are ways to get around this, the safest way is to return to a salon.

What are the health risks? - The Ugly

Another problem that arises when it comes to removing shellac nails is the use of acetone. The cotton wraps used to remove shellac are soaked in 100% acetone which is extremely drying to the nails and an irritant to the eyes and throat.
UV exposure has become a concern because of the special lamps that clients must leave their hands under during the application process. While research is still being conducted, it is thought that the cumulative exposure to UV rays after multiple shellac applications may pose a risk to the client of developing skin cancer.
Shellac contains methylpyrrolidone, a chemical that is used to dissolve other chemicals. In June 2001, methylpyrrolidone was added to California's Prop 65 list of toxic chemicals as a chemical discovered to cause reproductive toxicity.
Shellac is really damaging to your nails.  Your nails will appear stronger while you have it on but as soon as you remove it, you will be sorely disappointed.  Most people will expereince extreme nail splitting and weakness for 6 months while their nails grow out.

How to get a great manicure while keeping your nails healthy!

As a natural spa, Alma doesn't do shellac manicures and don't recommend them to our clients due to the risks discussed above.  We do offer a shellac removal service at our spa that doesn't use acetone for the removal so if you do already have it on, we can help get your nails on the road to recovery. There are some really fantastic natural polishes out there that are durable and beautiful!

However if you would like to try shellac and keep the damage to your nails as minimal as possible we do have some suggestions:

• Take breaks between the removal and application of new shellac to allow your nails to breathe and moisture to return to them.
• Make sure your salon of choice uses the correct methods and products for application and removal to ensure the safest possible experience.

We'd love to hear about your experiences with this so share your comments below!

Posted in not categorized    Tagged with Health & Beauty, Natural, Manicure


Cyndy Mellgren - August 12th, 2012 at 3:00 PM
Katie thank you so much. It has been suggested that I have Gel or Shellac since my color last less than 2 weeks. Iam so glad to know. Of the weakening and increase in splitting since that is my main problem. You are doing a great community service to educate and prevent further damage and frustration Cis
Katie - August 12th, 2012 at 9:04 PM
Thanks so much for the comment, Cis! Yes this is the allure of the gel polish that it lasts so long. Plus since it damages the nail when you remove it, it is understandable that people would prefer to just keep applying it to cover up the damage - but just keeping it on won't solve the real issue!
Kathy Butson - March 2nd, 2013 at 3:32 PM
I have heard there is a new Shellac Alternative that uses a natural process as opposed to the chemicals found in shellac. I would like to know more about this and where I can have it done near where I live. I live in Bolton, Ontario.
- March 6th, 2013 at 2:03 PM
Hi Kathy,
Thank you for your comment. We haven't found any alternative as of yet that we think is safe (to breathe, to apply, and for the health of the nails). If you find anything out there, we'd be happy to take a look at it and analyze it for safety!

Thanks! Katie
tanya - May 29th, 2013 at 10:40 AM
hi what do you use to remove shellac if you dont use acetone? i thought only acetone removed it? thanks tanya
Katie - May 30th, 2013 at 1:52 PM
Hi Tanya, Thank you for the inquiry. To remove the Shellac we buff off the top layer and then we use our non-toxic nail polish remover to dissolve the Shellac. Similar process, but you really just need a solvent to dissolve the Shellac and ours works great!
Jean - June 11th, 2017 at 4:54 PM
Could I please ask how long it often takes to remove Shellac with non-toxic polish remover? Could I also ask how long does the non-Shellac nail polish that you use often last? I'm just wondering whether I should quit Shellac altogether...
Pauline S - October 24th, 2019 at 8:50 AM
Thank you for this info! Which non-toxic, long wearing polishes do you recommend?
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