Can You Paint Over Shellac Nails?

Shellac nails are the perfect manicure. They're long-lasting, have a gorgeous shine that doesn't fade, and don't damage your natural nails. Still, shellac isn't infallible, and it can still chip or peel with time and wear. So if you want to extend even your longest lasting manicure or simply want a color change, can you paint over your shellac nails with traditional polish? We've researched the options to get the best answer for you.

Yes, you can paint over or touch up shellac nails with traditional or gel polish. Use your favorite polish and finish with a UV topcoat for extended coverage. 

If you're looking to touch up or change the color of your shellac nails, then you don't have to take the time and money to make an extra trip into the salon. With a few simple steps and tips, you can get the most out of your shellac manicure. Keep reading to learn how to paint over your shellac nails.

Beautiful groomed woman's hands with white nails on a light gray background, Can You Paint Over Shellac Nails?

What Is Shellac?

Shellac is a gel and traditional polish hybrid. They have a shiny and hard finish with long-lasting results. A key element of shellac nails is that they are cured using a UV lamp between each shellac layer—one base coat and two colored coats.

How To Touch Up Shellac Nails

Shellac nails are fairly easy to touch up or paint over between manicures. The most important part is to remove the shiny topcoat of the original manicure and preferably add a new base coat to give it a strong surface to adhere to. (However, it's not necessary for a quick paint-over.)

You can then simply paint over the shellac and apply a standard topcoat. For the best results, use Vinylux polish, which is by the same company that created the shellac system.

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If you do choose to paint over your shellac with regular polish, you can actually easily change the color again by using a non-acetone remover. Shellac needs acetone to break down, so regular remover will remove the polish but not harm your shellac nails.

How do I keep my shellac nails from peeling?

Beautiful woman hands with red nails on light pink table background

Two common reasons cause shellac nails to peel or chip more quickly—excessive exposure to water and using your hands and nails as tools.

Water, such as frequent hand washing or spending summers in the pool or ocean, can dry out your cuticles, restricting flexibility. Moisturized hands and nail beds will prevent chipping and peeling, but it's something you will have to keep up with if you do spend a lot of time in the water or washing your hands.

Creative Nail Design (CND), the shellac nail system creators, recommend their cuticle oil to promote healthy nails and nail beds. Applying this oil as well as a hand cream after washing your hands or being in the water will replenish lost moisture.

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You can also cause peeling by frequently using your nails as tools, such as for peeling stickers, opening packages, or other physical jobs that require the use of your hands. The only real remedy for this is to be cautious and avoid these activities when you can and use scissors to open packages instead of your nails, for example.

How do you fix chipped shellac nails?

Beautiful manicured woman's nails with cream nail polish

Shellac manicures are strong and long-lasting, but that doesn't mean they are immune to chips and wear between nail appointments. If you have a chipped shellac manicure, there are steps you can take to fix these imperfections at home without an extra trip to the salon.

1. Buff Out Shine

Shellac nails have a hard and shiny topcoat that will need to be buffed out before applying any polish. This topcoat creates a slick surface that won't allow your polish to adhere as strongly as it could. It doesn't take much, so don't go crazy on buffing off your polish. A couple of quick swipes should remove the shiny layer easily.


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2. Cut Lifts and Level Chips

Acrylic, gel, and shellac manicures are all thick coats that sit on top of your nails. After wear and natural break down, the bottoms and edges may begin to pull up and away from your nail. If that's the case, you can remove the lifted edges with a cuticle clipper.

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Next, you will want to even out the top of your nail to create a level surface for your polish. If you removed any lifted edges or if you have chips that have created a raised surface, you can use a nail file to file down the polish around the chip. Your file should be moving parallel to your nail, and you will want only to file the polish, not your natural nail.

Again, the goal isn't to file away your polish but to blend the chips into your nail, so the polish glides smoothly without gaps or cracks.

3. Prime And Polish

Once you have your nails prepped, you can use a polish primer and then your chosen nail polish to repaint your nails. If the first coat doesn't hide or cover the chips and you can see the inconsistencies, apply a second coat. Don't attempt to apply another layer only on the uneven areas; instead, cover the entire nail.

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4. Topcoat

Finally, you can apply a topcoat to set your polish. Using a UV topcoat will provide you with a hard shine similar to your original manicure, but it will need to be set with a UV/LED lamp to cure correctly.

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Can you remove shellac with nail polish remover?

There are two types of nail polish removers, those with acetone and those without. Both types contain solvents that can break down nail polish. Acetone is a much stronger solvent used to break down acrylics, gels, and shellac.

Generally, you would use acetone, or a shellac specific remover, to remove shellac polish. This requires soaking cotton balls in remover, placing them on top of your nails, and then covering your nails with foil wraps to allow the remover to break down the polish. After about 10 minutes, you should be able to wipe most, if not all, of the polish off.

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You could use regular nail polish remover to remove shellac nails, however, they would need to soak much longer to soften up enough for removal without scraping and damaging your nails. If you want to avoid damaging your nails, opt for pure acetone remover or have a nail tech at your favorite salon remove them for you.

Can you use nail polish on gel nails?

UV nail lamp, gel polish manicure process

You can use regular nail polish on gel nails to change the color or touch up a manicure. However, it will help to prep your nails before just going in with a new polish. Gel nails are also finished with a glossy painted finish. Before you paint over them, use a file or buffer to buff off the glossy layer to create that surface that is easier for the polish to adhere to, just like shellac.

If your nails are chipped, you can follow the same steps to blend the chip as you would with shellac nails. Once the surface is even and smooth, you can paint your nails with your new polish.

When using gel polish, as opposed to traditional polish, you will want to cure your nails with an LED lamp. This is a great investment if you frequently use gel polish on your nails since it hardens the polish giving you that long-lasting perk of gel nails.

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In Conclusion

Shellac nails are gorgeous and very practical when it comes to paying for a manicure. Making the most of your nails and extending your mani's life will keep you happy and confident with your nails even between appointments.

If you want more information on shellac and how they affect your nails, head over to this post: "Does Shellac Ruin Your Nails."

If acrylics are more your style, you can check out this post to learn just how often you'll need a new set: "How Often Should You Get a New Set of Acrylic Nails?"

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