Do You Need Long Nails For Shellac (And Do They Add Length?)

In the world of nail art, there is a constant battle going on. Everyone wants to get nails that last long but also don't actively harm the nail underneath. We all know that gels and acrylics tend to be rough, but a new contender in the ring has entered. It's called shellac, and it quickly gained a reputation for requiring long nails. But, do you really need perfectly long nails to use this polish? We researched this matter to find out just what the requirements are!

While there is a reputation for shellac requiring long nails, the truth is more nuanced than that. Unlike gels, you cannot use it to lengthen your nails artificially. So if you want long nails with shellac, you have to grow them yourself. The only requirement is to have healthy nails that are already at the length you want.

Most nail salons across the nation are just starting to get the hang of shellac and what it can offer nail art fans. If you're curious about what shellac can do, this guide will shed some light on the subject.

A woman showing her shellac pedicure under the light, Do You Need Long Nails For Shellac (And Do They Add Length?)

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What Is Shellac?

Shellac is a brand new nail polish type that is a blend between traditional nail polish and gels. Unlike gels, they are not artificial and will not be able to lengthen your nail. However, they still offer a natural, fresh look that lasts longer than traditional nails. Most people choose shellac because they want gel-like results that are easy on your nails.

While gel polish is available from a wide range of different vendors, genuine shellac can only be gotten from one company: CND. It's a branded name. This can make it a difficult type of nail polish to find outside of a professional setting. Even so, it's possible to get shellac colors on sites like Amazon.

Do Shellac Nails Add Length?

Unlike gel and acrylics, which are generally considered artificial due to their nail-lengthening abilities, shellac is regarded as an upgraded version of traditional nail polish. While it does stay on for longer, the truth is that it still does not add nail length. If you want longer nails, grow them out, or get gels.

With that said, there are some claims that you can also enhance acrylic nails with shellac. So if you want a strengthening treatment for your acrylic nails, that might be a good way to do it.

How Much Does A Shellac Manicure Cost?

Because shellac is hard to find in typical stores, it's best to go to a nail salon to get it done. In terms of price, shellac nails are actually more expensive than a typical gel manicure will be. Most salons that offer it do so for a price between $45 to $60. The reason for the high price tag deals with the treatment's novelty. Since it's new, it's trendy, and people pay for that.

Is Shellac Safe?

Shellac is safe for nails, and it's designed to be less damaging than acrylic or gel. If you want a stronger polish but don't want worn-down nails, having shellac is a good idea.

How Do You Prepare Nails For Shellac?

Prepping your nails for shellac is a process, to say the least. To prepare your nails for shellac, start with the following procedure:

  1. Remove any nail polish that currently resides on your nails.
  2. Next, file your nails into the shape that you want them to be.
  3. Cut away cuticles, push back any additional skin you find, then wash your hands.
  4. Then file your nails lightly with a nail file or scrub fresh.
  5. Apply a Shellac Base Coat layer, leaving a small gap between the polish and the nail edges.
  6. Get a UV lamp and cure each hand for two minutes.
  7. After the base coat has been cured, you can apply the shellac color and top coat of your choice.

Click here to get CND Shellac base coating from Amazon.

Is It Worth Getting Shellac On Acrylic Nails?

Getting shellac on acrylic nails is often done as a way to reinforce their strength and as a way to lengthen the time you have between new sets of acrylics. However, the jury is still out on whether or not it's worth getting it over your nails. No evidence suggests it will extend the life of your acrylic nails.

Most people who get shellac polishes do so because there's no dry time. Even so, it won't last any longer than typical acrylic nail polish will. If you were hoping for a longer-lasting manicure, shellac isn't worth the extra fee. Convenience-wise, it might be alright. It's up to you to decide.

Can You File Shellac Nails?

Filing nails with polish on is always doable, though you might not like the results you get. With shellac, it's possible to file your nails so that you can get the edge you want. However, there's a little problem with filing nails that have shellac on them: it breaks open the seal you have protecting the coloration.

Without the protective seal there, it's possible to get moisture trapped inside the shellac. This, in turn, can cause your manicure to end up losing much of its veneer. At times, it can even lead to chipping and premature breakage. So, if you are going to leave your nails filed without any treatment, you might be disappointed.

The best way to file shellac nails is to re-paint them after filing. At the very least, add a topcoat. It can help lock out any moisture.

Which Is Better, Gel, Or Shellac?

Though acrylics are often compared to shellac, most people tend to see the biggest competition between shellac and gels. Some folks even use the two terms interchangeably, though that's not always the case. Which polish type is right for you all depends on what you want to accomplish with your nails.

You Should Choose Shellac If...

You are a natural nail wearer who wants a stronger manicure that's easy on the hands. Shellac is not a false nail type, nor is it as brittle as regular polish is. For people who need to keep their nails natural, shellac is a great pick. However, it's worth noting that shellac has limited polish options. People who want extreme looks may not want this polish type.

If you are worried about having to grow out nails or remediate the damage done through long-term gel use, then this is the best bet for you. If nothing else, shellac is excellent at giving your nails a break.

You Should Choose Gel If...

You want a nail that lasts longer than shellac, potentially has special effects, and adds length to your nail. Gel nail polish is not easy on the nails and can significantly weaken them over time. However, the perks include a manicure that lasts up to 21 days (versus the 14 of shellac) and a wider range of special effects.

Many people prefer gel nails simply because of the striking array of special effects that polishes can have. If you want to get in on the color-changing nail polish trend, it's going to have to be gel nails for you.

Click here to get color-changing gel polish from Amazon.


When shellac hit the nail polish market, it quickly became a trend that spread like wildfire. It's easy to see why. Most people want to have a manicure that lasts longer. However, it's essential to realize what this new polish type can and cannot do. A hybrid of gel and classic nail polish, shellac is strong, but it can't add mass to your nails.

If you want to get shellac, it's important to know how to prep your nails and protect your new polish. Thankfully, it's fairly easy to do. With a little extra care, your nails will look absolutely fabulous for around two weeks.

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