How Long Do Shellac Nails Last?

Shellac nails are popular because of their beautiful shine and durability. If you are considering a shellac manicure for the first time, you probably wonder how long shellac nails last. Luckily, you've come to exactly the right place! We've done the research and have lots of helpful information to share in this post.

Typically, shellac nails last up to 14 days when they are properly applied and cared for. They may last up to 21 days for people whose fingernails grow particularly slowly. Shellac nails are durable and unlikely to chip or peel during the first two weeks after application.

So the next logical question is: What can I do to make sure my shellac nails last as long as possible? Continue reading for answers to this and many other common questions about shellac nails, their application, and how to care for them. This post includes tips that will keep your manicure shining until you're ready for a new color.

Delicate manicure with gray and beige nail shellac coating, How Long Do Shellac Nails Last?

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What Are Shellac Nails?

Though sometimes used as an umbrella term for all gel manicures, shellac is actually a patented product and process created by the company Creative Nail Design (CND).

The official CND shellac process is always done in a salon by a CND-trained professional. This process includes nail preparation, use of CND products (base coat, color, top coat, and LED lamp), and ongoing nail care and maintenance.

A letterbox image capturing a row of shellac nail polish bottles in a row

The shellac formula includes a combination of gel and liquid polish. The gel provides durability, and the liquid polish provides a glossy shine for the color. The gel and traditional polish bond together when exposed to an LED lamp that uses UV rays, so the nails take almost no time to dry. This bonding process is called "curing," and it is done between each coat application for a shellac manicure. There are currently more than 150 colors of shellac polish available.

How Are Shellac Nails Applied?

Client with red nail polish at manicure salon dries polished nails with UV light

  1. Preparation: First, the nails are prepared for application. Shellac manicures should always be done on healthy nails. The hands and nails are cleaned, the nails are trimmed and shaped, and the cuticles are removed.
  2. Base Coat Application: The technician applies one layer of the base coat. This layer is cured under the LED lamp for 10 seconds on each hand.
  3. Color Coat Application: The technician applies one layer of the color coat. This layer is cured under the lamp for one minute per hand. Then a second color coat layer is applied, and that layer is cured for one minute per hand.
  4. Top Coat Application: The technician applies one layer of the top coat, and the layer is cured for one minute per hand. An alcohol pad is used to remove the top film (this is called "dispersion"), which leaves the nails extra smooth and glossy.
  5. Finish: Nail oil is applied to condition the nails. CND sells a product called SolarOil Nail & Cuticle Care, which is recommended for daily use to maintain healthy nails.

Click here to see this product on Amazon.

How Often Should You Get Shellac Done?

Manicure process in professional beauty salon, the making of artificial nails

Shellac nails should be removed and reapplied every two weeks. Though the manicure may last longer than that, the polish becomes more difficult to remove after two weeks. If you wait longer, the removal process may damage your nails.

By two weeks after a manicure, most nails have grown out to the point that there is a clear gap between the manicure and the bottom of the nail. That is a signal that it's time for a new color!

As long as your nails are healthy and hydrated and the shellac manicure is properly removed, you do not need to take a break between shellac manicure applications. However, it is important to note that shellac manicures are not recommended for brittle or thin nails.

Some people have expressed concern about the possible negative effects of the UV rays from the LED light used to cure a shellac manicure. It is true that exposure to UV radiation over time can damage your skin. However, the FDA considers nail curing lamps to be a low-risk exposure when used as directed.

To minimize your risk of exposure to UV rays, you can protect your hands by wearing fingerless gloves during your manicure. You can also apply sunscreen or moisturizer to your hands with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Click here to see this lotion on Amazon.

How Do You Make Shellac Nails Last As Long As Possible?

Delicate manicure with gray and beige nail shellac coating, How Long Do Shellac Nails Last?

Although it is recommended that you change your shellac nails every two weeks, you may be able to stretch the manicure up to three weeks with proper care. Be sure that your nails are completely healthy before applying a shellac manicure. Keep your skin moisturized and use nail oil as recommended (see the link to CND SolarOil above).

Shellac nails are very durable and should not chip or peel with light use. You can protect your nails by wearing gloves if you are doing rougher tasks such as washing dishes or gardening. Also, remember that the UV rays from the LED lamp bond the gel and liquid polish together. Exposing your nails to natural UV rays from sunlight can help to further strengthen that bond.

Which Lasts Longer - Shellac Or Gel?

As we have discussed, shellac manicures are a combination of gel and liquid polish, whereas gel manicures only use gel. Both are durable and long-lasting, but gel nails can last slightly longer. Shellac nails generally last up to two weeks, and gel nails can last up to three weeks. Shellac polish is thinner than gel, so it is slightly more prone to chipping.

It is important to note that gel nails are more difficult to remove than shellac. Gel nail removal requires filing the top of the nail to break the bond and then scraping the surface of the nail to remove all gel residue. This process can damage the nail.

To remove shellac nails, acetone-based nail polish remover is used to break down the chemical bonds. The shellac releases from the nail and breaks into small pieces that are wiped off with an isopropyl alcohol wipe. The removal process takes 5-15 minutes and is best done by a professional technician.

Why Is My Shellac Dull?

One of the benefits of shellac is the shiny, glossy finish, so it is disappointing to find that your shellac manicure is dull. A dull shellac manicure indicates an issue with the top coat of polish or the curing process itself.

Your nails may be dull if the top coat was not cured under the LED lamp for long enough (the recommended time is one minute for each hand) or if the top film (dispersion layer) was not removed after curing with an isopropyl alcohol wipe.

Dull nails may also indicate a problem with the LED lamp. If the lamp is faulty or old, the UV light may not be sufficiently strong to achieve a good shine. The bulbs in the lamp may have some dirt on them or may need to be replaced. If only one or two nails are dull, it is possible that the nails were not placed in the optimal position under the LED light.

How Do You Make Your Shellac Nails Shiny Again?

If you are still at the salon and find that your shellac nails are dull, ask your nail technician to apply one more layer of top coat. Cure the nails again under the LED lamp for one minute, and use a wipe to remove the top film from the nail. Your technician may also need to replace the bulbs in the LED lamp or use a different lamp.

If you are at home, you likely do not have access to CND products. The best way to restore shellac nail shine is to wipe your nails with an isopropyl alcohol pad. This will remove any dirt or dust that may cause nail dullness, and it will also remove the top film if it was not completely removed at the salon. For the best results, use wipes that are at least 70% isopropyl alcohol.

These affordable wipes from Sally Hansen are 90% isopropyl alcohol and should help you get those nails shiny again.

Click here to see this product on Amazon.

In Closing

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

Shellac nails are a beautifully shiny and durable manicure alternative that can keep your nails healthy and strong. In this post, we've covered the basics of shellac nails and how to care for them. You want your manicure to last as long as possible, of course. But switching your color every two weeks will keep your nails healthy and give you a fresh, new look!

You may also be interested in these recent related posts:

How Much Do Shellac Nails Cost?

Do You Need Long Nails For Shellac?

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