Does Shellac Ruin Your Nails (And Do You Need A Break From Them)

Getting your nails done is the perfect way to always feel put together. Even in sweatpants and a messy bun, a beautiful coat of shiny polish can make you feel like a brand new person. You want that feeling to last, so you need the best type of manicure. Polish is pretty but easy to chip, and gel polish lasts longer but can harm your nails when it's being removed. But what about shellac? Shellac manicures are perfect for long-lasting and ultra shine polish, so we've researched whether shellac ruins your nails.

Shellac polish is a less harmful formula than a similar process. Application and removal both require minimal damage to your nails. As with all nail treatments, it's important to give your natural nails a break. It's suggested a week-long break every eight weeks is ideal for shellac nails.

Shellac is a rising trend in nail salons, and rightfully so. With the gorgeous shine of regular polish and the longevity of gel, shellac may be worth a try for your next manicure. If you're curious about whether or not you should give shellac a shot, keep reading as we dive into the pros and cons of shellac polish.

A woman getting her nail polished at a salon, Does Shellac Ruin Your Nails (And Do You Need A Break From Them)

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What is Shellac?

A woman holding a flower while showing her nails polished in white

Shellac is a gel-polish hybrid developed by Creative Nail Design (CND). They combine the longevity of gel polish and the shine and color of traditional nail polish to give you a long-lasting and beautiful manicure.

The process of applying shellac is what really sets this manicure apart. Shellac requires three coats, two polish coats, and one topcoat. Each layer is cured by a UV light before the next coat is applied.


  • Shellac lasts up to two weeks, at which point you're more likely to have unsightly grow out than you are major chips.
  • Because each shellac layer is cured by UV light, there is minimal drying time and zero chances of smudging your newly manicured nails.
  • Since shellac is a gel and polish hybrid, your nails come out looking shiny and polished without the thick layers of gel.
  • When you get them removed at a salon, shellac leaves you with little damage to your natural nails.


  • Like most longer-lasting nail processes, shellac requires that your natural nails are roughed up a bit before application to create a textured surface for the polish to better adhere to. This obviously is intentional damage to the top layer of your nail.
  • Since shellac is a hybrid of gel and polish, it may not last as long as thicker gel manicures. However, there isn't a significant amount of difference in the timing.
  • Shellac is more expensive than a typical manicure since it's a specialized formula and requires a time-consuming process.
  • There are almost 100 color shades to choose from. This may not sound like a con, but in comparison to gel and polish, and the chance that salons may not carry all of them, it's a limited amount.

How often should you give your nails a break from shellac?

A woman showing her gorgeous fingers and nails

It's recommended for any type of artificial nails that you take a week-long break every eight weeks. Since shellac, gel, dip dye, and acrylic all require buffing the nails beforehand, plus the use of grinding or harsh acetone for removal, your top layer of nail needs time to recover. For shellac that lasts two weeks, that means a week-long break between every four consecutive manicures should give your nails enough time to recuperate.

Why do my nails hurt after removing shellac?

A woman using a buffer on her clients ails

When you aren't getting shellac professionally removed, you can damage and hurt your own nails. Shellac is fairly easy to remove in that it either needs to soak in Creative Nail Designs (CND) formulated remover or pure acetone for at least ten minutes. At that point, you should be able to wipe away most, if not all, of the product without scraping.

When removing shellac at home, it's hard to be patient, which means you may spend less time waiting for the nails to soak and more time filing, scraping, or picking at the polish, which can cause your nails to be sore later.

If you want to remove the nails at home with minimal damage and soreness, allow your nails to soak long enough that it breaks down the layers of cured polish. If you get restless, you can soak cotton swabs in acetone or CND remover, place them on your nails, and use foil covers to let them soak while still maintaining the use of your hands.

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How do I strengthen my nails after shellac?

When you're taking a break from shellac or other nail products, you can follow a few steps to help strengthen your nails.

  1. Keep your nails trimmed. Long nails are more likely to break. Plus, it helps to remove some of the weaker parts of the nail.
  2. If your top layer of the nail is peeling or rough and uneven, lightly buff it out to a smooth surface to prevent further peeling.
  3. Paint your nails with a strengthening treatment polish.
  4. Most manicures will require removing your cuticles to create a clean edge for polish.

Try a strengthening treatment polish to replenish nails.

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Add moisture back into your nail beds with cuticle oil to build healthy cuticles.

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What is the difference between shellac and gel polish?

A woman showing her blue polished fingers nails

The biggest difference between shellac and gel is the formula. Gel polish is a liquid gel consisting of acrylic monomers. The end result is a thick and flexible fake nail. Shellac combines this gel formula with traditional polish, and what results is a harder version of a gel nail.

Like we mentioned above, shellac is a hybrid that borrows from the long-lasting properties of gel polish. Although both are less likely to chip, shellac is thinner and contains traditional nail polish properties making it not as likely to last as long as a gel manicure but still maintain shine and color.

UV lamp gel polish process inside an expensive salon

While both processes consist of curing and drying under UV light, the gel polish will do a bit more damage to your nails during removal than shellac will. Gel requires that your nails be roughed up during the removal process as well in order to allow remover to penetrate the layers of polish underneath. You're more likely to have damage to your top nail layer during the removal of gel polish.

In Conclusion

Shellac nails are rising in popularity for all the right reasons. Not only will they outlast a traditional manicure, but they also do less damage to your nails than similar processes. Whether you're a fan of simple polish or enjoy a gel manicure, shellac is worth a try for every manicure lover. Just remember, whatever treatment you prefer for your nails, take a break to restore the strength of your natural nails.

Interested in checking out other popular nail trends? Check out this post to read up on dip nails: "How Long Can You Keep Dip Nails On?"

If you're looking to take your nails beyond a manicure, maybe acrylics are for you! Check out this post to see how long they last: "How Often Should You Get a New Set of Acrylic Nails?"

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