is shellac bad for nails

I hate doing my nails. I can’t keep my hands still for the 5 minutes or so it takes nail polish to dry and it inevitably gets chipped.

If, for some kind of miracle, my manicure survives the first 10 minutes, it still chips like crazy after a couple of days. I’m that hard on my nails…

Oh, why can’t someone come up with a nail polish that’s both chip-free, last for weeks, and has zero dry time?

What, it exists you say? Oh, you’re talking about Shellac. I know about it. I can’t walk past a nail salon that doesn’t advertise the treatment on its windows here in London. But I can’t – no I won’t – use it. I love my nails more than I love a perfect manicure.

Shellac may sounds like the miracle answer to every nail polish fanatic’s troubles. But it’s an angel in disguise. Truth is, it causes more problems than it solves. Here’s why:

What’s Shellac?

I used to believe Shellac was a cutting-edge technology made in a lab by some nail fanatic, but nope. It’s derived from the waterproof resin the lac scale insect produces for protection.

It’s not just used in nail polish, either. You can find it in furniture finish and pharmaceuticals, and is even used in the food industry! So, even if you’ve never tried a Shellac manicure, chances are you’ve used shellac at some point in your life. Probably still are.

How Does Shellac Work?

Shellac nail polish, branded and made famous by CND, requires a particular application process. The first step is a base coat cured under a UV lamp for about 10 seconds. Then, the first layer of nail polish is applied, and cured under the lamp for 2 more minutes.

Same for the second layer. It’s followed by a top coat that, again, must be cured under the lamp for a couple of minutes to seal the polish. To complete the manicure, you spray isopropyl alcohol on each nail. This removes the film on their surface, leaving your nails extra smooth and super shiny.

Why Is This Bad For Nails?

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve already figured out what’s wrong with the application process. Yep, the UV ray lamp.

It’s true that using this lamp causes a lot less damage than driving in the sun without gloves does (and who wears gloves to drive?), but that’s not a good excuse to expose your nails to even more UV rays.

UV damage is cumulative. You want to do everything in your power to reduce it to the absolute minimum without compromising the quality of your life (who wants to stay trapped at home on a sunny day?).

Some of you may argue that, for you, the convenience of Shellac is worth the little extra damage UV rays cause. Fair enough. But there’s another way in which Shellac harms nails. I’m talking about the removal process.

How Do You Remove Shellac?

Like all nail polishes, you remove Shellac with acetone. But the process is a bit different. CND created a removal wrap. You saturate it in pure acetone, wrap it around each nail, and wait 10 long minutes before taking it off. This gives the acetone enough time to get through each layer of the Shellac manicure and remove them all.

What’s Wrong With The Shellac Removal Process?

If you’ve ever used nail polish, you know how bad acetone is for your nails. It weakens nails, making them become dry and brittle. It can also irritate and dry out skin. In the worst cases, it causes cracks and bleeding.

In small amounts, acetone is not that harmful. It may dry your hands and nails a bit but, if you take proper care of them, its side effects aren’t that bad.

But soaking your nails in acetone for 10 minutes? That’s asking for trouble. A 2012 study has found that gel manicures like Shellac cause significant brittleness, weakness, and thinning. After the manicure, the nails of one of the subjects were 50% thinner!

The study didn’t clarify if this was due to acetone alone, to some chemical in the nail polish, or both, but why take the risk? Whatever the cause, Shellac manicure does cause damage to your natural nails. That’s enough for me to stick to regular nail polishes.

The Bottom Line

Shellac manicures are so convenient! They’re chip-free, have zero dry time, and last up to three weeks. But both the application and removal process cause damage to your natural nails. If you ask me, the tradeoff simply isn’t worth it.

Are you a fan of Shellac manicures, or do you prefer to avoid them too? Share your thoughts in the comments below.