Gel nails vs CND Shellac

The most popular treatment in a salon, gel nails. There are so many names for this treatment and its time it was made clear!

Which Type?

The main two types are hard gel and soft gel nails.

Hard gels are a tougher longer lasting gel and usually buffed off. Hard gel allows nail technicians to create a nail with a tip extension or a form (for sculpting).

A softer gel, is more flexible, comes in a range of colours and is easier to apply and remove. It may not be suitable for an extension but a great option to grow your natural nails with extra strength.

Gel polish is sometimes called Shellac, which isn’t entirely accurate since Shellac is a product line made by the CND brand. Gel polish is a quick long lasting manicure. It can be directly applied to natural nails or over hard gel or soft gel nails. When applied to natural nails, it can last anywhere from 2-3 weeks. There are many brands of hard, soft and gel polishes including some you may already know; CND Shellac, Gelish, Magpie, The Gel Bottle, OPI, Evo and many more. When it’s time to remove your gel polish, it’s best to go to the salon.

What happens in your nail treatment?

After preparing the nail by filing the nails and tidying the cuticle area, your nails are ready for their gel application. This is an essential step for any nail treatment as it prevents lifting, ensures long lasting wear and takes care of the natural nail. Some brands of gel require you to gently buff the nail plate, but ensure this isn’t too much as it can cause nail damage.

Once your gels are applied, they will need to be cured under a lamp. There are two types of lamp, LED or UV. Gel is cured by ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths hitting the molecules called photo initiators in the gel and activating them. UV lamps emit broad UV wavelengths so it takes longer to cure but works on all gel. LED technology uses more narrow UV wavelengths that targets specific photo initiators in the gel polish so the gel cures faster. Many people are concerned about the potential damage or side effects from exposure to the UV rays from nail lamps. In reality, the UV exposure from nail lamps is minimal compared with other activities people engage in day-to-day such as walking outside or laying out out at the pool. The majority of the UV light that nail lamps emit is UV-A which is safer for your skin than UV-B.


After your nail treatment is finished there are ways you can maintain the health of your nail and how long your gels are going to last you at home. Cuticle oil recommended by your nail technician that suits the gel polish type you have had. Certain cuticle oils only work with certain gels as they have molecules small enough to go through the gel and reach the nail plate. Your technician may recommended other products.

Removal or Reapplication

You will be invited to return for either 2-3 weeks for a removal or reapplication. Some clients ask if they need to take a break to allow nails to breath. Nails do not need to breathe. They get all the oxygen and nutrients that they need from the blood moving below the surface. Using cuticle oil will allow the natural nail to stay healthy under your gel.

I hope that sums up gel nails for you, and as always feel free to leave a comment or find me on social media to ask any questions.

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