No-Chip Nail Polish: A Cautionary Tale

Day 18 of the "good" manicure.

UPDATE: A follow-up post can be foundĀ here. I had a much different, much better outcome when it was done properly!

I’ll start by saying that this is turning out to be a very different post than I originally planned to write when I sat in front of my computer, ranting. It’s turned out to be a cautionary tale about trying new things without doing the proper research first.

Back in December, I wrote a post about Shellac no-chip gel nail polish. In April, I had several events to attend and decided to get my nails done again at my same salon. I had my first manicure on March 31 and my nails still looked gorgeous on April 18. Yes, there was a growth line at the cuticle, but the polish was shiny and chip-free.

On the 18th I had my polish removed and a fresh Shellac manicure… or so I thought. On the 23rd, the polish on my ring finger began to peel from the cuticle up — the polish lifted off, evidently taking a layer of nail with it. Three days later, another nail peeled off. By the 14th day, a third had peeled off completely, and others were starting to peel in spots. All began at or near the cuticle while the tips still looked pristine.

When I went back for a polish removal, I asked the salon what caused the polish to peel. “You must not have the right kind of nails for it,” she said, and advised against doing another Shellac manicure until I’d let my nails “recover.” I had them remove my polish and then just buff my bare nails.

Left nail: the first of the peeled polish nails. Middle: sore and broken after polish removal. Right: not yet broken, but soft and thin.

On the way home from the salon, I broke two nails down so low that they hurt. My nails were weak, thin and in terrible condition. But Shellac markets itself as being safe for your nails! I was livid. What kind of awful product was this, anyway?

I sent a ranting email to CND, the makers of Shellac. And before I got a response, I started reading about the polish from various sources online, including the CND/Shellac website.

Here’s what I learned.

  • My salon is not an authorized Shellac salon.
  • I’m pretty sure that my second, unsuccessful manicure, used a combination of Shellac and a product called Gelify. This is also a gel polish, but I don’t know how well the two work together.
  • My salon didn’t use the easy-removal technique recommended by Shellac. Instead, they filed down the polish then left me to soak in a bowl of acetone, only to finish the job with more scraping and filing of the remaining polish, no doubt removing a ton of nail in the process. This is, apparently, how you remove old-style gel nails, but not the new gel polish.

Having done my research now, I realize that there’s a huge difference between a “real” Shellac manicure and the manicure that I got.

In hindsight, I should have done more research. I’ve always loved my nail salon. It’s part of a chain with beautiful facilities and sanitized, autoclaved instruments. I’d never even heard of Shellac until I saw it advertised in their on-site display, and decided to try it on a whim. So here’s my advice to you, with some guidance from Daphnye, my helpful CND customer service rep:

  • Check the website and find an authorized salon.
  • Check the bottles to make sure that they’re using real Shellac base coats, polish and top coats. I don’t think that the mix-and-match system works properly.
  • Ask if they use the CND UV or Brisa lamp.
  • Ask if they file the natural nail at all.
  • Ask how they remove the Shellac: with a bowl of acetone or the Removal Wraps?

Would I consider doing it again? Yes, but only at an authorized salon. But judging by the length and weakness of my now-broken nails, I won’t be doing another manicure of any kind again for a long time.


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7 Responses

  1. Janet Fazio says:

    Thanks for this post. I’m having a very similar experience and my nail technician, who used to do my acrylics, said it was just my nails. I’m sitting here trying to resist the urge to pick my 4 day old shellac manicure that is already shrinking away from the cuticle and lifting along the edges. I will look for a new salon instead.

  2. Alisa says:

    After chatting with CND (the makers of Shellac), there’s no such thing as having “the wrong nails.” If removed properly, the polish should cause no damage to the natural nail. I’ll update the blog when/if I finally find a good salon that does it correctly.

  3. Tiff says:

    I found your blog post because I was wondering if I was the only one who ended up with damaged nails because of Shellac/Gelish/Gel Nails. I believe my salon uses a combination of products as well, which is why I listed all the names of these kinds of polishes I’ve seen there. lol In addition, the polish starts to chip after a few days, which defeats the purpose of getting Shellac/Gellish. But, I noticed that my polish chips more now and my nails usually break, which is probably from me going through this process over and over. My salon does the same soak in acetone, scrape and file removal as well. I asked the was there another process to remove and they said no, which I find hard to believe. I tried going back to just a regular polish, but after Shellac/Gelish, my nails are so thin and damaged that a regular polish now looks bad. Now, I’m not sure what to do, as I currently have Shellac/Gellish on my hands now. Please update when you find out how it’s really supposed to be removed. In the meantime, I will see if I can find an authorized salon.

  4. Alisa says:

    I’ve been having my nails done properly at an authorized salon for the last couple of months and when it’s done right, it’s a good system. The proper way to remove the polish is with the Shellac wraps, which are sort of like Band-Aids: they apply the acetone to the pad part, then wrap your nails in them so they sit for a few minutes. The polish just peels right off. My nails have grown back and are pretty strong. I’ve gone Shellac-free for a couple of weeks (I couldn’t get my nails done because of scheduling conflicts), and even without the added strength of the Shellac, my nails are still in decent shape. I really should post a proper follow-up about this. Thanks for reminding me, and good luck with your nails!

  5. Tiff says:

    Thanks for the info, Alisa!

  6. Judy says:

    Had gels put on for the first time and liked them very much However my fingers and hand began to itch terribly. I had too have the salon remove them and they are feeling so much better. Beware of the chemicals in them before putting them on…I will go back to fills!!

  7. nikki says:

    i have read all the comment about shellac gel polish.
    1st when u have acrylic nails and decide to have the gel polish because it look more natural. who ever put gel on for customer that have acrylic nails 100% will get complaint. because when u put acrylic damage for nature nail already. Gel polish is for people that already have good nail not peeling or brutal nail.
    2sec there is many brand of gel out there. like opi, harmony gel, shellac etc…, for gel it depend on people nails too. i have them done they last about 4 week. i work as a nails tech, for some of my client it last for 3 day, 1 week, 2-3 week, so depend on each people nails. and what they do and work!…. not all people are the same.
    when i do my client i don’t ever put cuticle softerner just to avoid all the soap and oil on my client nails and i do massage after polish are dry.
    for the soak off gel, i use buffer buff the top coat of the gel and soak in acetone. if u don’t buff it take alot of time to push out the polish, because the acetone need to be absord in the gel polish to come off easier. For my experience i see that opi gel is ruin your nails just because it grab too hard on the nails. Shellac is a light gel polish that grab very light to the nail, for my self i use Gel Harmony. i found out that this gel polish is in between shellac and opi gel. stay on good but come of good when u need it to come of.
    hope this help.

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