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Gel Nails vs. Shellac Nails: Which Nail Treatment is Right for You?

Manicured hands with patterned gel nails in pastel oranges, pinks, and blues
Manicured hands with patterned gel nails in pastel oranges, pinks, and blues

You can’t go wrong with either treatment, but they do have their differences. Having a hard time deciding between shellac and gel nails? You’re in the right place. 

Together, we’ll go over the differences between the two, then compare the variety, durability, and ease of removal of each treatment. We’ll make it easy for  you to decide whether shellac or gel nails are right for you!

What are gel nails?

When you get a manicure, you’ll be offered a variety of different nail polishes. Gel nails are offered by most modern nail salons. They’re overlays that are applied directly to the nail, then shaped by hand and buffed. This creates a beautiful, glossy nail – one that’s long-lasting and durable. 

There are a few different types of gel nails available; you’ll often hear salons talk about “hard” gel and “soft” gel. Soft gels, sometimes called modern gels, are thinner, and can be soaked off with acetone – though it’s best to visit a nail salon so they can thin the top layer with a bit before soaking the rest off in acetone. Hard gels are thicker, and longer lasting, but must be removed by professionals. At our salon, we use a bio-gel for our hard gels, which has fewer harsh chemicals, but still leaves you with a lustrous and long-lasting nail. 

Gel nails create structure, strengthening the nail plate. This keeps the polish we put on top of the gel nails from chipping or breaking. 

What are Shellac nails?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that shellac nails are nails painted with a polish made of shellac, which is a type of resin.

Here’s the weird thing – Shellac is actually a brand name for a polish developed by Creative Nail Design (CND). Shellac polish is a patented blend of regular nail polish and gel polish. You can find other brands that offer similar, long-lasting gel and polish blends. The brand we use in our salon is called ColourGel.

With a combination of gel and regular polish, Shellac and ColourGel nails promise to offer the best of both worlds. Do they deliver? Let’s do a side by side comparison of gel and Shellac nails to find out. 


When it comes to variety, gel nails are the clear winner. Shellac nails and their off-shoots haven’t been on the market for as long; for a while, CND were the only people making nail polish and gel hybrids.

Sometimes you’ll have a gorgeous colour in mind for your nails that simply isn’t available in Shellac. That’s almost never the case with gel nails, though. Tell your manicurist which colours you want for your nails in advance – they’ll be able to tell you if they have it available in gel, shellac, or both.


How durable are gel nails?

Gel nails are incredibly long-lasting; they’re one of the most durable nail treatments available. When you get a gel manicure, you can expect your gel nails to last for 3 weeks without needing touch ups. Your gel nails will be resistant to scratches, chipping, and other wear and tear. You’ll have glossy, show-stopping nails for weeks. 

How durable are shellac nails?

Shellac nails – and their many off-shoots – are designed to give you the durability of gel nails, along with the benefits of regular nail polish (like ease of removal). They do this job fairly well – you can expect your shellac nails to last for around 2 weeks.

They are, however, a little less durable than pure gel nails – they’re more prone to chipping and scratching. Shellac and ColourGel nails are still a lot more durable than regular nail polish, though – if you’re not ready to take the plunge into gel nails, we highly recommend a shellac manicure. You’ll be thrilled with the results. 

Winner: Gel Nails

Gel nails are built to last – there’s no manicure as durable as a gel manicure. Gel nails are so durable, in fact, that you’ll need a nail technician to remove them for you. That’s pretty impressive – expect a gorgeous, long-lasting manicure when you opt for gel nails. 


How easy is it to remove gel nails?

Removing gel nails is so tough that you can’t safely do it at home. Your nail technician will use a special nail bit to take off your gel overlays- and when we say “bit”, we do mean the kind that’s attached to a drill. Talk about tough and beautiful! 

How easy is it to remove shellac nails?

Shellac and colour gel nails are a lot easier to remove than gel nails – though it’s still best to get some help from your friendly neighbourhood nail technician. An acetone soak will clear shellac polish right off. 

Winner: Shellac nails

No surprise here – one style of polish requires a drill bit for removal, the other doesn’t. When it comes to ease of removal, shellac nails are the clear winner!

Which type of nail polish is right for you?

Which do you value more – having longer lasting nails, or nails that are easy to remove? There’s no right answer; it’s all a matter of personal preference, and what you’re comfortable with.

There are certain colours that are only available in gel; that might factor into your decision. Both styles of polish will leave your nails looking stunning; especially once our manicurists have perfectly trimmed and shaped your nails.

Not sure which one to go with? For newcomers, we recommend our ColourGel shellac-style nails. They’re a bit less of a commitment, but they still offer a long-lasting, luxurious look for your nails.

Here’s the most interesting thing: you really can get the best of both worlds. When you get our gel nails, we use ColourGel polish on top of the gel overlay in order to give you the best access to a variety of colors. You don’t have to choose between the two! 

Looking for shellac or gel nails in Winnipeg? Come to our salon; we’re located on Regent Avenue, right next to Kildonan Place. Our nail technicians will find the perfect polish and colour – and you’ll get the manicure of your dreams. Whether you choose shellac or gel nails, we know you’ll be happy with the results – especially with our Camellia 7 Day Nail Guarantee!

We look forward to seeing you in our salon soon!