Shellac vs. gel nails – what’s the difference?


Shellac and gel nails spread confusion and you are not the only one who tries to untangle the definitions.

Truth be told, both shellac nails and gel nails can make an outstanding manicure or pedicure.

However, what’s the difference between these two?

Gel and shellac introduction

Nail polish has been around for more than 3000 years.

Nevertheless, big-time changes have happened recently with the entrance of shellac and gel. Due to social media channels, like Instagram, now we expect high-quality nail polish, like products from

Gel was introduced in 2009 and delivered in a bottle. From then, we were able to enjoy polishes that lasted a couple of weeks without any chipping. Consequently, gel turned into a beauty treatment.

However, after some time, shellac was introduced. It is a simple gel polish mixed with regular nail polish. It takes the best features of gel, such as no chipping and color, and adds the shine and the ease of application of a standard nail polish.

Difference between shellac and gel nails

At first glance, both types of nails look similar and they last up to 2 weeks. However, there are a few differences between shellac and gel nails.


Gel nails are created with liquid gel. They work by combining oligomers and acrylic monomers, which become harder under UV light.

Shellac is a mix of the basic gel and nail polish that guarantees the shining effect. Nevertheless, just like gel, shellac needs to be hardened under UV light.

Proneness to chip

The shining effect that traditional nail polish provides for shellac nails is great.

Nevertheless, there is also a downside to it which is greater proneness to chip than gel nails.

Easiness of removing

Shellac nails can be removed in a few minutes without either harsh scraping or the usage of acetone. Consequently, it is a carefree and easy process without an impact on your nails condition.

Unfortunately, it is not so easy with gel nails. The removal requires both soaking and filling. Removing gel nails can also damage the surface of the nails.

Choice of colors

Currently, gel is available in around 400 colors, while for shellac there are slightly over 130 shades obtainable.

If you like to play with different colors and need a wide selection of choices, gel will provide you with a deeper pool of possibilities.

However, if you like more classic, but still beautiful colors, among 130 options, you will surely find the one that you find interesting.

DIY possibility

Last but not least, gel nails can be easily done at home and you can equip yourself with high-quality nail polishes at Unfortunately, shellac manicure can only be done in a salon.

Nevertheless, if you opt for making your gel nails at home, be very careful, as if you do it wrong, you will have to go through a harsh removal process.

Summing up, each nail polish has its pros and cons. Luckily, both shellac and gel can provide you with a beautiful, lasting manicure. Shellac will guarantee more shine, but fewer choices of color, while gel will also look great, and you can play with a lot of shades.

Written by Megan Taylor
Megan is a beauty expert who is passionate about all things makeup and glam! Her love for makeup has brought her to become a beauty pro at Glamour Garden Cosmetics.