In the midst of the chaos that is life, there is something ridiculously reassuring about having a decent manicure. If my nails look good, I feel at least something is right in the universe. And for months my nails have looked fabulous thanks to my incredible manicurist, Dawn, and the genius that is the gel manicure.
I love chatting with stylist and fashion journalist Nikki Parkinson(her site, Styling You, was named Best Australian Blog 2011) about our mutual Shellac devotion – tweeting back and forth the colors we’re wearing from opposite hemispheres. (CDN, we're ready to helm the campaign for worldwide love of Shellac!)
As Nikki told me, in more than 140 characters, “Until Shellac I found getting manicures a waste of time and money. Even doing them myself was a huge waste as I'm shocking at treating my nails with respect. They would be chipped in a day!” (Nikki has hers done every 2-3 weeks. But because my nails grow fast, I usually opt for two.)
While Nikki has used Shellac exclusively, in the last seven months I’ve tried them all: OPI Axxium, CDN’s Shellac, Nail Harmony’s Gelish. And they’re hardly the same.
(Also, with my concern about greening our beauty routines, Shellac is the only one I can confirm is free of the “toxic trio” - dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde and toluene.)
OPI has such an incredible color collection, but it’s much harder on your nails than Shellac or Gelish. When I made my first appointment with Dawn, I'd had several gel manis already - but I suddenly learned the difference, as well as the importance, in a manicurist who knows the products well.
I completely agree with Nikki’s advice to “Ask around for an experienced therapist who's done the correct training in their application. I've seen some dodgy jobs and the wrong application techniques can cause the nail color to bubble or lift.” (I love that she refers to a manicurist as a therapist. We must adopt that Stateside.)
Shellac and Gelish are more polish-like (OPI comes in pots and applies like acrylic). Each coat (base, two color, top) sets under lights. Shellac uses UV, Gelish LED. Dawn used to lather my hands in sunscreen before applying Shellac but now uses the LED light for both (Shellac stays under the LED a minute or so longer.) I find the LED has worked as well as the UV.
When it comes to removal, Shellac comes off the easiest of the three, which is crazy considering how much I abuse my nails in two weeks without a chip or lift. (I owe the staying power to my manicurist’s skill as much as the product.)
CDN makes these great removal pads, though wrapping nails in acetone-soaked cotton and then foil for about ten minutes does the trick. And my natural nails are in great shape.
The only thing Shellac lacks is the wide color range of the others. When Nikki told me she was going to try layering color, I couldn’t wait to see the results, “one coat of Black Pool with one coat of Negligee over the top. It turned the black nail finish into a midnight blue. I'm going to try more layering in the future.” (Me, too.)
I asked Nikki’s advice for the best Shellac colors of the season (while it’s summer in Los Angeles, it’s winter in Queensland). “Tropix is a gorgeous coral color that I just had on my nails to brighten up my winter. It's the perfect summer color and will get you noticed! For a classic all-year-rounder - and I get three weeks out of this one - Romantique. It's a very pale pink and makes you look very polished.”
For now, I can’t get over having great color that lasts – so I tend to wear Wildfire and Decadence (I’m currently wearing Masquerade). My days of pale pinks are currently on hold.
The best part is I leave the salon with completely dry, shiny nails. Forty minutes at the salon (including the soak) and I’m good for several weeks! xo a.
Are you a fan of gel manis? Have questions? Let me know!