Does Shellac Ruin Your Nails?

Many rumors are going around about the damage nail overlays can cause to your nails and hands and that it can influence your health. Some hype it up and others brush it off. Considering all of this, does Shellac ruin your nails?

Does Shellac Ruin Your Nails?

Shellac, as the product itself, is not harmful to the nails or the person wearing it. What can be detrimental is the wrong application, maintenance, and removal of Shellac. Although the chances are small of getting cancer, it is up to the wearer to decide if they want to stick to Shellac overlays.

There are ways that Shellac can be harsh and damaging to your nails. However, suppose you know the causes and implement preventative measures. In that case, you can wear Shellac without a hint of guilt towards your body.

How Can Shellac Ruin Your Nails?

In the beauty industry, there are a few villain ingredients that most consumers try to shy away from, and manufacturers do their best to please them. These ingredients are formaldehyde, dibutyl, and toluene. These are all highly carcinogenic and can be toxic to the body. On the other hand, Shellac is free from all three of these ingredients, and the other ingredients have not yet been questioned.

Apart from the product that is safe, there are ways Shellac could be bad for you and ruin your nails.

How Can The Application Of Shellac Ruin Nails?

uv curing gel polish

Shellac can be harmful to the nails and body because of the UV lights the curing process entails. Another aspect that can harm the nails during the application could be layers that are too thick and not appropriately cured.

Shellac that does not cure properly will lift quickly or cause skin and nail sensitivity. In worse cases, it leads to allergic reactions. This is the same with Shellac cured on the skin. That is why, when you DIY Shellac at home, you should ensure no polish is left on the skin before you cure the layer.

Studies show a slight chance of UV nail lamps causing skin cancer, but it increases the more you are exposed to it. Shellac and gel types need curing for each layer, and getting an overlay every second week increases the exposure to UV lights.

How Can The Maintenance Of Shellac Ruin Nails?

Most of us have done it before, even if it was only once – the thrill of pulling and ripping off gel or a manicure can be satisfying, but you are ruining your nails. Besides regular nail polish, the entire point of an advanced overlay is for it to stick better. Bonding more tightly to the nail means you will rip off a keratin layer when you pull it off.

Shellac is not as strong as builder gel or acrylic. Thus, working with harsh chemicals or water a lot will lead to chips and lifts. This, in turn, causes the urge to pull at the Shellac.

How Can The Removal Of Shellac Ruin Nails?

a woman can't remove gel nail polish

Shellac can cause damage, especially if the removal is not done correctly. First, Shellac needs to be soaked in acetone to get it off. Although acetone is not dangerous for the nails or skin, it can dry and dehydrate the nails and cuticles immensely. In addition, the soaking time can take up to 10 minutes, prolonging the dehydration time.

Some say that re-doing an overlay over and over again is harmful to your nails. This is not the case. What might be an excellent idea for the rest period is if you want to give your nails time to hydrate and stay clear of UV rays and acetone for longer in between sets.

Why Is Shellac Better At Keeping The Nails Healthy?

Although the harmful consequences mentioned above include Shellac and many other overlay types, there is a light in the tunnel regarding Shellac.

  • Shellac doesn’t need filing before the application. However, some overlays ask for a rough surface for the base coat to stick better. Therefore, you are filing a keratin layer off to accommodate the new set. This is not the case with Shellac.
  • Shellac uses a specialized LED nail lamp instead of UV. Although it can still be harmful, it is less dangerous than UV rays.
  • Because Shellac is more lacquer than gel, the bond is not as great as other overlays. As a result, the removal is a little faster, exposing the nail to acetone for less time. Shellac also has its brand remover called “Offly Fast,” which removes it even faster.

How Can I Do Shellac And Look After My Nails?

Luckily, Shellac is less harmful than other overlays. Still, there are extra measures you can take to ensure you get the least damage possible.

  • Apply sunscreen to your hands or wear gloves where the nails are the only part that shows. This way, you can protect your hands against harmful light. Take note that some salons implemented new rules during the pandemic that you need to wash your hands before starting. Only applying sunscreen then will not help the LED light rays.
  • No matter what, please stay clear from pulling or ripping off Shellac. Instead, remove it as soon as possible if you cannot control your urges, or add a top coat to keep the lifting part at bay.
  • When removing your own Shellac nails, opt for the special remover from CND specifically for Shellac nails. It will help you remove it faster, reducing the time you are exposed to acetone. Do not file the overlay to remove it.
  • Use cuticle oil and moisturizer to hydrate the nails and skin. CND has a solar oil that hydrates the nails with vitamin E.
  • Use a collagen supplement to strengthen the nails.
  • Wear waterproof gloves when you work with harsh chemicals or submerge your hands in water for long periods. This will prolong your set and prevent chips and lifts.

There is a new product on the market, SNS, that dries as hard as Shellac and gel but doesn’t need curing. The world is health conscious, and soon, more products will eliminate harsh chemicals and UV rays.


Although there are a few lurking dangers to Shellac, you can dodge most of them if you try. Looking after your manicure will ensure you prolong your set and thus postpone contact with the LED light and acetone.