Is Shellac The Same As Gel?

Getting a gel overlay can be confusing sometimes. With so many options, it isn’t easy to choose one if you don’t know the difference and if they only have different names for the same product. For example, one of the questions that people often ask me is: “Is Shellac the same as gel?” or “Which one should I choose?”

Let’s get these questions answered!

Is Shellac The Same As Gel?

Although Shellac has gel components, it is not the same as a gel. Shellac is a special lacquer and gel hybrid that gives the wearer the best of both worlds. Gel has its pros and cons, which do not correlate with Shellac and consist of different types. These include hard gels and soft gels.

To be self-assured when walking into the salon, you need to know the difference between Shellac and gel. This will ensure you make the best decision and ask the right questions for the desired results.

a nail technician doing full set shellac nails

Why The Confusion Between Shellac And Gel?

CND (Creative Nail Designs) released its Shellac nail polish in 2010, making a statement in the nail world. The Shellac nail polish could shine and apply like regular nail polish but cure fast and last as long as a gel overlay.

The brand quickly became popular with many nail salons and techs. The easy application, long-lasting, and fast removal of Shellac made the brand the go-to for many salons worldwide. Because of this preference, many started advertising only Shellac as a manicure service, concluding that “it is the same as a gel.”

Today, thirteen years after Shellac’s release, there is confusion around Shellac and gel because many people see them as one and the same. Although there are similarities, they are not the same in many ways.

Perks Of A Shellac Manicure

CND Shellac Gel Polish

When CND released the Shellac nail polish, the key was to compete with and get a better product than regular nail lacquer or polish. The downfall of traditional nail polish is that you need to air dry them, they only last 3 to 7 days, and you should not dare go near the dishes with them.

CND added gel properties to nail lacquer and gave birth to the hybrid polish Shellac. The result was the dream that every nail enthusiast with irritation for nail polish dreamed about.

  • No more air drying is needed.
  • No more re-applications every other day.
  • No more anxiety when working with water.

Although you cannot go wild with hair dye, water, and harsh chemicals with Shellac, as you could with hard gels, it will last up to 2 weeks. A shellac manicure may cost you a little more than a nail polish overlay in one go, but it will certainly save you in the long haul and keep you calmer for longer.

Suppose you love this 100% vegan application; you can buy the Shellac system and do your own manicures at home. The Shellac system includes a specific Shellac LED lamp CND designed to cure Shellac nails. The other products in the system are Shellac base and top coat, Shellac colors, and solar oil.

The removal works the same as gel, soaking your nails in acetone cotton balls and covering the fingers in foil. The perk of Shellac is that their “Offly Fast” Shellac remover enhances the process as it was specifically designed to remove Shellac. It also contains oil that nourishes the nail and cuticles, other than acetone that dries it out.

The Shellac Solar oil you can apply on the nails and cuticles after removal will keep your nails refreshed, flexible, and healthy, leading to a longer-lasting manicure.

What Makes Shellac Better Than Gel?

a freshly done full set of shellac manicure

There is no one better product than the other. It depends on what the client wants. Gel has been around for many years and is one of the go-to manicure options. Shellac, a particular product from the CND brand, has complementary products that make Shellac easier to handle.

Shellac has a complementary base and top coat, making it a perfect combination between nail polish and gel. You must use these products in unison and cannot use any other base or top coat if you want the same result. In addition, the remover specifically designed to remove Shellac reduces the time and is gentler on the nails.

How Do Shellac And Gel Compare?

Gel and Shellac may need clarification when comparing their look, the fact that you need a UV lamp to cure the overlay, and remove both with an acetone soak.

Shellac differs because of the lacquer components. This leads to a shinier result, more natural like nail polish, and a little weaker than gel. Thus, Shellac might not be your best choice if strength is what you are after.

Gels come in different types and brands. From soft gel (that correlates more with Shellac) to hard gels that are thicker, more robust, and have alternative removal methods.

Because the levels of lacquer in Shellac are much higher than the gel composition, it doesn’t cure as hard, which means it removes easier than gel overlays.

Shellac is one of a kind and specific product from CND. This UV-curing hybrid nail polish is regular lacquer with a boost. Its companion removal product makes removal more accessible, faster, and safer.

Both can be damaging to the nail if it is removed incorrectly. For example, pulling or ripping Shellac or gel from the nail can severely damage the nails. Using a file after the soak to ensure all the product is removed can also cause extreme damage if done excessively.

The gel is usually applied to strengthen the nail or, in the case of hard gels, build the nail and lengthen it. Shellac is to extend the beauty and shine of a regular nail polish overlay and prevent any chips.

There are places where gel and Shellac are the same. This is during the preparation of the nail, the application, and the curing. This is more so for soft gel. The procedure follows the same structure, but a different product gets used, and you get a slightly different result.


Shellac and gel are not the same at all. If your salon only sells Shellac manicures, ensure they use the actual product and not only name any gel overlay Shellac. It could turn south if you need a Shellac overlay and get a hard gel overlay instead.