Shellac Vs Lacquer: Which One To Choose In 2023

With the trends rising and new types of manicures and polishes popping around each corner, it can be confusing for a person to decide which one is for you or will fit your budget.

Taking two types, Shellac vs Lacquer, which one should you choose in 2023?

Shellac Vs Lacquer

Although Shellac contains lacquer in its composition, it is not the same as lacquer. Lacquer needs to air dry, where Shellac dries with a unique LED lamp. Both give a great result, with Shellac lasting longer than lacquer, but it is more expensive and more timely to remove.

Let’s have a look at what Shellac and lacquer have to offer as individual nail polish options. You will then be able to decide which one will be your go-to in 2023.

a freshly done full set of shellac manicure

Comparing Shellac And Lacquer Nail Polish

The endless comparisons we can do regarding Shellac and lacquer will keep you busy for days. How long does each last, will it cost you much money, how do you maintain them, and can you apply them yourself?

How Long Do They Last?

Any nail lover wants to know if a specific nail polish will last them long. So going through the effort of planning your day around an appointment to get your nails done, only to have it on for three days, might seem like it could be more worthwhile.

How Long Do Shellac Nails Last?

Shellac nail polish can last up to 3 weeks before a fill-in or removal is required. It is a light overlay that is flexible and moves with your nail. However, it gets cured dry, which explains why it lasts this long.

How Long Do Lacquer Nails Last?

Lacquer nail polish is often more pigmented, stronger, thicker, and sometimes glossier than regular nail polish. For this reason, they also last longer before they start to chip or lift. So when you apply lacquer perfectly and look after your manicure, it can last up to 7 days before a touch-up is needed.

a nail technician is doing a manicure

What Do Shellac And Lacquer Nails Cost?

A vital factor in going for manicures regularly is the cost. Many of us would love to have a recurring appointment, but can we afford it, and is it worth it?

How Much Are Shellac Nails?

Many people are confused between shellac and gel polish. In fact, shellac is a particular brand of gel polish from Creative Nail Design (CND) that comprises unique ingredients to leave you with a long-lasting manicure but with all the benefits of regular nail varnish.

Getting a Shellac overlay at a salon can cost between $40 and $60, depending on the nail tech and the nail art you want to add.

You can also do Shellac nails at home. This will cost you more initially to buy all the supplies, but you will be able to get 10 or more applications out of one buy.

Shellac products:

  • Shellac base coat – $15 for 0.25 oz.
  • Shellac color coat – $15 for 0.25oz.
  • Shellac top coat – $15 for 0.25 oz.
  • CND Shellac LED curing lamp – $179

How Much Are Lacquer Nails?

Lacquer nails involve a regular manicure with this stronger nail polish. Its price often varies between $20 and $50. With regular manicures, there are usually combinations available with paraffin dips and hand massages.

Adding color can also bump up the price of your lacquer overlay. Luckily, you can do a lacquer overlay in the comfort of your own home. First, you must find a brand you like and buy its products. A base, color, and top coat are essential, and sticking to the same brand will ensure an excellent lacquer overlay.

Lacquer can cost you around $10 to $15 for the color bottles giving you 6 long-lasting applications inside.

a nail technician doing full set shellac nails

How Do Salons Apply Shellac And Lacquer?

The process when applying Shellac and lacquer is quite different. This might be the game changer when you decide which one to pursue as your 2023 go-to.

Application Of Shellac Nails

Shellac has many steps, which might sound time-consuming, but it is not. Shellac has no drying time, only 30 seconds under the LED lamp, and you are ready for the next layer.

 It is safe to say that you depend on a LED lamp for the Shellac overlay to work, and it will never be able to air dry. A standard Shellac application can take between 45 minutes to an hour.

You can buy at-home Shellac kits that include the Shellac base, color, top coat, and the specific Shellac LED lamp. This way, you can do your own Shellac nails at home.

Removing Shellac requires extra effort, and you must soak it off to prevent damage to the nails. However, Shellac removes better than gel; there is no need for long soaks and too much product scraping. The application process can take anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the technician.

Shellac has a particular product named “Offly Fast,” which helps with the removal by binding with the specific combination of Shellac and quickly releasing the bond from the nails. This can reduce your removal time to 10 minutes.

Application Of Lacquer Nails

The application process of lacquer is essential for the longevity of the set. Each layer should dry completely before applying the next. Each layer can take up to 1 minute to dry. There are methods to speed up the drying time, but this accounts for regular air drying. For example, an appointment at a salon will take between 30 and 40 minutes.

To do these at home, you only need essential nail tools. Many brands sell lacquer nail polish; you will have to try different brands to see which one you like best.

The best part of lacquer is the fast and easy removal process. You can use acetone dipping pots or the good old cotton ball and acetone to remove the lacquer. The process will take you 5 minutes.

Maintenance Of Your Manicure

The longevity of a nail overlay vastly depends on how well you look after it. You can receive an estimate for how long your manicure will last, but working with household chemicals, painting, or excessive water will decrease the lifetime of your nail polish.

To extend the life of your overlay, Shellac, or lacquer, you can try to incorporate the following:

  • Wear gloves when working with chemicals like hair dye or household cleaning agents.
  • Avoid drenching your hands in hot water 24 hours after the application. Likewise, limit hot water soaks while you have a manicure.
  • Apply a top coat layer again after three to four days.

Pros And Cons Of Shellac And Lacquer

Direct comparisons give you a better understanding of what to expect from each nail polish and which one you prefer.

Shellac NailsLacquer Nails
Last two weeks without chipsLast 7 days without chips
Application time is 45 to 60 minutesApplication time is 30 to 40 minutes
Cost $40 to $60Cost $20 to $50
Need LED lamp for curingOnly essential tools for application
Removal time is 10 to 15 minutesRemoval time is 5 minutes


A Shellac overlay is for a busy person that doesn’t have time for touch-ups or doing their own nails and wants to go for two weeks without worry. Lacquer is for the person who prefers doing their own nails, has less time to go to appointments, and still likes a gorgeous, shiny manicure.