Gelish vs Shellac vs GelColor
You can read Part 1 of this article here. I wrote it a little over 2 years ago. Man time flies! It’s been my most popular article and I’ve had readers from all over the world ask me questions about gel polish. I figured I should probably update it because A LOT has happened in two years! Just so you know, I’m a professionally licensed nail tech. I’ve been doing soak off gel polish for a little over two years now. I had a full clientele (up until my retirement as of TODAY!) and the majority of my clients used soak off gel polish. Ask me anything! 🙂
Shellac was my first personal introduction to gel polish. OPI Axxium Soak Off had been out for a few years and I believe Gelish by Nail Harmony as well….but Shellac was the first brand I’d ever used. I’ll never forget when I saw it released at Peerless Beauty Supply on Sunset. Originally I bought Tutti Fruity and a base coat and top coat and then decided to go back for the whole starter kit. I’m so glad I did at the time because CND had a major manufacturing/distribution problem and could not keep the base coat and top coat in stock. Which was kind of good because it forced me to check out other avenues and I bought WAY too much OPI Axxium Soak Off Gel Polish. I didn’t use a lot of the Axxium Gel Polish because I was not happy with the application and durability, but I found I did like the Axxium Soak Off Top Coat and the Axxium Soak Off Alpine Snow White for French tips. Which led me to my method of mixing gel polish brands. Which I am scared to write anymore on the world wide web because I feel like there is a Gel Polish Police lurking around the corner waiting to arrest me for vocalizing this confession. However, that being said, I STILL mix gel polish brands. There, I said it! But this article is not about me mixing brands, this article is about soak off gel polishes. And what brand is the best option for you! So here goes.
Shellac by Creative Nail Design (CND):
I love Shellac for these reasons. Their colors are beautiful. It is super easy to remove (the easiest of all the soak off gel polishes.) It has it’s own distinct smell and every time I use it I am taken back to those first few months of the introduction of soak off gel polish in my life. Back when I was still building my clientele and I had endless hours of waiting at the salon for a prospective client to walk through the doors. Aw….those were the days….
I don’t love Shellac for these reasons–it’s expensive. The bottles are half the size of the competition for the same price. Shellac wrinkles horribly if the bottle is getting old or it is applied to thickly or your UV Lights are getting old or you are wearing the wrong shade of shirt or the planet Venus is in the Mars orbit….you get the point? I don’t get why it wrinkles sometimes but it drives me batsh*! crazy. There aren’t a lot of colors out of Shellac. They are releasing more and more every season but the competition beats Shellac in the color department. I feel like I can only use 75% of the bottle of Shellac because it gets thick and goopy and is impossible to use. I throw away probably 25% of the product with every bottle. That’s a lot of money for me to throw down the drain. Maybe not important for the client going to the salon but important info for the consumer buying the product. Also, Shellac is not as durable as the competition in my opinion. Shellac is labeled as a Hybrid Polish, not a soak off gel polish. I’m not 100% certain but I’ve heard Shellac is like 90% polish and 10% gel. Which I believe explains why it’s not as durable as the competition. However, CND answered this problem with the release of their new soak off gel system, Brisa Lite. More on Brisa Lite later.
I would recommend Shellac for people with either really healthy natural nails or people that can afford to get their nails done every 7-10 days. It’ll hold up great on those with naturally STRONG healthy nails. And if you have money to burn, just schedule an appointment with your favorite nail tech weekly! Who isn’t ready for a new color after a week anyway right?
Gelish by Hand and Nail Harmony
I quickly transitioned to Gelish by Hand and Nail Harmony as soon as I discovered I could buy it online when the Shellac scarcity problem was happening. I love Gelish and I must admit, it is probably my favorite of all the soak off gel polish brands. I love it for these reasons–Hand and Nail Harmony offers a ton of colors! I don’t know for sure how many, but I know it’s close to 100, if not more. I love it because the application is almost flawless. I love it because the base coat and top coat are good to the last drop in the bottle, unlike Shellac that gets thick and goopy the older the bottle becomes. I love Gelish because it is very durable and holds up great on everyone. I do two top coats and several people, even two base coats at times, in order to try to get it to hold up better. Gelish is also priced great! They offer great deals consistently. I love that! For the at home DIY’er Gelish is probably the best option because it is readily available at Sallys. Gelish soaks off great! Not as quickly as Shellac but better than others in the playing field.
There aren’t a lot of reason why I don’t love Gelish but the negatives would be that as professional, it bothers me a tiny, tiny bit that it is so readily available to the public. However, I understand why people want the option of doing their own nails and respect the decision of Hand and Nail Harmony to offer their product to the public. Another thing I would change about Gelish is that in a perfect gel polish nirvana world it would last flawlessly for three weeks on everyone. If someone absolutely needs their soak off gel polish to hold up super fabulously, I will do two base coats, at least three color coats, and one really thick top coat followed by a thin top coat. On the thick top coat I will do one finger at a time alternating hands in order to keep the top coat from running all over the side walls of the nail. This technique seems to help it hold up better than the standard application process.
I would recommend Gelish by Hand and Nail Harmony for anyone. If you have extremely strong natural nails, use Shellac base and top coat for easier removal. I don’t think Gelish will hold up solid for three weeks like it claims on just the average person, but it does seem to be a lot more durable than Shellac.
GelColor by OPI
I cannot tell you how excited I was for OPI to be releasing a soak off Gel Color in a bottle! They initially released Axxium, but obviously it didn’t meet the demands of their client base. GelColor is amazing! I really love it for these reasons–you can match your favorite OPI nail polish color to your GelColor! GelColor by OPI holds up great too! I believe it is primarily gel which explains why it holds up so well. The application is normally flawless as long as you shake the bottles really well. I don’t think you are supposed to have to shake GelColor but I usually do to mix it up really well. GelColor rarely wrinkles in the curing phase, which is really nice. OPI offers lots of colors of GelColor. And they are priced competitively. The bottles of GelColor are twice the size of Shellac and they only cost about $1.5o more. Plus, OPI has been doing a lot of promotions to make them more affordable. Which is great for the licensed professional. I believe the non professional can buy OPI GelColor fairly easily online. I cannot guarantee this.
The only thing I don’t love about OPI GelColor is their base coat. It gets thick and goopy like Shellac after a while and the bottom 25% of the bottle is unusable. Oh, and it does take a little bit longer to remove than Shellac and Gelish. My go-to formula as of late has been Gelish base coat, any brand color coat, and two thick coats of OPI GelColor top coat. Unless a person has really strong natural nails. They get Gelish base coat, any brand color coat, and one coat either Gelish or OPI top coat. I would recommend OPI GelColor for anyone. It holds up the best out of the three, but it is also the hardest to remove.
I also use Young Nails Mani-Q Colors frequently. I love their Tiffany Blue gel polish color! I know there are a lot of other brands out there but I haven’t used any of them yet. A girl I work with bought a lot of Nailite’s gel colors and they were horrible so I am leary to try new brands. Please let me know if there is a brand you love that I have not listed! I would love to try them!
I am going to write more about Brisa Lite in another post. I believe this new product warrants an entirely independent post. It should be amazing! I think it’s similar to Bio Sculpture–an amazing soak off gel product out of South Africa. I would love to try Bio Sculpture and am hoping I will get the chance at the Las Vegas nail show in July.
Thanks for reading and I hope I cleared up some of the confusion concerning the gel polish options available! Ask me any questions you might have! I will do my best to help!