Gelish vs Shellac vs GelColor, A brief history of soak off gel polish – part 2

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!



by Anna

21 thoughts on “Gelish vs Shellac vs GelColor, A brief history of soak off gel polish – part 2

  1. Cindy says:

    Thank you so much for your opinions on these products! I was just looking into Bio Sculpture and was curious as to who really invented all of this, so while searching that, I found you! I too started with Shellac, EXACT same opinion here. LOVE Gelish! That was my next experience with soak offs. Gelish is my favorite base coat. I like the Structure too, and use 2 coats of that on my thin nail gals. My fav top coat right now is Mani Q, although it seems to get clumpy, maybe need to change where I am storing it, but LOVE the durability! And, YES! That one Mani Q blue is a perfect Tiffany blue, LOTS of clients hooked on it currently 🙂 I was getting a little feedback from the “don’t mix your gel polish police” too, but I don’t care. I’m doing what works best for me and my clients, and I like to save them money by saving me money! I haven’t tried OPI, but think I want to try the Bio Sculpture line first. I’ll let you know what I think…but it may be a bit. So my fav formula is …Gelish base, any Gelish/Mani Q color 2 coats, and Mani Q top. Going to check out the Gel II line of reaction polish too… 🙂 Keep polishin on!

    • Anna says:

      Hi Cindy! I love your response! :))) let me know if you try Bio Sculpture—I love them and I’ve never even used it! I follow a few nail techs on Instagram who swear by it though! I think you have to take an instructional course before they let you use it which is awesome but also slightly inconvenient darnit 🙂 thanks so much for your opinion and expertise—it’s good to know I’m not the only one worried about the GPPD! :)))) keep me posted on your journey! Anna :-))))

    • Anna says:

      One other thing! OPI Gelcolor is VERY similar to Mani-Q so I think you’d be better off trying BioSculpture if you really want a new product to offer your clients…just my opinion 🙂

  2. Ally says:

    Hi Anna! I do hair and nails. I have been using Mani Q and some OPI. Where do you buy your gelish? I know they have the gelish minis at sallys. Do you know where I can purchase the bigger bottles?

    • Anna says:

      Hi Ally,
      I buy my Gelish either at CosmoProf or I buy it on Amazon. Amazon usually has the best prices but Cosmoprof will have really great sales throughout the year. A lot of independent beauty suppliers will distribute Gelish as well. Oh, I have also bought it at Premier Nail Source and Pure Spa Direct. I love Mani Q and OPI too though! Let me know if you have any more questions! 🙂

  3. Jacqui says:

    Thank you for your opinions! I love the opi colors but it it peels off in 2 days for me! I’ve tried sensational nail. Same thingy. Sally Hansen lasts the longest so far. I also love gelish! Gelish is probably my favorite.

    • ChicAdmin says:

      Hi Jackqui 🙂
      That really surprises me you haven’t had good luck with OPI but honestly I like every brand of COLORS I’ve tried so far. I can’t say the same for a system’s base and top coats. I use Gelish Foundation or CND Brisa Lite Base coats, any color coat, and then OPI GelColor Topcoat and have had success with every brand of color including KISS, Sally Hansen, OPI, Gelish, Shellac, Young Nails, Essie, etc. 🙂 Just like makeup and hair products, everyone is going to find a product that works best for them though! Thank goodness for variety! :)))

  4. Christy says:

    I really like gelish too. But i think my favorite is Perfect Match. I use it with the gelish bottom and top. The durability is as good as the gelish color gel and I think the application and price is better. Plus you get a regular bottle of polish in the same color when you buy the gel. I do a lot of pedicures and my clients don’t always want gel on their feet. I can pick them both up in some beauty supply stores between $10.00 to $14.00. I personally don’t care for OPI gel. Although they have great colors, they are a little harder to apply and remove. I feel the harder something is to remove the harder it is on your nails. Since I only do natural nails this concerns me.

    • ChicAdmin says:

      Oh thanks for the info Christy! I can’t wait to try Perfect Match! I’m curious, have you used their top and bottom? And yes I agree with you OPI is harder to get off than Gelish but I also feel like it holds up a little bit better. It might only be a matter of a day or two difference though, in my opinion. Also, I don’t have the fading and shrinking problems with OPI that I do with Gelish. But I will always love Gelish! It definitely holds a special place in my heart :))))

    • gryntea says:

      Oh hey Chisrty, I have been using Perfect Match on clients and on myself as well, and the colors last quite long. Sometime it can last longer than 3 weeks on natural nails if I do 2 base coats of gelish, 2-3 coats of colors and 1 coat of gelish top coat. But the nail suppler store I have been going to runs out of hellish top coat so I just grabbed a bottle of opi gel top which I have no idea how good it is :((

  5. Christy says:

    I haven’t used the base or top in the Perfect Match, only because I already had the Gelish and was happy with that. Given I had already so made other brands of base and top gels, I didn’t want to invest in another one until I at least tried the Perfect Match colors. I find the Perfect Match formula very simular to the Gelish and have no problem mixing the two. Plus again I get a bottle of polish too! And for less money. With Gelish which cost around $16:00, if you want to use the same color in polish you have to buy their polish separate (Morgan). I feel I get the same quality at half the cost.

    • Anna says:

      Hi Airi,
      I am not currently working but if I were I would charge anywhere from $40-50 for a full set of acrylic nails with gel polish and then $30-40 for an acrylic fill with gel polish. Everywhere is so different on prices though…it all depends on the cost of living and the nail techs costs and expenses. I know some shops in my town charge less and some charge more and then I know some places in the U.S. charge $70-100 for the same service…if not more. 🙂

    • Anna says:

      I love hearing about other parts of the world and the trends! I’ve heard really good things about Bio Gel and want to try it but haven’t been able to do the training required to use the product. CalGel looks like a great product as well! Hopefully I’ll be able to try them someday!

  6. Stefanie says:

    Hi Anna. I was wondering if I can use OPI gel color (the color coat) and mix it up with CND base- and topcoat.
    Do you maybe have any experiences with this specific combo?
    Many many thanks, Stefanie

    • ChicAdmin says:

      Hi Stefanie,
      Good question–do you mean CND Shellac base and top? I personally would probably do that combo but I don’t use CND Shellac much anymore…my go to base is Gelish and my favorite top is OPI. I do use CND Brisa Lite a lot and mix it with every brand I own. I know CND will tell you not to mix…but I don’t follow rules very well. 🙂

  7. Marisol says:

    Hello! I’m a nail tech for 20 years and now is when I buying IBD gel nail polish. Love the colors but I would like to know why sometimes it’s wrinkle?? Thank you??

    • ChicAdmin says:

      Hi Marisol–I’ve only got one IBD color and it did wrinkle ever so slightly when I applied it too thick. The secret is to use as thin layers as possible I suppose…but gel polish tends to elude me at times. Some other tips I have heard to prevent wrinkles are to shake the polish really well, flash cure, and don’t let your lamp get too hot. I’ve found that usually the top coat smooths out wrinkles if they aren’t super bad. If they are really bad I have to file them off and redo with thin coats. Good luck!

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