20+ Differences Between Shellac And Gel (Explained)

Do you stare back blankly when you are asked whether you want Shellac or gel nails? Even though both provide almost the same finishing, there are still some major differences between them.

Instead of getting confused, scroll further to read everything you must know before getting your nails done. 

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Polish and finishing of Shellac and gel nails


  1. Shellac polish works by applying two coats. The first one is gel for durability and the second one is the actual nail polish.
  2. They appear thin because of these coats of polishing.


  1. Gel polish is made up of liquid and gel formula. This gives them a glossy finish.
  2. It can easily harden under UV rays which make them appear heavy.

PurposeLess damaging nail paint which dries off instantlyScratch resistant and makes easier for you to get nail art
Finishing Smooth Glossy 
Time duration 1-2 weeks2-3 weeks
Advantage Strengthens the nails Remains fresh 
Removal Easy and less painful Long and painful 
Colour range 116388

Major Differences Between Shellac And Gel

What Exactly Is Shellac? 

Shellac is a hybrid product of a gel paint company called ‘Creative Nail Design.’ It helps your nail to gain strength and durability. The hype about Shellac is that it is less damaging to nails as compared to other acrylic and gel nails.

It can be easily removed, which makes it hassle-free. It dries off instantly and does not chip or fade away. Shellac gives off a natural finish with no odor and is low maintenance.


Benefits of using Shellac nail paint

  1. It is scratch-resistant and provides you with a shiny mirror-like finish.
  2. Shellac can strengthen the layers of nails.
  3. It dries completely in no time. 
  4. As it does not need an electric nail file, it is very safe to use.
  5. Shellac nails tend to last longer. Even the application and removal process is not painful. 

What Exactly Is Gel?

Gel nail paint acts like nail polish but also possesses some special properties. Gel nails are done under a specific light that contains high-intensity of UV rays. This is particularly ensured because this Gel can only be set under UV radiation.

It is generally applied in three coats. The first one is the base coat, the second is the nail paint itself, and then the last is the top coat. Gel nail paint gives you a glossy finish after getting dried in 2-3 minutes under the UV light. 


Benefits of using Gel nail paint

  1. Gel nail paint does not smudge off.
  2. Gel nails easily last longer. 
  3. Gel nail paint also allows you to do nail art.
  4. They remain vibrant and fresh for a longer time.
  5. Getting gel nails won’t emit any odor.

The Contrast Between Shellac And Gel


  • Shellac – It is loved because of its semi-permanent duration and smooth, natural finish. The lightness adds charm to the nails.
  • Gel – If you want a glossy coat with long-lasting duration, Gel nail paint should be your go-to. It serves the purpose of having nail paint that seems fresh even when you are about to peel it off.


  • Shellac – It can easily last up to two weeks.
  • Gel – As gel paint tends to last longer, it can stay put for 2-3 weeks. 


  • Shellac – Consists of applying the base coat, then the Shellac nail paint. Lastly, it is completed by applying the top coat.
  • Gel – It is done by applying a base coat and gel nail paint and finished off by completing the top coat. The process is carried out under a UV lamp.


Tips to ensure before getting your nails done


Push back cuticles

File the edges properly and shape them accordingly


Wear sunscreen positively as the process will require UV radiation

Wipe your nails with alcohol to keep them cleaned. 


  • Shellac – Shellac nail paint is very easy to remove and saves from pain.
  • Gel – Unfortunately, gel nail paint can cause some pain in the process of removal.


  • Shellac – Even though Shellac nails are harder to get destroyed during normal wear and tear, it is advised to do household chores while wearing gloves. You can also use cuticle oil for the longevity of your Shellac nails. 
  • Gel – Avoid warm water at least one week after getting your nails done. You should moisturize your nails often with petroleum-based products. 


  • Shellac – Provides natural-looking smooth nails.
  • Gel – Provides glossy finishing. 

Range Of Color

  • Shellac – Unfortunately, Shellac nails have a limited range of 116 color shades.
  • Gel – Gel nail paint provides you with vibrant and natural shades in 388 options.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Q1. Are Shellac and Gel nails available at home?

No and Yes. Shellac is available only at salons. But you can get gel-based nail paint at home.

Q2. Which one will fit me better according to my nail type?

People with weaker nails should go with gel-based pedicures. If your nails are harder and sturdy, Shellac will work fine for you.

Q3. Which one of them is harsh for my nails?

Both of them will work well on your nails. But if you are talking about the removal part, then definitely go with Shellac, as gel-based nail paints are not easy to remove.

Q4. Which one of them is costly?

Gel-based paints are more costly since their removal is way too complex and time taking. 

Q5. Is there any difference between soft gel and hard gel nail paint?

Hard gel nail paint will be protective for your nails. Soft gel nail paint won’t remain on for a longer period. But hard Gel can stay for long and stop your nails from breaking or getting damaged. 

Q6. Are Shellac and Gel-based nail paint bad for your health?

There are many debates available on this topic. They won’t cause you any liver damage, but you are advised to wear sunscreen to protect yourself from UV radiation.

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