F is for Fingerpaint Fail: Creative Nail Design Shellac is Not for My Nail Type

by Janine on 27 August 2010 · 59 comments

Creative Nail Design’s Shellac hybrid UV-cured gel polish is a hit with lots of people. Some happy fans get three weeks of shiny, chip-free perfection from Shellac. But it’s not for my nails, which are naturally soft and have an annoying tendency to peel.

With OPI Axxium, I get three weeks or more without a chip. It protects my nails brilliantly so I can open boxes, and dig away that hard plastic shrinkwrap stuff from lipsticks and liners without fear of nail damage. At worst, my nail underneath Axxium might chip slightly, but the glossy finish stays put.

I got only 11 days with Shellac (in Tutti Fruitti, above), and had put my nails through none of the trauma they’ve survived with Axxium. I was away, so I didn’t open boxes or fight with product shrinkwrap — 11 days isn’t bad, but not even getting to two weeks surprised me. The biggest problem, however, is that Shellac didn’t chip. It peeled, and took layers of my nails with it.

Does this mean Shellac is crap? Not at all. Leeanne at Tips has many happy clients that love the stuff and wear it well, and it’s been a big success at Ritual. It looks more like nail polish than gel; I like that it goes on in very thin coats and looks no thicker than polish when it’s done (although not as thick as regular gel, Axxium can look a bit thicker than polish). It also soaks off more easily than Axxium. And, just as when I wear Axxium, my cuticles stay pristine throughout. Plus, Creative Nail Design provides a listing of salons that offer Shellac. (To find Axxium in your area, email OPI here.)

My theory is that my soft, tend-to-peel nails simply aren’t a good foundation for the Shellac formula. If your nails are strong and never peel, don’t let my experience deter you from trying it. You might have much better luck.

For more info on Shellac, visit cnd.com.

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Anya 27 August 2010 at 11:17 am

I’m trying out the Bio Gel for the second time. Much better this time around. Two weeks and no chips. I’ll do a post on my blog next week sometime including the removal process.

My nails are really soft too and I like the way the Bio Gel makes them strong and chip resistant. Sounds like Axxium would be a good fit for me as well.


Janine 27 August 2010 at 11:24 am

You’re trying the Bio Gel soak-off type, right? There’s a regular gel with Bio in the name; it causes some confusion, and apparently some underhanded salons don’t distinguish until the customer comes back for removal and finds out they have to buff it down to the nail. Looking forward to your post. Another friend of mine loves Bio Gel soak-off manis and pedis too.


Anya 27 August 2010 at 6:28 pm

Yes, soak-off :)


Anya 3 September 2010 at 12:05 pm
Jane 27 August 2010 at 12:12 pm

Thanks so much for posting this! I have been quite curious about these treatments but have flashbacks to my acrylic nails….the OPI Axxium sounds gentler than the CND. I love the idea of a long lasting dark vampy mani for fall….is there a way to find people in my city who do the OPI Axxium? Thank you!


Janine 27 August 2010 at 12:56 pm

I think they’re about the same when it comes to gentle, actually Jane. It just depends on the nails underneath. To find an Axxium-equipped salon, try this link: http://www.opi.net.au/form.shtml


Jane 28 August 2010 at 10:22 am

Thanks :)


skripper 27 August 2010 at 12:49 pm

I’m on Day 5 of my first Shellac and I love it so far. I only got 3 coats, and the colour is very natural, so my nails don’t look ‘chubby’. I’ll let you know how it goes – heading to the cottage, so they might get a bit of a workout!


Janine 27 August 2010 at 12:59 pm

It’s super thin, that’s for sure! To get the same result with Axxium, I ask Rita and Leeanne at Tips to give me one coat of base, one coat of colour and one of top. Three weeks, aces. :-)

Lemme know how you like Shellac. It’s great for lots of people! Just not me.


Danielle 27 August 2010 at 2:21 pm

Oh my gosh, the exact same thing happened to me!! I got a Shellac manicure on a Wednesday and that Saturday night it started peeling off! One of my thumb nails has a lot of ridges and that’s the one that peeled first (not sure why she didn’t buff it down?) but then all the others followed suit. I was disappointed, but I still want to try Axxium next for a comparison.

I’ve never heard of this happening to anyone else before so thank you for posting this :)


Janine 28 August 2010 at 12:33 am

I think the nail on my index finger started to go first, Danielle. Then suddenly two other nails. I at least got those 11 days first, though, which is at least longer than I would have got with regular polish, I suppose… *grin*


Kelly 27 August 2010 at 5:12 pm

My experience with Shellac has been amazing. The first time I tried it, it lasted 3+ weeks. The only reason I had it removed was because my nails had grown and it was starting to look ridiculous. The same thing is happening again. It’s still in perfect condition. I do admit to having very strong nails though.

I look forward to trying Axxium and comparing the two.


Janine 28 August 2010 at 6:01 am

That nail regrowth thing — I know! Three weeks of no-chip colour makes me happy because it’s chip free, but the nails really look their best for the first two weeks.

You’ll like that Axxium has a much broader range of colours :-)


Lisa 27 August 2010 at 5:59 pm

Hi all, from doing some reading on the net, a lot of folks have had issues with the thumb peeling away…apparently this is because the thumb isn’t been “cured” properly…because it cannot lay flat under the UV lamp…at least this is what I’ve gathered. But to put everything in perspective…11 days for a near perfect mani is actually really good! A regular mani for me start chipping in a few days. I just got my first Shellac mani today at Catherine J…and I’ll report back on the results. It certainly looks gorgeous (I chose Negligee)and I love that it dries instantly. Cheers, Lisa


Janine 28 August 2010 at 6:07 am

I don’t think that was really an issue for me, the improperly cured thumb :-) And yes, 11 days for a mani is really good — only I expected this to last at least 14, especially because my first experience with Axxium had lasted 28.

I, too, love that the colour dries so quickly — you can dig around in your bag for your wallet or keys afterward without worrying. It’ll be great for pedicures in the winter, so you don’t have to sit around waiting for toes to dry before you boot up again!


Leeanne 27 August 2010 at 10:39 pm

Janine is right!

Shellac is not for everyone….in fact I can say the same about Axxium. If you naturally have weak peeling natural nails a better alternative to Shellac would definitely be Axxium. It gives added strength and durability.

Both products however do require an additional salon visit which to some is a growing concern. You also have to be prepared to wear the same colour until your next visit unless you apply a couple of coats of lacquer over it if you happen to get bored. Most people are okay with wearing the same colour for a few weeks if not longer. I have been wearing OPI “Cajun Shrimp” in Axxium ALL summer and I can’t get enough of it!

They are both fabulous products and we LOVE them both…..Axxium may just be our winner though :)


Janine 28 August 2010 at 6:08 am

Thanks for weighing in, Leeanne! You’re awesome :-)


Laura 28 August 2010 at 6:55 am

Leeanne is correct. It’s important to listen to your nail tech’s recommendations when looking to wear a soak-off gel polish.

Shellac and Axxium are but two of the many new gel polish products hitting the market this year and they are all gaining momentum. Some are a better fit for your nails than others, like Janine has noticed with hers. All give beautiful, gorgeous shine that regular polish doesn’t hold a candle to after the first or second day, not to mention the two or three weeks you can enjoy from your manicure. What thrills my clients is the fact the polish is dry and smudge-free immediately after application :) Enjoy !


Lynnette 28 August 2010 at 9:26 am

Hey everyone… just an FYI… there are MANY other companies to choose from for your no chip manicures.
Gelish is a GREAT product and the past month or so we have seen LOTS of nail companies launch their no chips. You just have to ask.
It is true that not all products work for everyone.
Axxium has gorgeous colors, as does Gelish. You just need to look around!
buenos dias,


Carla Collier 28 August 2010 at 10:30 am

You ladies should ask your manicurist to try a product called Gelish. This one is more durable than Shellac and soaks off much easier than Axxium. Just ten minutes or less in acetone and Gelish will scrape right off with a cuticle pusher or orangewood stick. Now I am a manicurist of 26 years and I do not work for any manufacturer so I am only saying what my favorite product is and right now Gelish is it. If your manicurist wants information on how to get it feel free to give them my email address and I will gladly direct them and answer any application questions. Again I do not sell this product, just love it :) carla_collier@yahoo.com


Leeanne 29 August 2010 at 6:06 pm

Oooh I cannot WAIT to try Gelish. I worked with Dany Haile waaaay back when he was and educator with EZ Flow. I am sure the product is beautiful. He would make nothing less!


Janine 29 August 2010 at 7:49 pm

You know who else now cannot wait to try Gelish? *grin*


Leeanne 29 August 2010 at 9:01 pm

I have been meaning to contact them Janine. I will let you know when I have it in. Would love to try it on you :)


YouLookHotToday 28 August 2010 at 10:48 am

I have zero idea how all you ladies can stand to wear the same colour for as long as three weeks. That would make me mental. I change mine every 3 or 4 days or sometimes even sooner if it chips (I tend to stick my hands in dangerous sharp things what has lots of edges ‘n scratchy parts). For me, being able to change the colour is the really the best thing about nail polish – it’s like changing your hair or your shirt or your underpants – and who doesn’t like to change their underpants?


Janine 29 August 2010 at 7:51 pm

You always make me laugh, You. Awesome. Heart.


annette 29 August 2010 at 5:05 pm

does “you look hot today” mean the “3 or 4 days” applies to all of the items mentioned above


Janine 29 August 2010 at 6:04 pm

To each his or her own, Annette, right?


Leeanne 29 August 2010 at 6:07 pm



Leeanne 29 August 2010 at 6:29 pm

Hi Lisa!
The same thing can happen re: peeling thumbs with ANY UV-cured product if

a) The nail tech hasn’t changed her bulbs and the strength is low
b) The client did not put her hand all the way in the lamp so thumbs are not exposed to the side bulb.

Has nothing to do the thumb having to lay flat.

Up to date U.V lamps have side bulbs and all 5 fingers are being cured at the same time. Back in the “olden days” thumbs had to be cured separately which was a bit of a task. Now life is much more simple for us manicurists! I hope you love Shellac. The shine is impeccable, dries instantly and is one less thing to have to worry about when getting ready in the morning.



Janine 29 August 2010 at 7:52 pm

Love that you weighed in, Leeanne! I was totally going to ask you about this! You SO. ROCK.


Lara 6 September 2010 at 3:50 pm

Shellac update: middle finger got a bubble up near the cuticle around day 10 – then it started peeling around day 12. Same happened to my index finger. Might try Axxium next time.


Janine 6 September 2010 at 4:09 pm

For me, the finish started lifting at the tips, which was bad news for my peel-prone nails. *sigh*

Yet for some people, it lasts weeks and weeks. *shrug*


Bettye Whiner 19 September 2010 at 5:28 pm

I too was so disappointed when the Shellac Nail Polish didn’t last longer than a week. My nails starting peeling taking off layers of my own nails as well. It is too expensive for me to have a manicure once a week. I wish there was a product out there for me and my oily nail beds! (A product that I can purchase without a beauticians license).


Tonya 29 September 2010 at 9:28 am

Did your nail tech use some sort of nail dehydrator before applying the shellac? That could be your problem.


Tonya 29 September 2010 at 9:27 am

I have been a nail tech for 5 years now. I originally started using Axxium. The soak off time took entirely too long so I started buffing it off. Less time, yes, damage to the natural nail, maybe :( Once Shellac hit the market, I tried that. Awesome! Wearing it on myself, I was surprised that I could even get 3 weeks out of it. The only problem is that it’s extremely hard to get since it’s the “big thing” right now. Now I’ve switched to GELISH because I get more per bottle for less cost than OPI and more for my money over CND and sooooo much easier to get. They have a regular base coat as well as a Structure base coat for those with thin, weak, peeling, etc. nails. OPI AXXIUM soak off “in as little as 30 min” or CND SHELLAC or HAND& NAIL HARMONY GELISH “10 MIN (maybe 15 min for french)”. Try it….you’ll be hooked.


Janine 26 October 2010 at 1:13 am

My expert friend Leeanne is excited about Gelish as well — she says she can’t wait for me to try it, which I’ll definitely do when she feels she’s ready to start doing the service. At the moment she’s playing with it, getting to know its specifics before she uses it on a client.

I’m pretty happy with Axxium though, despite the time it takes to get off the nail. I enjoy my time with Leeanne and the other staff at her salon; they’re fun and friendly, and seem to enjoy their clientele too. I understand that long removal times can cut into overall profit, though. That said, buffing it all the way off just doesn’t sound like a good idea ever. Just sayin’ :-)

Gotta say too that Gelish sounds great.


Dani 13 January 2011 at 7:18 pm

I have super thin nails too and my manicurist actually uses the axxium clear gel underneath my cnd shellac! it works like a dream and my nails make it all the way to 2 weeks! my nails have been growing out beautifully ever since. the end result is a little bit thicker (she puts about 3 layers of the axxium on) but honestly, if you didn’t know you would never guess!!
try it next time and see if it works for you!


Janine 17 December 2011 at 3:19 pm

It took me months, Dani, but finally that’s what we did — Axxium base for Shellac. And it worked for me too — got three weeks. But it makes the answer to “Hey, is that Shellac?” a little more complicated. *grin*


Amy 17 December 2011 at 11:21 am

Thanks for the info. I got my second shellac manicure about two weeks ago, and it didn’t even last a week. One pointer finger peeled the next day, and the other one the day after that (Sunday and Monday respectively). I got them fixed on Wednesday, and by Thursday a thumb and ring finger were peeling. This explains a lot. I will try the Axxium manicure to see if that works better for me. It is two weeks today, and they just look TERRIBLE!


Janine 17 December 2011 at 3:22 pm

Oh dear. Did the same technician do it each time? Could be your nails weren’t properly prepped, or there was an application issue… or it’s not right for your nails.

Please do update with your Axxium results — I hope your experience is better with that one!


lynda 10 August 2012 at 1:06 am

I have thin, but not really splitty nails. I loved the Axxium, it lasted forever and looked great. It lasted so well that I got several fills instead of soaking off, to reduce the trauma to my nails.
When it was soaked off, my nails were destroyed beyond belief! The deep horizontal ridges were scary. It’s been 5 months. The ravaged nails have finally grown off and I’m here looking for Shellac reviews. OH, WELL…..:)


Janine 10 August 2012 at 11:58 pm

Sorry you had a disappointing experience, Lynda :-(

I do know a demarcation line sometimes appears — my sister had the same thing happen when she first had an Axxium mani. She’s had many more soak-off manicures, mostly OPI Gelcolour and Artistic Colour Gloss, all without a problem.

I suspect removing the product entirely and reapplying might have been better for you — after all, each fill means curing over old gel. Just a theory, though.

Removing the product should not cause nail trauma. Nail trauma is caused by IMPROPER removal. I’ve been having soak-off manicures back-to-back for more than two years; my bare nails still look great, with healthy pink nail beds and no ridges.

Have you tried any other soak-off gel formula? Gelish, Entity, Artistic Colour Gloss, OPI GelColor?


Wendy / Pika-Nails 6 February 2013 at 11:43 am

You are right! Shellac was not made for a very flexible and soft natural nail. For the people who do have flexible and soft nails, CND had just launched a new product: Brisa Lite. This product gives the nail strength and is ideal as a base for Shellac! Both products are completely soakable and no natural nail filing is required. Maybe this new product is a good one for you?


Janine 6 February 2013 at 11:46 am

Oh that’s great! Thanks for that tip, Wendy!


Wendy / Pika-Nails 6 February 2013 at 11:47 am

Your welcome :)


Wendy / Pika-Nails 6 February 2013 at 11:46 am

Note: Shellac does not peel off layers of your natural nail. Your natural nail probably chipped, taking Shellac with it. Chipping of your natural nail can be banned if you use a decent cuticle oil twice a day (such as Solar Oil).


Janine 6 February 2013 at 11:51 am

I feel like that’s kind of a chicken-and-egg thing — did Shellac peel first or did my nails? All I know is that my nails don’t peel at all with OPI GelColor or Axxium or Gelish or Artistic Colour Gloss, so I go for those formulas instead.

Great tip re: cuticle-oil, thanks — works if you can make it part of your daily routine, right?


YouLookHotToday 6 February 2013 at 1:38 pm

Oh, I could go on and on about the differences between brands.

After plenty of experience in the soak-off arena, I’m just going to say that a properly prepped nail will always give you the best results – no matter what brand you’re using. If you start with a good prep, move forward into a good polish (with the free edge of the nail properly capped and no cuticle flooding), then have a solid top coat application (again capping the free edge, and no touching the cuticle or surrounding skin), then your soak off mani will last as it’s meant to.

If you use your hands a lot and they’re often in water, then shellac does not last as long as Gelish/ACG – regardless of technique. It just doesn’t. It’s not as strong – no matter what kind of prep you do. Axxium is the toughest – it’s also the most work to remove. The base coat of Axxium has (in my estimation) the best adhesive properties of all the soak-offs – that first bond to your natural nail is what makes it the strongest.

There are people out there who are really, really good at the application and removal of gel polishes. Find them. It’s important to realize that you get what you pay for. While a bargain-basement price for a soak-off gel manicure is appealing, what it’ll do to your nails is not.

Experimentation is also key. Some people will indeed get 2 or 3 weeks out of Shellac but they might have naturally thicker nails or might not have their hands in water or chemicals. There is no one brand of gel polish that’s great for everyone. If something doesn’t work for you, try something else – just make sure you have the best technician available – that should be your starting point.


Janine 6 February 2013 at 2:18 pm

In a word, You: EXACTLY.


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