I know! It's another Axxium-related post! And another looks-the-same photo taken 13 days after having it done. (Note: the nail edges look worn, but it's actually shine.) Yet as much as I love OPI Axxium, as well as it serves me, it's not right for everyone. And since Creative Nail Design (CND) launched Shellac, folks want to know, Shellac or Axxium? The following might help you decide which is best for you.
The Dry Manicure -- for the person who gets tired of wearing the same colour longer than a week or so. (Plus you don't mind waiting for your nails to dry before you leave the salon.) A trademark Tips mani, this approach eschews the standard cuticle-softening soaking-in-soapy-water step, thus avoiding swelling up the nail with moisture. According to Tips owner Leeanne Colley, it takes more time for the waterlogged nail to shrink back than it takes for nail polish to dry. You end up with a coat of polish too large for the surface it covers, which makes it more chip prone. Skipping the soak can give you an extra day or two of chip-free polish. The dry mani is also good for the person who has small nails she likes to keep really short -- lots of filing may affect the longevity of UV-cured colour wear. And it's good for the person who loathes chips; at the first one, you can take it all off yourself with remover.
CND Shellac Soak-Off Gel/Polish Hybrid -- for the person who thinks two weeks is enough with one colour. (And you dig the zero dry-time UV-cured colour comes with.) I still haven't tried Shellac, but I've heard from several people that the gel/polish hybrid finish lasts really well. From what I can see from my own research, it has exactly the same benefits as Axxium, but comes in a bottle and in just 12 shades so far. The finish is no thicker than nail polish. And if you want a colour change, you can paint over it with regular lacquer, and later take it off with non-acetone remover without damaging the shine. In terms of wear, Fashion Magazine's Rani Sheen told me she actually got nearly three weeks; Health & Swellness' Karen Kwan is on day 14. Removal takes 10 to 15 minutes at the salon. UPDATE: I have now tried Shellac and determined it's not great for soft nails that have a natural tendency to peel.
OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel -- for the person who can go up to four weeks with the same colour and some visible new growth between the cuticle and the polish. (And again, you love that you don't need drying time with UV-cured colour.) I figure I'm the ideal candidate because I'm just glad I don't have to deal with chippage that I'd otherwise get from opening packages and removing shrink wrap from lipsticks and liners. Visible new-nail growth doesn't bother me much, plus I don't usually get around to filing, so the coloured nail stays long enough so you still see the polish first, not the gap. I'm big on a three-coat application, two less than the usual, so for me removal takes about 10 minutes. Oh, and Axxium is available in 34 colours (with more on the way), which can easily be mixed to make new shades. The topcoat is not a soak-off type, so you can paint over it with regular polish and later remove it with acetone without altering the shine. UPDATE: Thanks to my experience with Shellac, I've decided Axxium's strong finish is better for my naturally soft, peely nails.
Anya at ImTheItGirl asked about the difference between Bio Sculpture, another soak-off UV-cured gel with lots of available colours, and OPI Axxium. I asked Leeanne about it because she's done both. She says the application for Bio Sculpture involves more steps, more product, at least according to the official training session. Axxium is more straightforward, even moreso for me because I like to go for only three coats of gel.
Axxium removal seems to concern a lot of people; here's how proper Axxium removal is done. (No Dremmel tool required!)
Hope that helps. Because if it doesn't, you know it'll mean another post on the subject. *grin*