When soak-off gel manicures hit the market – OPI Axxium Gel debuted around 2009 and CND Shellac launched the year after – they quickly became the most popular types of manicures in many, many salons. (They made news, too!) They eliminated the crucial post-manicure dry time, and the durability of the finish was Angels-Singing-Hallelujah in relation to regular polish. They also contributed to the explosion of nail art – all that intricate work could now last chip-free on nails for weeks instead of a measly few days (or hours if you were prone to smearing wet polish). In short order, at salons skilled at the medium (*waves at Tips Nail Bar*), soak-off UV gel manicures made up 60 to 70, even 80 percent of the business, and Shellac, thanks to its brilliant marketing strategy, became the Kleenex of nail services.
"When we launched Shellac back in 2010, I sincerely thought every woman on the planet would adopt [it]," charismatic and charming CND co-founder and style director Jan Arnold told a room full of media at a recent event in Toronto. "Yet what we've found today is that 31% of women who go to a salon have yet to adopt gel polish, and 12% of women who go to the salon only do it on special occasions. So we investigated that – what's the barrier entry for that 31%?"
CND's data revealed that a) women who don't go for gel polish worry that the process will cause nail damage, and b) they don't want to sit around waiting for the gel to soak off. (There may also be a contingent that still worries about the UV exposure, but sunscreen on your hands will take care of that.)
"I mean, Shellac takes less than 10 minutes, but today on the market there are 93 fast followers, knockoffs of Shellac," said Jan. As well, she noted that at many salons, "Shellac" simply refers to the service, not the actual product, so in many cases, women are experiencing a longer removal time because what has to come off their nails isn't Shellac.
So, to pull the non-users in, CND got to work creating a long-wear UV gel that clients could be sure wouldn't damage their nails, and that would reduce the service time as much as possible. The result is CND Shellac Luxe, gel polish that requires non-aggressive prep (i.e. no roughing up the nail surface to enhance adhesion), soaks off in a mere minute and needs no scraping or filing to remove completely. And it comes in 65 shades, 15 of which are exclusive to Shellac Luxe; 50 match existing CND Vinylux hues. (See shade charts at the end of this post.)
cnd shellac luxe application
Part of reducing the salon service time is that Shellac Luxe is a two-step system, colour + top coat. Nope, no base – "the colour coat is self-adhering," explained Jan. "It's very much like putting a cashmere cushion on your nail to protect it. When you think about your nails, you're in and out of water, you're in and out of heat and air conditioning, so your nail plate expands and contracts. So we wanted to create a colour coat that would give and move and flex with the nail plate."
After shaping the nails, the manicurist dehydrates them temporarily by wiping them thoroughly with something called Scrubfresh. After that, she applies a thin coat of colour and cures it for one minute under an LED UV light. With that UV exposure, "the self-adhering polymers wrap tightly to the keratin and it will hold tight for 14 days," said Jan. A second coat of colour follows, then the CND Shellac Luxe Top Coat and you're done, hopefully for at least 14 days.
Wear still depends on application technique, your chemistry and how you use your hands. It might also depend on the top coat – you can choose Shellac Duraforce if you need strength, or Shellac Xpress Top coat if you prefer.
cnd shellac luxe 60-second removal
To get the removal down to a scant 60 seconds, CND chemists increased the spacing in the cross-linked structure of the formula to allow acetone to get in and loosen the top coat and colour. Any remaining residue can be pushed off the nail with with an orange stick or nail brush. You want to watch the following video to see how crazy easy it is!
If you're a Shellac gel polish fan, would you switch to the new Luxe version? Well, maybe you won't, but you're sure going to want to try Shellac Luxe just to experience that nifty 60-second soak off.
If you're already a Vinylux devotée, why would you switch to Shellac Luxe? Maybe to eliminate the chance that you might smear your mani before the colour is dry? (Before 2010, one of my beauty-director friends used to mess her fresh mani right there at the salon every single time because she couldn't not flip through magazines while impatiently waiting for her polish to dry. 😆)
And yes, Shellac Luxe is a professional system intended for salon use. But if you've already got yourself the right UV LED light – CND-branded because then you know it'll cure the formula properly so there's no risk of a reaction – and you've studied the application process and technique from across the table from your favourite technician, you can do it yourself. And one more time: it. soaks. off. in. 60. seconds. *SNAP*
And here you go, two shade charts for the new CND Shellac Luxe lineup.
You'll find more info at cndshellacluxe.com; expect it to roll out into salons this Fall.
What do you think, lovelies? Are you one of the 31% of women who has avoided UV gel manicures thus far? If you are, does Shellac Luxe appeal? And if you're already a soak-off-gel fan, do you think you'll try this?