Monday, October 29, 2012

To Shellac or Not To Shellac...

What is a Shellac manicure? Well, some would say the best manicure ever. Others might say a major pain. Shellac is a manicure that involves a UV light and special polish/gel. There is a whole routine to it. The technician will file, trim and buff your nails before the process begins. First, a base coat, hand under UV light, polish/gel coat, hand back under light, another coat, light again, a top coat, and back under the UV light. Voila! Your nails are dry and you can leave the salon without worrying about messing up your manicure while searching for your keys. A Shellac manicure is said to last for fourteen days. My pretend jury is still out on those fourteen days of a manicure that won't chip, smudge, or scratch. You see, I never made it the full fourteen days on any of my Shellac experiences. By the tenth day, my nails had grown enough that it was obvious to my well trained eyes that a new manicure was in order. Shellac manicures on average cost about $35 (at most strip mall nail salons). It's less expensive if you just opt for a polish change but if you're like me, you're going to need the cuticles trimmed and all that fun stuff.

When I started my Shellac experiment about a month and a half ago, I went to a highly reviewed salon in my neighborhood. I didn't really know anything about this type of manicure other than reading the standard definition online and going on the high praises from my friends. My intention was simple: to get a manicure that would keep me from biting my nails. I heard Shellac would help, considering it's not like your typical manicure. The standard ones never kept my fingers out of my mouth before and I wasn't about to time travel back to 1993 and get acrylics.

Some salons have a great color selection while others well, not so much. The salon really didn't have a great selection and it was hard to tell the color. The salon's Shellac polish was in a jar. I told the technician that I wanted a dark color, preferably a deep red, blue or grey with absolutely no sparkles in it. I didn't care so much if a dark blue wasn't available but I didn't want any of the glittery looking polish on my nails. She showed me what appeared to be a dark grey color. "Ok cool," I thought. I watched the process and with each coat my eyes widen a little more. "Is this the actual color or will it, um, look darker and less sparkly?" I couldn't understand the technician well but she assured me that I'd love the outcome. Well, I didn't. Technically speaking, yes, I loved that I didn't have to wait around the salon for my nails to dry, but my nails were silver and it was sparkle overload. Think disco ball. I had no time to redo them as I had a flight to catch later that day to visit a friend in San Francisco.

The entire flight I was obsessed with looking at my "Saturday Night Fever" looking nails. Upon further observation, the polish felt and looked thick, as if too many coats were applied. I couldn't take it. The next day my patient friend took me to a salon near her place. The technician was very gentle. She removed the polish by putting an acetone soaked cotton ball on each nail and then wrapped each one with foil. Then after a few minutes she then carefully scrapped off the disco fever polish. The color selection at this salon was better. The Shellac polish actually looked like nail polish bottles and it was much easier to pick a color. I chose OPI's Road House Blues. I loved the dark blue (with a very slight purple undertone) color. It was applied perfectly. Not too thick at all. Of course, it would have looked better if my nails were slightly longer. Baby steps though, baby steps.

Now, I told you my nails were short. The next week I was happy to see some nail growth.

After the tenth day, it was time to get another Shellac manicure. I was no longer in San Francisco so returning to the great salon wasn't an option. Neither was returning to the first place where my experiment started. I researched again and found another salon. They had an array of OPI colors but not the Road House Blues I was hoping to use again. I selected Marilyn Merlot. A color I will definitely choose again.

I have to note the major con I find with the Shellac manicure and that is what your nail looks like when the polish/gel is removed. In my case and in many other cases, the nail bed is left weak and peeled in areas. I felt that while my nails had grown significantly, any growth would have been short lived because the thinness of my nail. I decided to carry on with one more such manicure as I didn't feel strong enough to not bite.

Please excuse the quality of the picture. Blame my outdated iPhone. The above is the last manicure and yes, while it is a picture of my other hand, you can see the growth of my nails. I loved looking at my nails but was a little depressed that my nails would be weak and thin after my Shellac experiment.

When I removed the above color, I had the technician file my nails down and do a regular manicure. I felt they needed a rest. I've bitten my nails a few times and if my husband doesn't point out what I'm doing, I stop myself remembering how lovely my nails looked painted and at a nice active length.

So in all, I'm not saying not to Shellac. I'm saying know the cons, research the place, and give your nails a rest every now and then.


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