Shellac Vs. Acrylic Nails: Which Is Best For You?

If you want a long-lasting manicure, you'll likely consider getting shellac or acrylic nails. The two options are incredible in the longevity department. You won't have to worry about chipping the same way you would with a traditional manicure. 

Both acrylic and shellac will last you about 10-14 days before needing a trip to the salon. According to Byrdie's interview with the co-founder of Varnish Lane, Lauren Dunne, the two products are relatively similar regarding ingredients. Dunne explained, "The ingredients in Shellac manicures are like pre-mixed acrylics, and they undergo a chemical reaction once they are cured with a UV lamp."

However, the two semi-permanent treatments function very differently on the nail. Acrylic is a thicker, more solid material that will consolidate on its own without any specialty lamp. It can be used to extend the length of the nail and entirely cover the natural nail beneath it. Meanwhile, shellac nail polish works just the same as regular polish. The few differences are that shellac requires a UV lamp, dries instantly, and will last twice as long. If you're deciding between acrylic and shellac, one may be better suited for you than the other, depending on what you're looking for.

If you're looking for durability and design

For the maximalist who wants length and, yes, will pay extra for the latest viral design, acrylics are probably the right match. If you weren't blessed with fast-growing, long nails, it could be challenging to keep up with all of the textured nail art trends that can take your manicure up a notch. For your nail technician to apply these fun, statement designs, they'll need the space to do it. If you use shellac polish, they'll have to work with the size and shape of your natural nail.

Another reason why you might think twice before getting a shellac manicure instead of an acrylic one is if you are looking for a stronger, more durable option. While you'll need to get your acrylics filled every two weeks, the original set will last up to two months. Celebrity manicurist Laura Malarkey told Byrdie, "Support and strength are specifically what acrylic is used for as it provides strength, length, and shape to nails." Unfortunately, one of the trade-offs for this durability is the effect acrylics will have on your nail health compared to shellac.

If you want to avoid nail damage and save some money

If you're not married to long nails or extravagant designs, you might want to do your nails a favor and stick to shellac. Founder of Sundays salons in New York City, Amy Ling Lin, told Instyle that when removing acrylics, "There is an extremely high chance that ... [the] removal processes can and will damage your nail bed." Luckily, if you still want a semi-permanent manicure, shellac is formulated to preserve your nail strength better.

Celebrity manicurist Vanessa Sanchez McCollough specified why this is to Byrdie. According to McCollough, "Shellac is the first of its kind that does not have to be filed off for removal ... This is why shellac can guarantee no nail damage when applied properly." Another bonus to shellac is that it usually doesn't have quite as steep of a price tag as an acrylic set. Shellac manicures often cost upwards of $40, while acrylic manicures will cost upwards of $60, plus any extras you add for nail art.

Between sacrificing your nail health and your money, acrylics require quite an investment. This might be 100% worth it for some and not for others. If you would prefer the benefits of shellac over the benefits of acrylics but still yearn for the appearance of the latter, you can always opt to get acrylics on special occasions.