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How to Spot Fake Shellac and Gel Nail Polish

How To Tell If a Gel Manicure Is Phony

As gel manicures become more popular, so do knockoff products and shady application techniques. It's not unusual now to hear that someone's gone in for a gel manicure only to find out later that what's on their nails isn't Shellac, Gelish, or any reputable gel for that matter. To help consumers avoid nail damage and the risk of having weird chemicals affixed to their digits, CND Shellac has come out with its own salon certification system, and we've assembled tips for discerning whether your salon uses authentic application and removal methods. See the guidelines below.

1: Filing is a huge red flag

No one should ever (ever) abrade your nails while applying or removing gel polish. If they pull out a file, scissors, or any other cutting tool, you should hightail it out of there immediately.

2: Look for labels

Ask to see the gel colors your salon has available and look at the labels. Shellac and other accepted gel brands like Gelish and OPI Axxium have labels on every bottle, so if a nail tech pulls out something unmarked to use on your nails, just say no.


3: One brand should rule them all

Don't let anyone mix systems on you. The three brands mentioned above all have different formulations, so if someone just used a Shellac base coat on you, they shouldn't try to put a Gelish polish on over it. They aren't meant to be used together, and it's not clear what the effects on quality and removal might be.

4: Gels don't "soak off"

When you're having your gels removed, your nail tech should never try to soak your hands in a bowl of acetone. Gel polish comes off with specific gel remover wraps or by using acetone-dipped cotton balls and tin foil to wrap nails. It's gentler and it's what gel-trained nail techs know they're supposed to do.

5: Seek out the seal

If you're on the hunt for Shellac, look for the CND seal of approval on the window of your salon. CND actually sends brand ambassadors to salons to ensure that they're using the right methods.

Image Source: Thinkstock
JLA2 JLA2 5 years
I am a licensed nail technician and I have few concerns with some of the comments left on here. First you should NEVER use an e-file on a natural nail. DO NOT soak your nails in a BOWL of acetone. Removing with acetone soaked cotton balls as directed in the article is what you should be done if the presoaked applications aren't available DON"T mix gel brands. If using regular nail polish, yeah go for it, but ANY properly TRAINED nail technician will tell you not to mix gel and or acrylic products. The products ARE formulated differently.
Lynnette2242336 Lynnette2242336 5 years
Actually there are some things wrong with this article. If the nailtech is trained well with her electric file, she CAN get the product off by filing. I do this ALL the time. I have never damaged my clients' nails this way. (make sure to look at your friends' nails who go to the chop shops and have their nails shredded at every appointment.) There are new products on the market that you can make your own by adding polish. Sorry, but the label thing will not cut it since the bottles will be not marked by a SPECIFIC brand. There is also NOTHING wrong with soaking the nails in acetone. If your tech applies oil to the skin around your nails, soaking the NAILS in a small amount of acetone is not a bad thing. There ARE brands that you can use base and top with another brand sandwiched between. They ADVERTISE that theirs can be used this way. The companies that want you to buy ONLY theirs will tell you it will not work. It DOES work.
skygirl51 skygirl51 5 years
Thanks for posting this advisory - some of the stylists are not as careful or trained as well as they should be
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