Shellac Vs Gel Vs Dip

Shellac Vs Gel Vs Dip
The nail art world is very popular with shellac, gel, and dip nails. With these nail polishes, you’ll achieve long-lasting results.

Nails are an important part of our body, self-care, and grooming routines. For making nails noticeable, people have been doing nail art to look exclusive for a long time. In recent years, nail art has become very popular becoming common with new techniques and products. Shellac, gel, and dip nails are some of the ways of doing nail art. Each of these methods has its characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages.

Understanding the difference between Shellac, gel, and dip can help you make an ideal decision about which one to choose for your next manicure or pedicure. Now, what are Shellac, gel, and dip, and how they are different from one another? In Shellac nails, a mixture of nail polish and gel is used while gel nails are more lightweight and flexible than other nails. Dip nail is very different from the other two types where the nails are dipped into a powder.

What is Shellac, Gel & Dip?

Since these three are all nail art and quite different from each other, it’s worth looking at them in more detail to figure out the key differences between them. So let’s do just that!

Shellac Nails:

In Shellac manicures, a mixture of nail polish and gel is used. This is a long-lasting formula that combines the long-lasting properties of gel polish with the easy application of traditional nail polish. Shellac is cured under a UV or LED lamp. Shellac offers a long-lasting color though it is thinner than gel and dip. This can be a good choice for people who want to change their nails very often.

Shellac nails
  • Shellac nails are known for their durability and long-lasting wear. As the polish is hardened using UV rays, it can last for up to two weeks without chipping or fading. The nails will even last longer under sunlight.
  • Shellac nails provide a high-gloss finish that looks shiny and professional.
  • Shellac nails are available in different colors. From light to dark, all colors are available in Shellac nails.
  • Shellac nails provide a natural look that is suitable for different occasions including daily wear to special events.
  • Shellac nail polish dries quickly. So, you can get back to your daily activities without damaging your nails.
  • Shellac nails are easy to remove with the use of nail polish remover. It won’t damage your natural nails.

Gel Nails:

This is an artificial nail enhancement that is made of gel. Gel nails are lightweight and make you feel like natural nails. The gel nail polish is applied in layers and cured under a UV or LED lamp to harden the gel. Finally, a topcoat is applied to seal the polish and provide a high-gloss finish. Gel nails are of different shapes and lengths and the application process is fast. Gel is a semi-permanent gel that can last up to a month.

Gel nails

Dip Nails:

Dip nail powder is a form of nail-polish enhancement powder. In this process, you need to paint your nails with a liquid base coat. And then each nail is dipped into acrylic powder. So, the process is similar to the name it sounds like. It will build a strong layer over your nails and it will be repeated until you get your desired coverage on your nails. No UV or LED light is needed to cure the dip powder, rather it cures in the air.

Dip nails
  • The process of applying dip nails is relatively quick and simple. After coating the nails with a liquid, it is dipped into a colored powder.
  • Dip nails are long-lasting and strong. They can last up to four weeks without cracking.
  • There are no harsh chemicals used in dip nails which makes it a more popular choice than others.
  • Though dip nails are available in a range of colors, they offer limited customization compared to gel nails.

Shellac, Gel & Dip Nails: Differences

The main difference between Shellac, gel, and dip nails is their thickness. For Shellac nails, you get a thinner manicure than gel or dip nails. Gel nails are a bit thicker than Shellac while giving a shine and natural look while dip nails are the thickest of the three due to the pigmented powders involved. Along with this, here are some of the key differences between Shellac, gel, and dip nails.

1. Lasting Power

The durability of Shellac, Gel, and Dip differs. For example, Shellac nail polish can last for two weeks or even longer if you don’t engage in activities like cleaning or washing.

A gel manicure can last up to two to three weeks. This may also differ based on nail type. The nail bed may not last for two weeks if it is oily.

Dip nails last longer than gel nails. The dip powder nails formula is very hardened. This is a glue-based resin that gets hardened in the presence of air.

Lasting power

2. Application Procedure

The combination of gel and nail polish is seen in Shellac nails. It is applied to the original nails like other normal nail polishes. A base coat, top coat, and color coat are needed in this manicure. This type of nail cannot be used to extend the nails.

Gel powder is applied like regular nail polish. After that, it is cured in a LED or UV lamp. Gel manicures got activated when it is exposed to light.

Dip nails, On the other hand, are applied differently. First, a liquid coat is applied. Then, it is dipped into acrylic powder. For curing, an activator polish is required.

Application procedure

3. Damage to Nail

The UV exposure used in Shellac nails can be harmful to some. Also, this does not apply to thin nails.

The removal process for both gel and dip nails can result in nail damage if it is done with impatience. Whether it is a gel polish or dip powder, you can use Acetone to remove the layer. So, maintaining the correct removal process is needed for avoiding damage to nails.

Damage to nails

4. Cost & Time

The cost is difficult to estimate. Because, it depends on so many factors such as location, nail technician, experience level, and so on. Shellac manicure is cheap and it usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour to complete.

Gel nails cost more than shellac nails. It takes the same time as the shellac nails procedure.

Dip nails cost more than Shellac and Gel nails. This process also takes 45 minutes to complete.

Cost time

5. Sanitation

Except for a few differences, the sanitation process for all nails is almost similar. All tools that will be used during the service should be disinfected. The nails should be cleaned before the process. This includes removing old polish and washing the nails with soap and water.

In the case of dip nails, dipping your nails into a powder pot is not hygienic. You should also ensure proper ventilation and air in that required place.


6. Removal Process

While removing Shellac and gel nails, you should gather acetone, aluminum foil, a nail file, etc. First, the top layer should be removed by using a nail file. It is important to use pure acetone for this process as regular nail polish remover may not be effective.

Dip powders, on the other hand, are not so easier to remove and dissolve. It is not like removing any other gel polish. So, the removal process of these 3 types of nails also differs based on the consistency and formula used in the nails.

Removal process

7. Drying Time

Shellac nails dry quickly under a UV or LED lamp. Generally, it takes about 30 seconds to 1 minute under an LED lamp to cure each layer of Shellac gel polish. But, the exact time can vary based on the brand and other factors of Shellac nails.

Gel nails also dry quickly under UV or LED and it takes the same time as Shellac gel. After curing all layers, the nails should be completely hard to touch.

The drying type of dip nails is different from Shellac and Gel nails. As an activator liquid is applied to the nails, it dries up within 1-2 minutes. The time of drying dip nails completely varies from other nail types.

Drying time

8. Maintenance

Maintaining Shellac nails is easy, it doesn’t require enough maintenance. Gel nails are also low maintenance like shellac nails.

Dip nails require a bit more maintenance than shellac and gel nails. Moisturizing your nails are important as this will prevent dryness.


9. Color Options

The color options of Shellac, gel, and dip nails also vary from one another. For Example-Shellac nails has natural shades like beige, nude, and blush. It has classic colors like red, pink, and coral. Moreover, it has metallic and glitter finishes too.

In gel nails, the natural shades are light pink, nude, and beige. The classic and bold colors are the same as Shellac nails.

Dip nails are different from Shellac, gel, and dip nails. Besides natural, classic, and bold colors, it has also gradient, marble, and other decorative finish.

Color options

10. Risk of Infection

Many people may face allergic reactions to the chemicals used in Shellac nails. Moreover, the chemicals used in Shellac nails can dry out the nails.

Gel nails can cause skin irritation, redness, and itching to the nail skin. If proper hygiene is not followed, it can lead to bacterial or fungal infections.

Dip nails require dipping the nails into a powder. This can also raise concerns about hygiene and the risk of infection.

Risk of infection

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What is The Healthiest Nail Treatment?

Shellac manicure is considered the healthiest and safest nail treatment. A mixture of long-wear gel and regular polish is used in this treatment which is good for your nail health. Shellac nail polish is formulated without the most harmful chemicals. That’s why, it is less damaging to your nails. This is also easier to remove. As a result, the natural nail plate is not affected or damaged while removing it. Compared to gel and dip nails, Shellac is considered to be the best nail treatment.


1. Is dip more expensive than shellac?

Yes, usually dip powder manicures are more expensive than shellac.  As the dip powder manicures last longer than gels, it is a bit costlier than shellac. But it also depends on the specific products used in shellac or dip.

2. Are gel nails fake nails?

Acrylic and gel nails are fake nails that are placed over your natural nails. If anyone wants longer nails, gel nails can be a good choice.

3. How many layers of dip powder are used in dip nails?

Generally, 1-2 layers of dip powder are used in dip nails. But some users also prefer doing more than 2 layers. So, it depends on the personal preferences of people.

4. Is Shellac waterproof?

Shellac is not waterproof just like the other nail polishes. It is a bit water resistant but it is not totally waterproof. Excessive exposure to water and harsh chemicals should be avoided to maintain the longevity of Shellac nails.

Final Thoughts

There are so many methods and techniques available to beautify nails. From them, Shellac, gel, and dip nails are the most common and popular nail enhancement techniques. There are different characteristics, methods, and formulas of these nails that make them different from one another. Shellac is a hybrid nail polish where a mixture of gel and nail polish is used. Gel is a lightweight nail that can make you feel like natural nails while dip nail creates a strong layer over your nails as it is dipped into a powder. Based on your nail types and the benefits and side effects of each nail, you should decide which nail can work perfectly for you.

Key Points

  • Shellac is a UV-cured nail polish that is applied like regular nail polish but cured under a UV lamp
  • Gel nails are similar to Shellac nails but they are typically thicker and more long-lasting.
  • Dip nails involve dipping the nails into a pigmented powder and then sealing the powder with a topcoat.
  • All three types of nails should be applied by following proper precautions and methods.

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