Shellac Vs. SNS: Which Is Better?




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There are various nail application methods out there and I know it can get confusing having to decide which one is best for you. However, to help you decide you need to know the ins and outs of each of these nails so that you can make a comfortable decision for your next nail appointment. So, we’re going to talk about which is better: Shellac or SNS?

SNS nails are more durable than Shellac nails, however, SNS nails are harder to remove because of the bonding strength. If you need nails that are quicker to apply and easier to remove your best bet will be the Shellac nails as the nail polish portion of the nails makes it easier to remove than regular gel nails. 

I will describe what SNS Nails and Shellac nails are by explaining their composition, how to apply them, and how to remove them. I will also highlight the similarities and differences between these nail techniques and other techniques that they are often confused with. Lastly, I will explain the safety of each nail technique so that you can have an in-depth scope of both in order to make your decision as to which nails are right for you. 

What Are SNS Nails?

SNS is short for Signature Nail System. It is one of the major brands that sell dip powder. Dip powder is a mixture of powder and glue that bond on your nails. Simply put your nail tech will apply a base coat to your nail then dip them in the powder mixture multiple times.

The formula in SNS is not consistent with your regular gel which reacts to UV rays from an UltraViolet light or LED lamp. Like acrylic or regular nail polish, the light will not cause the powder mixture to harden. Depending on how quickly your nails grow these nails can last up to three weeks before they are removed. What sets it apart from your regular acrylic nails is that they can be worn as is, without nail polishes or colors. 

I say this because I know hearing about the powder liquid mixture may remind you of the acrylic process. If it doesn’t I will explain to you how it is similar below. At the beginning of getting SNS done, it is recommended that the client should familiarise themselves with the procedure.

SNS Nails Dipping Powder Do It Yourself Home Nails Starter Kit 5 - Gel Base, EA Bond, Sealer Dry, Gel Top, Natural Set Sheer

What Is The Difference Between SNS And Acrylic?

Acrylic nails are formed through a combination of powder polymers and liquid monomers. Unlike the dipping powder, the monomer forms a chemical reaction with the powder monomer that causes it to harden on your nails but in the case of the dip method, the glue binds with the powder and hardens. After using Acrylic, your nails will be decorated with other gel and polishes. This differs from SNS dip manicures because the powder will already have a colored pigment for your nails so you won’t need to apply a polish. 

Both SNS and Acrylic last around the same amount of time which is up to three weeks. While your acrylic just needs some soaking in acetone for it to be removed, it is best to ask your nail tech for assistance when removing the dip powder. While it’s not impossible to do by yourself, the best way to prevent nail damage is to have a professional install and remove your nails. 

Professionals won’t over buff your nails in the removal process which can cause critical damage to both the nail plate and cuticle, and afterward, they use acetone pads to soften your cuticles and soak away the mixture from your nails. 

How To Apply SNS Nails

You will first need to have your nails prepped by cleaning the surface with primer. Once you’ve done so, buffer the nails so that the mixture has some grit in your nails to grip to. You will apply a coat of resin on your nail plate then wait for them to dry each time before applying another coat. 

To avoid clumpy nails, do one nail at a time. For each nail, you will dip it in the powder color of your choice, then you’ll have another resin coat to apply. Afterward, apply your top coat and leave to harden.

What is Shellac?

Shellac nails are a patented mixture of nail polish and gel that is owned by the CND, a  brand that is short for Creative Nail Design. The CND Ambassador said that It is sort of a gel or polish. Because of the mixture of both types of polishes, it has gained benefits from both formulas. 

The nail polish gives you the gloss while the gel gives you a flawless finish that only takes minutes at most to dry. 

Shellac is a type of gel nail polish. Clients often get confused, thinking that Shellac is a separate product from the gel. However, it is classified as a type of gel. 

I will discuss how the two differ later. Shellac polish’s procedure includes preparation of the nail’s surface, then applying base and coat on top with 2-3 coats of polish separately. Apply it like you would apply regular nail polish, from base to tip without touching the cuticle. But after every layer, Dry them under UV or LED light. It will dry in a few minutes if using the UV light and a matter of seconds under the LED lamp.  

To read more about how to do long-lasting shellac nails follow the link here to see what I have written: 3 Tips for Long Lasting Beautiful Shellac Nails

Difference Between Gel Nails And Shellac Nails

There is a slight difference in shellac and gel polish. The gel has no nail polish properties, so it lasts longer than shellac. Shellacs are for those who enjoy the best of both worlds, an easy drying process when the nails are applied (thanks to the gel component) and the ease of removal when it’s time for them to come off (thanks to the nail polish.) 

Shellac will not last as long as Gel nail polish. They do however both use UV rays to harden the formula. 

How To Apply Shellac Nails

Firstly, if you have any gel from previous polishing on your nails, you need to have those removed. Make sure to carefully and properly push back your cuticles, this will allow your nails to have a wide enough surface for your shellac polish to be placed as well as helps prevent you from getting the bonder underneath your cuticles. Bonders are damaging to cuticles, so it’s best to avoid having them exposed to the substance.

You will need a bit of a textured surface for both the bonder and the gel polish to stick to. So, ensure to buff your nails. Ensure your buffer is of 200 or higher grit. If you frequently polish your nails, it’s best to avoid over buffing nails that were buffed previously. Avoid this by trying to mainly buff the new growth. Repeated buffing of nails can make them become weak and brittle. Plus, buffing too much can cause your gel to lift as well. You just need enough of a textured service.

Alternatively, you can use rubbing alcohol to remove the grease from your nails. This step cannot be avoided. The oils from your skin easily get onto your nail surface and will ruin the finish of your polish and it will not last long either.

Your nails need to be dehydrated which the nail bonder also covers. So, if you used the nail bonder you have already covered this step. If you did not use a bonder in the previous step, you can use acetone here to dry the nails out. Ensure it is 100% acetone. Let your nails sit for a little before moving to the next step.

If you have not used the nail bonder up to this point, you will use it here. The nail bonder will seep into the grits you made from buffing in the earlier step and both harden your nail as well as make it adhesive enough for your coats to stick to it.

You’ve finally reached the step where you apply your gel base. Once you’ve applied it while carefully avoiding your cuticles, you will need to place your hand either in a LED Lamp or UV Lamp. The LED Lamp will work quicker than the UV Lamp. I would recommend using the LED because it gives you less exposure to UV rays. 

Either way, you cannot avoid this step. Your bonder and your nail base both have chemicals in their formulas that need to be cured by the UV light for them to harden.

Next, choose your favorite gel color and paint your nails. Once you’ve painted them, place them once again under the LED or UV Lamp. Apply further coats as needed and repeat the curing process between coats.

Next, apply your top coat then cure once again. Afterward, wipe your nails once again with some alcohol to remove that extra film that forms on top of your nails during the curing process.

Remember when we dehydrated our nails? That’s neither good for your nails or skin, so you need to rehydrate. Apply some cuticle oil around the edges of your finished nails. Moisturize accordingly.

Are Shellac and SNS safe for your nails?


Shellac received immense popularity due to the gel process which gets dry in seconds. This coupled with the fact that CND advertised it saying that no damage or harm is caused to the client’s nails during the application process. 

However, SNS promises that once women tried their dipping powder, they would never try another type.  But what is most important is, despite how great the product looks, how safe are they to wear? 

From a health point of view, Shellac and SNS both avoid harmful components when manufactured as much as they can. As Shellac uses UV lights to harden the formula, there is much concern about how safe it is to expose UV rays to hands. 

If you attempt to dry your shellac nails without UV light, then you will find that it takes hours and the finish will not be great because the polish wasn’t actually cured. A component in the gel, which we will talk about later, needs light for the gel inside the shellac to harden. Therefore, being exposed to natural light not specifically directed at the nails will take a longer time.

While it is necessary to use UV rays in the drying process, there are ways you can reduce the amount of exposure you experience. 


Apply sunscreen 20 – 30 minutes before your nail appointment. Sunscreen will help reduce your exposure to the UV rays in the lamps just as much as it protects us from the sun. Ensure that your sunscreen is at least SPF 30 as it blocks ninety percent of the sun’s UVB rays. 

Wearing Fingerless Gloves

While you can’t avoid having to put your nails under the lamp if you’re using Shellac or SNS, you can still reduce the amount of overall exposure your hand experiences. You can do this by wearing fingerless gloves under the lamp so that only your fingers are exposed to the rays. 

LED Lamp

As I mentioned before, LED lamps harden the nail formulas quicker than UV lights. This means you spend far less time under the lamp which means less exposure to UV rays. 

Shellac turnouts to avoid any harm to the client’s nails are affected by acrylics sometimes. 

The SNS procedure is relatively good for health as the dipping powder step in SNS  is fortified with at least 4 vitamins in it, and also contains main minerals and calcium.

SNS Nails

The chemicals in dip powder are dangerous when inhaled at frequent levels. We’ll discuss some of the toxins present in your SNS that may not be so great for you to inhale. 

Formaldehyde is the substance that causes your nail polish to harden. Inhalation of too much of this substance can pose threats that are as mild as throat irritation to threats that are as severe as respiratory ailments. Ensure to paint your nails in well-ventilated areas so that the majority of the fumes are not inhaled by you or your technician.

Camphor provides the gloss for your nail polish. It can however damage your olfactory nerves and cause migraines if inhaled consistently. 

Toluene has strong fumes and is responsible for the distinct nail polish smell. Constant inhalation poses highly fatal illnesses such as leukemia or even brain damage. 

The best way to reduce exposure to these chemicals is by using nail polish that is free from these substances, however. Nail polishes that are labeled as “Five-Free” or “Seven-Free” or “Five Three” are labeled that way because it indicates the number of harmful substances that were avoided in making the product. 

Removing SNS Nails vs Shellac Nails

Removal of SNS Nails

Your SNS nails can last for weeks if you avoid peeling, chipping, or lifting. But if you’re like me you begin to lose it after your nails have been the same for a long while, so much so that you wouldn’t mind being able to pull them off.

But please, as we mentioned before, don’t do this at home. Remember what the dip mixture contained? That’s right, glue. Not just any glue, super glue.  it is almost impossible to get them to lift. The superglue that is used in the initial step of nail application is the main thing you should remember before you take to lifting these nails. You risk pulling off pieces of your nail plate. Yes. It’s that serious. Taking them off without any knowledge of their removal can lead to great distress on your part, so avoid doing this.  The removal of these nails should be done by those nail specialists who applied these in the first place.

Is there a way to remove SNS by Yourself?

Visiting the properly trained staff or nail salon is best for you to let them remove the SNS nails easily to avoid any less damage and pain to your hands and nails. 

However, if for some reason you can’t get to a nail tech, there is a way to remove these without having to make your nails suffer for it. 

So, here are some basic tips for doing this: 

Remove the top layer of the SNS using a nail file. You can use a buffer if you don’t have a filler. What is more important is that you have something with friction to remove the first layer. Nothing too abrasive as the point is to protect your nail plates not shred them to pieces. 

You will know that you have finished filing the first layer when all the gloss has been removed, leaving only a matte-looking finish. 

Next, you will need to remove the color from your nails if you used additional nail polish. You can take a cotton swab that has been soaked in acetone to gently remove the paint from your nails. You’ll only have the final level which is where all the unfortunate superglue mixtures happen. 

To get the powder dip removed, you will have to soak some cotton into acetone so that you can wrap them individually around the nails. For this step, you will have to use acetone propane, a stronger alternative to regular acetone. Regular acetone will not be able to break down the bond between the superglue and the powder. 

So it’s important to get one with a stronger formula. 

For safety measures, I would advise removing the nail job in a well-ventilated area in order to minimize the effects of inhaling the acetone. 

Next, you will foil wrap each nail in aluminum paper. Ensure the soaked cotton pads are correctly placed inside your aluminum foil strips. You want to create good incubation so that the heat can help to break the bonds in the mixture.

Check one nail to figure out if all the nails have been successfully removed or not. Rather than assuming that all nails are done, unwrapping them and realizing the process wasn’t complete. I would suggest keeping the wraps on for at least fifteen minutes. 

Remove gently by carefully clearing away all the mixture that has come off without pulling too hard. Repeat this process until all the nail polish has been removed. 

Removal of Shellac Nails

Again, the best way is to visit a proper salon in order to get your Shellac nails removed. It is however easier to remove than the SNS nails. If removal is done at home by yourself, remember that it is a nail polish, it is easy to get removed compared to the gel as the nail polish properties make it easier to remove.  

The shellacs are softer on the nails in the removal process as it isn’t as drying as when we removed the SNS nails. In order to remove shellac, you need to file the top coat. Acetone will not properly dissolve the top coat or even if it does it will take a longer time. 

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Nail Polish Shiny Top Coat, 101 Miracle Gel 3.0 Shiny Top Coat, 0.5 Fl Ounce

Just ensure to not over-file your nails. Over-filing can damage your nail bed. 

You will then need to soak them in acetone. Since there are no super glue agents in this formula you don’t need strong acetone which is more drying on the skin anyway. I would recommend that you don’t use the stronger version if you don’t have to as the fumes are stronger and are more likely to damage your nails.

At this point, you can either keep them dipped in acetone for five-minute intervals or you can wrap foils around your nails like we did when we were removing the SNS nails. 

A good trick you can use to prevent drying whether you are removing SNS or Shellac is that you can apply oil to your cuticles before dipping them in acetone. It reduces the amount of damage that acetone can do to your skin. 

Moisturizing Methods

In all honesty, leaving acetone on your skin and nails for that long doesn’t do them any favors. Acetone is very drying so it pulls the moisture from your skin. So once you’ve finished removing the SNS or Shellac from your nails, you have to focus on treating them so you can get your moisture back. Treating your nails and hands through a harsh process will rough them and will dull their natural beauty.

Applying Oil

Apply drops of cuticle oils made especially for nails and hands to both moisturize and seal moisture into your skin. If you received any damage from either the SNS or the Shellac, you might want to increase the waiting time between nail appointments in order to give your nails time to heal themselves.  

Moisturizers And Butters

Shea Butters and Cocoa Butters give a great deal of moisture to the skin with added minerals. You can use these daily to retain your skin’s moisture so that acetones and polishes don’t have as much of a damaging effect on your hands and nails.

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Daily Skin Therapy Solid Lotion, 7.25 Ounces

Can You Use Gel SNS Or Shellac Nails At Home?

If you tire of having to go to the salon to get your nails done, then you will find it exciting to know that the SNS method can be done by yourself. It will take much longer than a professional and may not have that flawless finish you’re looking for if you haven’t done it before. You can however get quality kits to do your own nails.

However, it’s best not to try applying shellac, or any other mixtures that require UV lights on your home. Nail techs are professionals who know best how to handle UV rays such as how long to leave it under and when to know the mixture is cured. I would suggest trying other nail methods if you would like to do your nails at home such as nail wraps or acrylics. 

Which Is Better For You?

That is of course left for you to determine based on the advantages, disadvantages, applying, and removal methods that we’ve discussed. It is suitable for people that the drying time for Shellac nails isn’t much while others may think it’s not worth the risk of using UV rays to harden nail mixtures. Acrylics don’t use UV rays but at the same time, they have their own chemical hazards that you’ll have to use. 

None is necessarily better than the other. One can be more suitable based on a person’s preferences and circumstances. 

However, you can measure these pros and cons against the types of nails you desire in order to find out which is better for you. 


Depending on what suits you there are good reasons to try either SNS or Shellac nails. For a quicker application time and easy removal, your best option will be Shellac nails. However for a nail job that doesn’t require you to paint your nails and provides a natural look you can use SNS nails. Both have some safety hazards but I have provided methods where you can circumvent these issues. You’re all set to decide what to use at your next nail appointment. 


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