This Is What Causes Shellac To Discolor




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It takes time and money to achieve that perfect manicure, therefore it is frustrating when it starts to discolor. From stains to total discoloration, one thing is on our minds: what causes shellac nails to discolor, and can discoloration be repaired or stains removed?

Discoloration of shellac comes from exposure to harsh chemicals, makeup, or dyes. Other reasons include incorrect UV light exposure during the manicure process, spices during cooking, and more. There are even instances where clients’ clothing or daily activities lead to discoloration.

In this article, I will talk about the causes of discoloration in detail. Then, I will provide some practical solutions on how to remove yellow stains from shellac nails. These are methods that have been tried and tested by nail technicians or their clients.

Causes of Shellac Discoloration

What does it mean exactly if one’s shellac manicure becomes discolored? Discoloration is the act of changing the natural color of something by making it duller or dingier or unnatural or faded. This means that discoloration is generally not a good thing when it comes to that perfect manicure. 

So, what causes discoloration of shellac nails? I will discuss some of the most common causes here.

Using Low-Quality Products

Like with anything, the quality of the product matters. Salons or nail technicians who skimp on the product are likely to have more comebacks when it comes to shellac nails. It is usually a good idea to enquire about the product that the nail technician is using. 

With shellac nails, both the quality of the gel and the quality of the nail polish matter. In many cases, paying a little bit more may mean the product is more expensive, therefore better quality.

Improper UV Light Exposure

The UV light process is what makes the product hard enough to resist damage. If the process is stopped prematurely then the product probably hasn’t been set properly and may be more susceptible to damage.

On the other hand, overexposure to UV light during this process can cause nails to start browning. That’s why it is wise to time the process.

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Chemical Exposure

Shellac nails are designed to withstand exposure to chemicals, however, there are limits. Cleaning chemicals are one of the biggest culprits. These are made up of harsh substances that can easily lead to shellac discoloration. 

It is best to wear cleaning gloves to avoid exposure to these chemicals. Especially in the case of frequent cleaning. 

Sunlight Exposure

The UV rays from the sun have the power to cause damage to both our skin and nails. Too much exposure can lead to discoloration when it comes to shellac nails. Many salons and nail technicians agree that manicures tend to last less during summer.

Shellac nails are also likely to be exposed to self-tanning agents and more during summer. One should use protective gloves in this instance and be mindful of what their nails are being exposed to.

Exposure to Spices, Dyes, and More

Many spices have staining properties. This is especially true for spices like turmeric. We often expose our nails to spices while cooking. There is no doubt that without proper protection, a manicure will suffer. 

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One should also be aware of handling materials or clothing where the dye rubs off. An example may be dark blue jeans that leave a color residue. Just putting them on can lead to tainting of your shellac nails. 


Not only does smoking stain teeth and more, but it can potentially cause shellac nails to discolor. It is notorious for causing yellow staining. When one smokes, their manicure is easily susceptible to damage. 

Exposure to Make-up

Make-up has multiple dyes in it. Particularly foundations, eyeshadows, and shimmer powders. These can easily lead to shellac discoloration or yellowing.

It is advised to use make-up applicators and brushes rather than using your fingers to apply foundations, etc.

How Do You Remove Yellow Stains From Shellac Nails?

The success of these techniques depends on the severity of the discoloration. I’ll talk about some of the best methods here. Ultimately, there are instances where a visit to the nail salon is necessary. 

Nail Varnish Remover or Alcohol Rub

All you need is a nail varnish remover or an alcohol solution and ear swabs. These are great for removing dirt or getting rid of a stain. 

Shellac nails are hardy so this will not cause peeling, provided one doesn’t completely soak the nail. Simply dip the ear swab in some solution and rub it on the stained area.

Natural Bleaching Agents

Lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda are two fantastic natural bleaching agents that are extremely versatile. To add to their repertoire, they can both help to rid of the discoloration of shellac nails. 

Either mix lemon juice or bicarbonate of soda in water and soak your nails for about 10 minutes. Wash your hands with gentle soap and rinse. These natural products are unlikely to cause the product to peel.


For this method, one simply needs hairspray, a towel, and some ear swabs. Place hands on a towel and spray a generous amount of hairspray on the nails. When they look wet, use an ear swab to rub the stain off or get rid of the discoloration.

When done, wash your hands with soap and water. 

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil works wonders for so many different things. It is also naturally used to treat nail fungus and is a stain remover. One thing it is good for is restoring color to shellac nails. 

To do this, one should soak their nails in a generous amount of tea tree oil for about 10 minutes. When done, wash your hands with a generous amount of soap and some warm water. Repeat the process daily until the stain is removed or the color is restored.

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A Gentle Scrub

Since shellac nails are designed to be hardy, a gentle scrub should not harm. You’ll want to use a brush with soft bristles though, and avoid scrubbing harshly. This is a good technique for removing make-up residue or spices from your manicure.

A Visit to The Salon

If none of these techniques work to restore your manicure, it may be time to go back to the salon. It is a good idea to do this if you suspect the product was not high-quality. The technique used by the nail technician can also influence the shellac’s longevity.

The Bottom Line

Most shellac manicures are designed to withstand exposure to daily tasks. These are things like cleaning, cooking, swimming and so on. There are times where your manicure may become stained or discolored. The techniques I discussed in this article should help, but be sure to see your nail technician if they discolored quickly. 

To read more about shellac you can go here.


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