Cynics might brush off the signs popping up on nail salon windows: "We have no-chip manicures!"
In the harrowing history of nail polish, few women have managed to fish keys out of their purses without nicking one or more of their freshly coated nails. Even if color survives that plunge, a round of dish-washing quickly begins to erode the finish. And its value.
But Creative Nail Design's new Shellac Hybrid Nail Color manicure, which hit select nail salons in May (including dozens in Minnesota and western Wisconsin; see www.cnd.com for a listing or call 1-877-263-6245), promises to withstand such trauma. Each layer is specially formulated and cured briefly under an ultraviolet lamp, rendering it impervious to environmental aggressors, claims Jan Arnold, cofounder of the CND brand, which is sold to professionals only.
It's the latest in a new batch of long-wear manicure procedures being embraced by some salons. Among the procedures are OPI's Axxium Soak-Off Gel Lacquer System (www.opi.com), with 34 shades, and Minx (www.minxnails.com), which uses flexible film that is cut and stretched over nails, allowing for graphic prints.
For the recent America's Beauty Show in Chicago for salon professionals, members of the media were invited to try out Shellac. A test found truth in the claims. Shellac has advantages and drawbacks, compared with basic manicures at home or at salons.Advantages
Shellac dries quickly and thoroughly. "When you pull your hand out of the lamp, you can't dent it or ruin it," Arnold promised. The technician applies a base coat, color and top coat, with UV curing in between. Application takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. "It's instantly 100 percent dry, which is sort of amazing," Arnold said. And true.
It lasts two weeks. "It actually can last longer than that," Arnold said. "But after that you can see the nail growth." Like clockwork, on Day 14, the polish on my middle finger began to peel and the gap from nail growth began to look weird.
It still gleams on Day 14. "The shine factor with this is quite unbelievable," Arnold said. True for the reddish-brown "Fedora" polish that I tried, one of 12 colors in the Shellac collection. (Twelve more will be added for fall.)Drawbacks
Removal is done at a salon. The technician applies wraps over each fingertip to concentrate 99 percent acetone on the nail for 10 minutes. Then the technician scrapes away excess Shellac. "Trying to remove it yourself with nail varnish remover is not going to happen," said Leigh Toselli, author of "Pro Nail Care." "Peeling the gel off will only damage the nails." Indeed. Before proper removal, I picked off peeling Shellac from my middle finger, and it left a tiny ding in my nail. If you're desperate and can't get to the salon, beauty supply stores sell acetone. But DIY removal is not recommended.
Daily conditioning is recommended. After my Shellac removal, my nails were temporarily weaker and flaking at the tips. Acetone is drying, plus I failed to apply a daily conditioning treatment religiously as instructed. "We always recommend the use of a daily conditioning treatment, like our Solar Oil," Arnold said. Even with my slip-ups, three weeks later, my nails had recovered strength and the ding was gone.
It costs more than a traditional manicure. Shellac requires two salon visits, and the company advises salons to charge a 50 percent to 100 percent premium over a typical manicure. "The standard salon charges $16 for a basic manicure," Arnold said, citing Nails magazine, "so Shellac would be about $25. Other salons may charge $10 or $15 more." Removal plus reapplication might cost around $35. Still it's cheaper, faster and gentler on nails than acrylic and gel nail enhancements, which require filing down of the coating on repeat visits.