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Does Shellac Chip? [How Long Does Shellac Typically Last?]

Shellac nails are a great choice of manicure. They’re a great way to ensure that you have long-lasting, tough nails that look gorgeous. The shine can’t be beaten, and, if taken care of properly, they can last for quite a while. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways you can accidentally damage them.

So, does shellac chip? It is possible for Shellac nails to chip. They can even crack. Simply put, this is almost always caused by poor habits or incorrect application. Being too rough, picking, excessive product usage or hand washing, improper nail preparation, and incorrect product application can all result in this outcome.

Thankfully Shellac does not have to chip.

In fact, if it does chip, chances are you are doing something wrong.

At the very least, there are things you can do to prevent it from happening altogether.

Both before the Shellac is applied and after.

So, let us now take a closer look at how you can extend the longevity and durability of Shellac with some simple changes!

But first…

What Are Shellac Nails?

Shellac nails are a mixture of both gel nail covering and traditional nail polish. The gel adds durability and strength, while the nail polish gives the nails a beautiful shine. This is a patented product introduced by Creative Nail Design. You’ll have to go to salons certified by the company for this product. It has more than 100 available shades.

First thing’s first: 

Shellac nails aren’t really just a type of nail. 

They’re an actual brand name. 

Shellac nails is the brainchild of the company Creative Nail Design, or CND. 

Because of that, you can hang up the idea of getting real Shellac nails at home. 

Or, for that matter, any location that isn’t a CND-certified salon. 

There’s a chance you might find someone offering a knock-off version, but know that it won’t be real Shellac, and you can’t expect it to perform nearly as well.

What is Shellac? It’s a kind of nail covering that blends the best of gel and traditional nail polishes. 

The gel helps to keep the nail art durable and strong so that it can last longer than a normal polish-only manicure would. 

Meanwhile, the nail polish gives it a beautiful shine. 

The colors can be richer, as well, making it great for those looking for a little pop! But Shellac nails almost always lean towards the natural look, even with their bright colors.

If you’re looking for a quick manicure choice, this is one for you! 

Unlike other types of manicure, which can take half an hour or even more, Shellac nails can be done in as little as five minutes.

On the far end, they’ll only take about fifteen. That’s great for the busy person trying to squeeze a trip to the nail salon into their lunch break! 

You’ll be in and out quickly, with gorgeous nails to show for it.

How Long Does Shellac Last?

Shellac nails should last at least two weeks, with proper care and assuming your nails were prepared appropriately and the product applied adequately. If you’re really careful, you can push it to as long as three weeks.

However, by then, you will likely have cracks, chips, and peeling.

Generally, if you are looking to extend the length of time you were your Shellac for, you will need to be particularly mindful of what you use your hands for and expose your nails too.

For instance, household cleaning products, hand-creams, and regular washing are all kinds of things that can reduce the longevity of the product and result in issues sooner.

As we will now explore further in the next section below…

Why Is My Shellac Chipping?

Many factors can cause Shellac nails to chip. These include spending a lot of time in the water, exposure to harsh chemicals, being rough on your nails, picking at the polish, or biting your nails. Time can also be a factor: after two weeks, chipping becomes much more likely.

So, your Shellac nails have started chipping. 

It can be a heart-wrenching thing to notice, particularly if you haven’t hit the two-week mark yet. 

If you have had the manicure for more than two weeks, then don’t panic too much: you’ve likely just reached the end of your Shellac nails’ natural life cycle. 

Time to let them go to the big salon in the sky and schedule an appointment to a more mundane salon here on earth.

Not time for your nails to go, but they’re chipping, peeling, or cracking anyway? 

Here are a few reasons that you might be experiencing this issue.

Water Exposure

Have you taken your Shellac nails on a beach vacation, or maybe just spent some time hot-tubbing with friends? 

Or have you taken up swimming at the local pool for your cardio, rather than jogging? 

Any of these could be causing your Shellac nails to lose their luster faster than before. 

There are two real issues with water, and it does depend on what kind of water it is. 

Natural water, such as at a lake or the beach, can cause your nail plates to swell and then later contract as water is absorbed.

This makes it easier for the polish to shift and move, leading to chips. 

For pools and hot tubs, not only do you have to worry about water absorption, but you have to worry about chlorine, as well! 

Hot tubs even add the dangers of hot water to the mix. Take a pass, and save your nails.

Exposure To Chemicals

Exposure to chemicals is also a problem, and it’s one almost every polish has. 

Household chemicals are the biggest threat because they’re the type you’re most likely to be sticking your unprotected hands into. 

With Shellac nails, treat all chemical cleaners like they’re dangerous because they are – to your nails!

Improper Care

Being rough on your nails will also reward you with chips and cracks. 

Shellac nails aren’t a tool; they’re a decoration. 

So, while you have them and want them in pristine condition, you have to sacrifice using your nails to pry things open or pull things apart. 

Invest in some good scissors and pliers, or enlist some help!

Your nervous habits could be causing your nails to crack, as well. 

Biting your nails or peeling away the paint will make your Shellac chip every time. 

These are two of the habits most destructive to your nails. If you can’t keep from doing it, go au naturale for a while.

How Do I Make Sure Shellac Stays On?

To make your Shellac nails last longer, you need to keep them protected, moisturized, and maintained with a topcoat.

The first step to ensuring a long-lasting Shellac manicure is to protect your nails at all costs! 

Manicures are delicate, particularly if you want them to last beyond the two-week benchmark.

And, as you can see from above, there are a lot of things that you can do that will damage your nails.

The good news is, it isn’t difficult to avoid these issues! 

Wear Gloves

For the biggest problem, exposure to household chemicals, all you need to do is put on some gloves before you get started.

This can protect you from the chemicals that you’ll be using. 

And you can use the same trick for water exposure when it comes from submerged hands, such as while washing dishes. 

The same goes for heavy work that may damage your nails, such as gardening. Gloves are key!

Stop Using Your Nails

You should also be doing everything in your power to avoid using your nails as tools. 

Don’t pick up things with them, don’t try to use them as mini pry-bars, and don’t use them to peel apart hard plastic. 

When covered in gel and polish, your nails cease to be tools. Using them as such is guaranteed to cause chipping.


Next, you’ll want to keep your hands and nails moisturized. 

Use a hand cream every day for best results. 

Always use one whose purpose is to actually moisturize, not a cream that’s just perfumed lotion. 

Before bed, apply a cuticle oil to your nails, so that they can be replenished, as well. 

You can use my favorite brand from Amazon here.

Lastly, you should maintain your nails. 

How do you do this? 

It’s easy: All you need to do is apply a layer of clear top coat once a week. 


Can You Put Topcoat Over Shellac?

You can use a topcoat over your Shellac nails. But you’ll need to remove it with acetone before removing the Shellac.

As you can probably guess from the suggestions above, yes, you can use topcoat over your Shellac! 

In fact, it’s not only allowed, but it’s also recommended.

A good top coat can keep your Shellac from chipping so that your manicure will last longer. Your goal? Apply at least once a week!

When you have Shellac nails, you’ll want to apply a clear topcoat once a week for protection. 

Choosing the right topcoat can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be a headache. 

For the best results, you should use one that prioritizes protection over something like growth and health. 

Your topcoat won’t be reaching down to the actual nail, so you won’t see many benefits from things like that. 

But one that promises hardworking protection and high shine is the perfect top coat for a Shellac manicure.

It’s also recommended to limit yourself to clear topcoats. 

While there are some naturally colored options, any amount of color is going to alter the look of your manicure. 

Even a completely natural Shellac manicure is going to look very different with one coat of flesh-toned or pink top coat. 

Always go for clear!

This is my favorite one from Amazon below:

The only thing to keep in mind is that, if you add some topcoat to your nails, you’ll have to eventually take it off. 

And the best thing to take it off with us acetone nail polish remover.

Not too much of a hassle, but something to remember!


Shellac can chip, I’m afraid. 

The good news is that you can drastically reduce the chances of it from happening by being mindful.

And this should not just include how you use your hands and what you expose your nails too with your manicure.

This involves visiting a reputable salon.

One where they properly prepare your nails before any application and use the best products.

Besides, what chance do you have if your salon used cheap, inferior products and put them on incorrectly, to begin with?

Stick to the salons with the 5* reviews; that’s one of the best parting tips I can give. 

Interested in a Shellac manicure? Check out my other guides on what to expect: