For those of us still smarting over the shuttle debacle, there are some other things Houston has going for it, especially in the beauty department. Let’s see, we’ve got feather extensions; not one, but two blow dry salons; organic brushed tanning and manicures that last at least two weeks.
OK, so none of those things can launch something into space and orbit the globe, but hello? What part of two week manicure doesn’t sound equally impressive?
After opening any number of tiny toys and typing with reckless abandon, I decided to try out the Shellac manicure. Just to be clear, the Shellac mani by CND is the official long-wearing mani, not to be confused with the gel manicure.
I say this to save you the humiliation I encountered when asking for a “gel” manicure. The nail techs shook their heads sadly, gave each other “the look” and pointed at the Shellac display.
Shellac is a hybrid, half nail polish, half gel that dries immediately after being cured by a UV light. The result is a long-lasting, quick-drying, high-gleam mani that is equal to taking bright gumball colors, wrapping them in an impenetrable force field and painting them on your nails.
Shellac is still a fresh nail trend, having started in New York salons just in time for last year’s holiday parties. Houston salons starting adding Shellac to their mani menus after a serious interest and even Spa Nordstrom, which is quite choosy about the services and products it offers, has had a steady stream of Shellac converts on its hands since bringing it in the salon in January.
I’ve never been an acrylic nail girl and am not keen on sanding my nail bed, so I was relieved when none of that happened. The manicure is multi-step and includes the regular maintenance of filing, cuticle clipping and cleaning the nail. My nail tech put the Shellac UV base coat on and then I placed my hand in the UV lamp to cure the coat. Next she put the color coat on.
I normally defer on the demure side for nail polish colors, but I embraced a bold pink for spring. My hands went back in the UV lamp, the last UV top coat was applied, then I did one last round in the UV lamp.
For those concerned with the time in the lamp (total about five minutes) CND says the UV exposure is equal to the sun we get walking to-and-from our cars to a building, but I applied my dermatologist-approved sunscreen on my hands during the manicure just to be safe. Shellac is hypo-allergenic and “3-Free” meaning it doesn’t contain formaldehyde, toluene or DBP, which keeps polish from chipping.
I’ll admit, I’m hooked. I repeatedly get stopped by strangers asking me about my nails and it really does last for at least two weeks. If you opt for a lighter color polish, it’s easy to stretch the mani out to three weeks, depending on how fast your nails grow.
Style and beauty expert Jenn Falik tests countless products and spends a lot of time on television sets discussing the latest and greatest and she raves about Shellac.
“If you are time crunched, like I always am, it is such a better option than having to run to the nail salon once a week to get a proper manicure. I honestly can't imagine going back to old fashioned manis,” Falik says. “I was hesitant because I do love changing up polish colors and didn't necessarily want to commit to one shade for two weeks, but the convenience factor is huge.”
Limited polish choices is one the slight drawbacks of the Shellac mani, but CND is introducing 12 new colors for spring and summer and a limited edition polish collection inspired by designer Jason Wu.
The other thing I learned about the manicure is that it’s really best for a nail tech to take it off. One of my nails started chipping so I attempted to take off the polish at home and that one nail became weak while the other nails are very strong. The polish removal process requires soaking your fingers in acetone or using special nail wraps by CND. Spa Nordstrom places a cotton ball on top of the nail, allowing it to sink in without having to expose too much skin to the acetone. (At Spa Nordstrum, a regular mani with Shellac is $50; the spa mani plus Shellac is $65.)
It’s a perfect solution for worry-free nails while on vacation and you can dig for your keys seconds after the manicure is complete, which as we all know, is a major bonus. Almost as important as a shiny, chip-free manicure.