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Hard Gel vs Shellac – What’s Right for You?

Blake Charles Salon
September 29, 2021

Sometimes a girl (or guy, we don’t judge) just needs a little help with their nails. Maybe your natural nails aren’t sturdy enough to pull off the nail shape you’re dying to try, or maybe you just like the look of nail extensions. When it comes to these sorts of things, you have a couple options including hard gel and shellac. But which one should you use?

Hard Gel

Let’s look at hard gel first. Despite what the name might suggest, hard gel is actually a softer and more flexible form of polish. That said, it also tends to be stronger, which might come as something of a surprise. It’s actually the flexibility that gives it the extra strength. You can think of it as being similar to a plastic cup getting dropped on the ground versus a glass cup being dropped. The plastic one is more flexible and will absorb the impact better. The glass, on the other hand, will shatter. 

Gel is, well, a gel, which is one of the major differences compared to shellac. It can come in a pre-shaped kit or in a pot. Hard gel can feel lighter on your fingers. Some people find that it bonds nicely to their natural nails and is less prone to chipping or breaking down compared to shellac. Just be sure to keep your gel-manicured nails out of hot water to keep them good for longer.


Shellac is a resin created by combining both nail gel and traditional polish. Therefore, people love shellac for its all-around nature: durability and that gorgeous, classic shine. While shellac offers almost every perk that hard gel offers, it is a bit more prone to chipping. Nevertheless, this shorter life span may be worth the easy removal: Rather than minutes of scraping and soaking your fingers in harsh chemicals (hard gel), shellac can be easily removed with an acetone polish remover--easy and painless. 

Tips for Choosing

A lot of the choosing comes down to personal preference. Some people find that shellac extensions are best for them, while others enjoy hard gel more. In reality, it comes down to your priorities: If you’re looking for durability or color variety, you will probably want hard gel. Furthermore, hard gel is preferable for those with softer nails. On the other hand, if you are looking for a polish that is both sufficiently durable, but causes less damage to your nails upon removal, then shellac is probably the one for you. However, in the end, every person’s nails and lifestyles are unique. You may need to experiment with both to really know whether gel or shellac is the right choice for you. 

At the end of the day, choosing between hard gel and acrylic is a decision that needs to be made between yourself and your nail tech. You can, and should, look into the pros and cons of both. Your nail tech can answer any questions you have about which is most likely to be better for your nails. If you answer your nail tech’s questions about your nails and lifestyle honestly, you will be that much closer to getting it all sorted.

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