CND Shellac on Day 1. Photo: Grace Gold

The claim is a 14 day chip-free manicure that stays shiny and fresh.

My mission was to put it to the test.

So began my experiment with CND's Shellac polish, the first 'hybrid' nail color that blends the strength and high-shine finish of a gel nail treatment with the color selection and easy application of a nail polish.

In case you're not familiar with the gel nail craze, it's much different than your run of the mill manicure. In this process, thin layers of gel are applied to the nails and cured under an ultraviolet light to create a highly durable, glossy finish, and can reportedly last a few weeks.

This process is gaining popularity in the U.S. (it's already big in Asia and Eastern Europe) because of the non-yellowing, odorless, and chip free formulas that not only strengthens nails, but provides the perfect base for funky and flirty designs. However, caveats include returning to the salon for removal by soaking the whole hand in acetone, (or drilling the nailbed), along with a lack of color options.

CND's new Shellac formula says it's a game-changer because, unlike gels, the formula is easily removed in ten minutes with acetone-soaked wraps that expose only the nailbed to the remover, with no drilling, filing or other mechanical manipulation required. Not to mention that it's launching with 12 trend-focused shades, with 12 more shades coming in the Fall.

But how well does it work? Let's get to it!

A Shellac manicure consists of a UV base coat, two coats of color, and a UV top coat. Hands are placed inside of a UV lamp drier in between each coat, with each process taking seconds to cure.

As CND manicurist Candice Manacchio applied my Shellac, I noticed that the manicure took place almost in reverse. Cuticles are first pushed back and nails prepped with a swipe of acetone to prep for color. After polishing, the more indulgent hand massage and lotions are applied, so as not to risk interfering with the polish application or color adherence to the nail.

My strategy was to go with a neutral sheer white shade, since I wanted the results to last as long as possible. (That, and I'm cheap.) While bright shades are great fun, they do show the tell-tale half-moon sign of cuticle growth far sooner. Manacchio suggested a coat of the opaque milky Romantique followed by a coat of of the sheer shimmer Negligee for a clean yet polished-looking finish that blends the best of both worlds.

While going through the steps, I gleaned some pretty interesting chit-chat from Manacchio. Turns out, she takes a train from her home in Connecticut to New York every two weeks to refill Kerry Washington's acrylic manicure while the actress has rare down time between Broadway performances of Race. "What, no Shellac for Kerry?" I asked. "No, she needs the extra strength of acrylics," was the insider reply.

Our conversation was interrupted by the last cycle of the drier ending. It had only been 25 minutes, and I had received the full treatment and was all done.

CND Shellac, Day 7. Photo: Grace Gold



When the mani is finished, you're good to go -- no drying time is needed since your nails have set to a hard, shiny finish. You can even reach right into your handbag to get your keys, which I couldn't help but gingerly do with all fingers protectively splayed, not quite believing that my just-painted-two-minutes-ago nails wouldn't smudge in the process. They didn't.

For the next week, I was amazed that my nails held up the just-stepped-out-of-the-salon look beautifully, with no further commitment or work from me.

On day seven, an overly-zealous vacuuming session broke a nail when the vacuum didn't quite make it under the bed like I expected it to, and my right index finger jammed against the handle. My nail may have survived if I had a thicker traditional gel layer on it, though the break was clean and didn't cause any polish to peel. I snapped a photo for the record, and then filed the nail down -- and no one seemed to be any the wiser to it.

On the big finale of day 14, I was amazed at how the high-gloss finish was still sparkling and fresh. Even when I've had regular gel manicures, the shiny topcoat dulls after a few days, and I reapply a clear topcoat two or three times to get a lacquered finish comparable to what I had on Shellac's day 14.

CND Shellac, Day 14. Photo: Grace Gold



And my lighter colored strategy worked. If you look really closely, you can see that the cuticle grew-out, but it's virtually unnoticeable to other people unless they're particularly nosy. I actually think that CND is playing it safe by claiming this manicure can last two weeks, because I can definitely push at least a week more out of my current nails, if not even more.

I also think this is a great option for weddings and other events. No need to get up extra early to fit a harried trip to the salon in on the day of a special occasion-- you can instead comfortably Shellac a week before and be confident that your nails will look fresh and unchipped for the big day.

The one drawback is that similar to its cousin, the gel, Shellac can only be applied in salons. It requires less skill than sculpting a gel nail, but still uses UV and removal technology that is not yet directly available to consumers.

Shellac will also be priced about 50% more than a regular manicure, and you can find participating salons at this link.

But this frugalista thinks it's well-worth the cost of admission, in terms of what you save on touch-ups, salon visits and your sanity.

Obsessed with nails? Read more here!