Forget about washing dishes. Any frequent traveler will tell you that packing and fiddling with suitcase zippers wreaks havoc on your nails. Even when I've managed to carve out the time for a manicure a day or two before a trip, I wind up with at least one chipped nail before it's time to board the plane. The darker the polish, the more obvious the damage. That was until I found the ultimate traveler's manicure: It is called Shellac.
Like most beauty secrets, I learned about this one from a friend. Before my friend Linda's last trip to Costa Rica, the operator at her nail shop offered her a discount to try this new gel polish technique guaranteed to last two weeks without chips or peeling (It cost her $25 in South Carolina). When Linda returned from her travels, she sent me pictures of her nails on her iPhone and reported new growth at the nail beds. But the French manicure was flawlessly intact after two weeks on the road. She was hooked on Shellac and became a pusher.
Admittedly, she didn't have to work very hard at it. I had begged off manicures, resorting to do-it-myself, because they lasted only a day or two. I had tried acrylic manicures several times but they required time-consuming "refills" and my nails were left in shreds when the acrylics were removed. Moreover, while these fake nails looked good, they felt like tentacles and weren't very functional.
So when I was recently preparing, packing, and primping for three weeks on the road, I asked my manicurist about this "soak off gel" manicure called Shellac. The process entails applying a base coat, color coat, and top coat, each step followed by a "curing process" under a UV nail lamp. The total exposure time under the lamp is about six minutes and no other drying time is required afterwards.
The operator assured me the gel that would last two weeks—-but to my amazement, it lasted all three. Removal wasn't very difficult either. It involved soaking my nails in acetone at the salon for about ten minutes. The process cost me about $35 in New York and I was so satisfied I did it again—-this time taking a picture of my deep red, perfectly shiny nails on my iPhone and emailing it to Linda.
Beauty always comes at a cost. I chanced upon a column in Consumer Reports by a medical professional who knocked the wind out of my sails. It reminded me about some of the generic risks of manis and pedis, including allergic dermatitis and fungus infections when products aren't sterile or used properly. In addition, in the case of Shellac, UV exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer. (Although some customers apply suntan lotion on their hand before they get Shellac-ed.)
I've decided to limit my use of Shellac to lengthy trips and special occasions—-and will likely stick to au naturel nails in-between. But I still can't stop looking down at my beautiful, too-good-to-be-true nails.
Read more about Shellac and make your own informed decision: