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Shellac, gel, acrylic – a guide to the different types of manicure

Getting your nails done, whether it’s a treat or a monthly ritual, should be anything but stressful. But with the amount of choice and different types of manicures available, sometimes it can be overwhelming to know what’s best.

If you’re looking to make it a regular thing, it’s best to understand each type of manicure, how long it lasts and which is best for your nails. This guide will run through the main types of manicure and the results they give to help you work it out.

A gel mani-pedi

Regular nail polish

Let’s start with the basics: a classic manicure. A manicure using traditional polish is great for those who just want a tidy up and dash of colour using normal nail polish. Your nails will be shaped, cuticles will be neatened and then finally painted with your chosen colour.

A classic manicure will usually only take about 30 to 50 minutes. While the polish isn't as long lasting as other options (it typically lasts about seven days), it's easy to remove at home with nail polish remover.

Beige gel manicure

Gel nail polish

Gel nail polish application is similar to Shellac. Your technician will apply a base coat before applying two coats (or whatever's necessary) of the gel colour.

The key ingredient in a gel polish is photoreactive, so once applied it needs to be cured under an LED or UV nail lamp. When it’s cured, you can expect your polish to last and stay chip-free for around two weeks.

Gel nail polish needs to be properly removed, you can choose to have this done during your next nail booking, or you can find the products needed to remove them in your local pharmacy. But be careful, as with Shellac nail polish, incorrect removal can really damage your nails, leaving them flaky and dry – not the look you’re going for.

Shellac nail polish

Shellac is a hard nail polish invented by nail brand CND (Creative Nail Direction). The company launched 34 years ago with their SolarNail™ Liquid, the industry’s first-ever monomer formulation for greater nail strength and flexibility. They’ve been developing their original product and revolutionising the nail industry ever since.

But what actually is Shellac? It’s effectively half gel, half nail polish. The product is applied on bare nails and cured with an LED lamp – just like gel. However, Shellac is thinner than your typical gel polish which means it’s kinder to your nails and easier to remove – you don’t need to buff your nail plate to break the bond between the polish and your nail.

Despite it being thinner than your average gel, Shellac will generally last and stay chip-free for around two weeks.

As with gel polish, Shellac still needs to be removed properly. You can choose to have this done during your next nail booking or you can find the products needed to remove it in your local pharmacy. But be careful, although Shellac is kind to your nails, incorrect removal can cause damage and nobody wants that.

An infographic depicting the different lengths that types of manicures last ofr

French tip nails

French tip nails are a classic style of manicure. The finish can be achieved on natural or acrylic nails and aim to look quite natural with a light pink base and thin white tip.

What’s great about French tip nails is you can get them done no matter what type of manicure you want – it works with normal polish or it can be done using gel, Shellac or on acrylics. It’ll usually take about 45 minutes to an hour for French tip nails.

Acrylic nails

Traditional acrylic is a type of nail extension, it’s made from a mixture of liquid monomer and powder polymer to create a buildable paste. The acrylic is then applied to your natural nails with a brush and hardens on its own without needing a curing lamp.

Your nail technician can then shape and lengthen to your taste for the look you want. This type of manicure is one of the strongest, meaning it’s likely to last the longest. It also gives more flexibility and freedom with your nail style as you can lengthen your nails as much as you like.

But if extensions aren’t taken care of correctly, your natural nails can become damaged. As long as you follow aftercare advice and get them removed by a professional, you can avoid your nails becoming weak and breakable.

Dip powder nails

Dip powder is a unique form of acrylic. Instead of traditional acrylic application, your fingers are dipped into the powder or the powder is sprinkled onto them. The layers of resin and powder are built up on the nails, followed by filing and smoothing for a polished finish.

One of the best things about using dip powder is that it contains added vitamins to improve your nail health while still giving the same look and feel as traditional acrylic. It’ll usually last between two to three weeks.

Beige gel manicure and pedicure

Urban classic manicure

Our at-home manicures are perfect for anyone who loves a good pamper as well as having clean, looked-after nails. 

Before applying your chosen polish, your nail technician will exfoliate your hands with a luxurious scrub, and then apply a mask to leave them baby-soft.

Next, they’ll tidy up your cuticles, file, buff and shape your nails and then apply colour. Urban nail technicians work with a range of colours from brands such as CND, OPI and Essie.

The treatment will last around 60 minutes and you can expect your colour to last for around seven days. The polish can also be removed at home with acetone which can be found in most pharmacies, so the whole treatment is commitment-free.

OPI Vinylux

It’s pretty likely you’ve come across OPI before. As world leaders in professional nail care, their popular colour range and nail treatments can be found at lots of high street pharmacies. Famous for their highly-pigmented lacquers and range of nail care products, such as their ProSpa Nail and Cuticle Oil and Nail Strengthener, they offer the whole package.

The OPI Vinylux treatment is the brand’s classic mani. In your OPI Vinylux treatment your cuticles will be tidied, and your nails filed, buffed and shaped before your nail technician applies the OPI Infinite Shine colour of your choice.

Your high-shine colour will last around 11 days, but this is always dependent on the general health of your nails and how well you keep them from chipping. 

Clicking your nails on a keyboard all week in your nine-to-five may cause the colour to wear on the tips, but as you can buy a small range of OPI Infinite Shine to keep your chosen colour on hand for touch-ups. 

Vinylux can be removed with shop-bought acetone so you can remove the colour whenever you need to without any damage to your nails.

OPI gel nail polish

Get ready to change your nail game. Also known as a chipless manicure, OPI’s gel polish is applied just like a traditional polish, but is cured under a UV or LED lamp.

The polish is dry immediately after curing so you’ll be able to get on with your day without worrying about scuffing your freshly painted nails.

Your OPI gel colour will last around two weeks and, as with all gel or Shellac polishes, it’ll need to be carefully removed to avoid damage to your nails. You can book a removal service along with your next nail booking via Urban.

Book an at-home manicure

Now you’re in the know, book your nail service to your door. With Urban you can book gel, Shellac and classic polish manicures at home, delivered by qualified and pre-vetted nail technicians.