4 common reasons Shellac polish chips, plus solutions:

Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE CND’s Shellac nail polish (the Original Gel-Hybrid Power Polish), but we don’t guarantee it to be chip-free in every situation.

Problem 1. You’ve spent a lot of time in water.  (The inspiration for this post was my weekend trip to swim in Wisconsin’s gorgeous, but skin-drying lakes…between the water and piles of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, my Shellac chipped on one very dry nail).

Water will cause your nail plate to expand and contract which gives more opportunities for the polish to lift.  Spending time in chlorine-y pools, ocean water (yay, vacation!) or soapy water (lots of hand-washing) can also really dry out nails and polish leading to chipping and lifting and there isn’t much your nail tech can do about that.



Solution: Keep CND solar oil handy and apply regularly.  I know, it isn’t fun to think about cuticle oil on vacation, and it is a pain to think about re-applying it regularly if you have a job that requires frequent hand washing, but it is really the best way to try to keep all that time in water from causing your Shellac to chip or pop off.

Also,  using rubber gloves if you happen to have to be washing dishes or kids toys soapy water for an extended period of time helps!

Problem 2. Picking off your polish.  If you pick off your polish, it will cause nails to peel (delamination).  When your nail tech re-applies your Shellac, it is likely to peel because the nail underneath is peeling.

pick at nails

Solution: Keep a Shellac removal kit handy, we sell them, you’ll get several  uses out of them, and knowing you have a removal kit at home can save you from mindlessly picking off your Shellac while waiting for your next appointment.

If the damage has already been done and you’ve got peeling nails, try a treatment like CND’s Rescue RX for a week or two on “naked” nails before going back to Shellac to give your nail tech a healthier canvas to work with.  You can also just go to a polish like CND Vinylux which wears well (but not nearly as long as Shellac), removes easily (not a fun one to pick) and doesn’t require the extra time or up-charge that Shellac does.

3. Using your nails as tools.  If you use your nails to scrape or peel at things, you are likely to experience chips at the tip of your nails, even with the best polish application.

Nail quote


Solution: Knock it off!  ha ha, ok, I’m so guilty of this so I can’t really talk, but if you use your nails to pick at labels or tear open boxes, keep goo gone and box cutters handy so you have fewer excuses.

4. You have super short nails: Shellac still is great for short nails (we have so many massage therapists on the team so our nail techs are used to working with our little nail nubbins) but they can’t really “cap the free edge” of the nail as well as with nails that extend beyond your fingertip.  This is a polishing technique that helps Shellac stand up to wear, tear, and shrinking better.


Solution:  If you are trying to grow your nails, Shellac can be a good tool because it is a harder polish so makes them less prone to breaking and less fun to nibble if you’re a nail biter. Can’t grow nails because of your job or lifestyle?  No worries, you are less likely to use your nails as tools (See #3) so you might still get some great wear out of your Shellac.  Plus because the polish is thicker than regular polish, you might get away with a bit more length than normal because it blunts the edge of your nail a bit.  You can also go with a more neutral color so it isn’t obvious if it pulls from the tip a bit.

Need expert help?  Book a manicure with one of our awesome nail techs!  They are great at advising you on the best polish or treatment, helping your nails to look great at the length they are, or helping you to grow them if that’s your goal!

Author: Cassie

Licensed Massage Therapist for 9 years, business owner since 2007.

8 thoughts on “4 common reasons Shellac polish chips, plus solutions:”

  1. How bout the fact the techs use bare minimum and not even 24 hours later each of my finger nails broke and have chipped on each hand. I wear cotton and am disabled so I’m not working on cars, washing dishes for hours and scrubbing floors or rock climbing. My usual nail tech gets the polish to last 6-8 weeks. This person from Groupon didn’t get the polish to last 8 hours before it began coming apart piece by piece. So upset. I don’t have an income andnthought to spoil myself. I should’ve just stayed my boring self which looked better than polish chipping off my nails within hours.

    1. Hi, I’m not sure where you live or what salons you are going to. We’ve never offered a groupon before, but typically with people who are severely discounting their services, they are not using the quality products that last longer. CND Shellac is a specific brand, but some discount salons call lower cost polishes “Shellac” when they are not actually Shellac because they can’t afford to use CND Shellac with discounted Groupon services. It is unfortunate and misleading to clients. I can’t say for sure that is what happened to you, but it is what we see more often than not. I think of it like this, people often say “I have some Kleenx” but the may have a different brand of tissue. The most popular, prevailing brand becomes what people call every other product. I hope this information helps. Every area of the country and every spa and salon chooses to operate differently, I’m so sorry you had a bad experience like that.

  2. I have someone that one or two nails peels on her. I use CND scrub fresh to prep the nail. She is gentle with her nails. They just peel. I am using fresh products. Not sure I what I am doing wrong. The bulbs are not old on my lamp

    1. Some people have naturally peeling nails. If the nails underneath the product are peeling, the product will peel. I have one nail that is always dry and peels and that’s the one that my Shellac tends to pull from the tip. I have a circulatory condition and it causes more problems in 2-3 nails, that is one of them. No clue if it is related! You might contact CND or their educators. We’ve found them to be extremely helpful to our nail technicians in advising. There is also a product from CND called Rescue RX that clients apply regularly to their natural nail. Some of our clients take a few weeks off of Shellac and polish and apply Rescue Rx daily, then try again. I hope that helps!

  3. I have had a recent client who regularly has shellac and it lasts forever!!! I gave her a shellac and two days later 3 nails have come off….. I did everything to the book…… it’s putting me off shellac as it either works wonders or doesn’t and makes me nervous….. I do everything the same and this client adores shellac??? So it must be a mistake I’m making …… please can anyone help? ?

    1. Hi Susan,
      In my experience, if you’re using CND Shellac, you should be using their base and top coat with it. No other top coat is needed beyond that! I can’t speak to other brands because we only use CND Shellac brand polish. Thanks!
      Cassie Sampson
      Owner, East Village Spa

    2. I am not a nail tecnician, but do my own CND Shellac maicures and pedicures. To extend the life, on day15 I add one color coat and one topcoat of the shellac and can greatly extend the life of the polish. I have not tried just a topcoat, but I am fairly certain it will work. I like to include a color coat to fill in the growout line. Hope this helps.

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