"Shellac, shellac on the wall, where's the worst nails of them all?"
I say this to myself each morning before I start work.
I'm sick and tired of hearing a beautician's take on nail gel damage. It's like asking a circus owners opinion on dancing bears.
Shellac was everywhere a few years back. But of late, I've noticed a drop off in the miracle nail polish.
Is it a mini-rebellion against the damage that gel inflicts on your nails?
Now, I'm a Podiatrist, so this post is tailored to chalk-colored toenails.
But it also applies to the more common coated fingernails.
Your nail tissue is the same. The process is the same. The white spots and fungal nail infections are the same.
Nail Salon on The Titanic
Now that the sea salt has settled, we can reflect. We can mourn the tragic incident aboard the Titan submersible.
The whole saga got me harking back to my dear old Grandmother. She passed away last year at the age of 98.
In many ways, she reminded me of Rose.
Only she wasn't American, a rich heiress, or born in 1911. I never asked (and don't want to know) about Jack.
Then I mused about the upper-class ladies aboard HMS Titanic. What was the Edwardian version of shellac?
(Probably crushed-up deck weevils and third-class passenger blood)
Shellac VS Gel Nail Polish
It annoys me when people say "tannoy" instead of public address system.
Like hoover, shellac is a brand name.
But what about gel vs shellac?
Fawning articles go to great lengths to point out the differences. But they're negligible.
They can wax lyrical all day about "micro tunnels" and "easier removal" — I really don't care.
The point is that gel or shellac are heat-cured colored glues stuck on the end of your nails.
I can't comment on the color nuances of each, as I only ever opt for glow in the dark.
(But I can say this: they're both safe as long as you don't abuse them)
The Gym, Russian Lips And Shellac
Yep, there's nothing wrong with shellac, provided you moderate.
It's like everything; if you overdo it, it's bad.
Get too fond of aesthetics and you'll have lips like a baboon's bulbous bum.
Overdo the gym, and you'll measure your Thanksgiving dinner in little red plastic cups.
Get addicted to shellac and you'll have ten yellow flaps sat on top of your toes.
But how does this shellac nail damage even happen?
Shoeshine Shellac Boy
On a New York street in 1929, JFK senior felt an icy shiver up his spine.
But it wasn't the bite of the Big Apple wind.
A shoeshine boy just gave him hot financial picks and Joe Sr realized the stock bubble was about to blow.
What followed shortly was something you may have heard about: the Great Depression.
So when your nail tech proceeds to tell you about the benefits of buffing your nails, remember...
Rotten Shellac Foundations
All good construction needs a solid foundation. A strong underpin.
Thorough preparation and a quality base.
It's at this first stage that shellac falls down. Your nails get a good ol' going over, otherwise known as a "buff".
They're sanded down to a micro Edam cheese surface to make them nice 'n' ripe for application.
(Makes perfect sense right? Give the gel something to grip)
Yeah, here's the problem with that.
Buffing The Stuffing (Out of Your Nails)
Your nails are built up in layered sheets called lamina. Their purpose is to protect your delicate pink nail bed.
The top layer takes the brunt of any damage, sparing the second layer. And so on.
My issue isn't with the sanding itself. After all, millions of people do this every day including a lot of Podiatrists.
The problem comes when this filing is too aggressive.
Don't let your beautician mimic a thirsty gambler and their morning scratchcard on your nails.
It wouldn't matter so much if you went home and let them heal.
But you're not.
Tramp's Toenails - The Hot New Reality Show
The other issue comes when the buffer itself is dripping in other people's toenails.
You're transplanting someone else's fungal dust into your own pristine keratin.
I often email TV producers with an idea about this.
My pitch is setting up a hidden camera and dressing up as a hobo (the ones with a big coat on in the summer)
We then film the reactions of the poor patrons who get the nail block after me.
Baked to Perfection
Ah yes, can't forget the base coat now, can we? How else are we going to ensure a luminous lasting gel glow?
How else can we seal in shut someone else's nail spores into your injured nail plate?
Then we have the curing process. Now, I haven't got a beef with this aspect of gel nail polish.
It doesn't damage your nails directly because they're shielded by a thick lick of colored glue.
Then it seals in another and another and another.
The Great Pyramid of Shellac
In Egypt, there exists a mystery within a mystery.
Deep in the bowels of the Great Pyramid is an ancient grave. Fit for ancient royalty, it's sealed off with several 70-ton blocks of granite.
To this day, no one knows how the Egyptians got these awesome blocks into place.
Or can they give a solid explanation how they transported them hundreds of miles over the desert.
In many ways, the King's Tomb of Giza reminds me of shellac.
200,000 years from now, bulb-headed UFOs will reverse engineer shellac to coat their spaceships.
Once it's on, boy, it's on.
Where The Magic Happens
So you're fresh out the nail bar.
The salon chatter escapes your ears and the polish remover leaves your nose.
You feel the warm breeze and know your new nail art is bringing all the boys to the yard.
But deep down, there's a war going on.
Remember your poor first layer of nail? The one that was sanded 'til it burned?
Well, now it's in the fight for its life.
A top dollop of heated plastic stopped its air supply. It's also fending off foreign invaders from the buffer block.
It's waiting and hoping for resupply soon.
Alcohol to The Rescue
Shellac makes a big song and dance about how long it lasts. How it resists chips and scratches.
To be fair, that's true and I know because I've had to drill it off with a nail burr.
(I haven't got the time to mess about with the acetone paper cones that nail salons use)
A lot of Podiatrists charge extra for removal or simply won't see you until it's not on your toenails.
My point is: if it's that hard to rid yourself of this concoction, what the hell is going on underneath?
What Lies Beneath
Some people slap shellac after shellac on their toenails and forget about it.
They might be hiding fungal nail infections. Or they're just hooked on the glow bug shine.
Due to this, I've seen some real toenail car crashes; cardboard shadows of former toenails.
Most of the time it isn't this bad. On removal, their nails are speckled with white spots.
This is because they've been stripped. Their toenails are hangover thirsty and in urgent need of air and liquid.
How to Repair Shellac Nail Damage
If it's one thing about nails — they're resilient. They'll come back fighting and shining with enough rest and rehab.
When you see the tell-tale white dots or yellow tinge, take a salon break.
Stop suffocating your nails and let them soak in moisture and breathe in air.
Feel the breeze over and between your toes (and fingers).
The only thing I use on patients at this stage is Gehwol Nailcare. It'll save your nails.
Is Shellac Worth The Damage? A Podiatrist Weighs In
We've come quite a journey, haven't we? From hot Pyramid desert, freezing Titanic sea to 2020-something nail salon.
Either way, the advice still stands: shellac doesn't hurt as long as you rest between treatments.