Curls N Pearls

GelColor by OPI versus CND Shellac [REVIEW]

CND Shellac Versus OPI GelColor

A couple of weeks ago I posted a teaser for an upcoming review of the new GelColor by OPI. The reason it took a while for me to write this post is that I wanted to test drive OPI GelColor with a few shades, since with CND Shellac I have experienced inconsistent results with a few of the more shimmery shades (I’m looking at you, Iced Cappuccino).

Here is what OPI has to say of the new GelColor by OPI:

  • Fast, polish-on application
  • Lightning speed, 30-second cure
  • Distinctive OPI Bottle; custom brush
  • 100% color gel formula – wears like gel; looks and feels like nail lacquer
  • Easy-to-use, economical removal system

The primary benefit of GelColor by OPI over CND Shellac for both nail technicians and clients alike is that GelColor cures with an LED light in one-third the time of traditional gel manicures, which cure under a UV light.

GelColor by OPI launched with 30 available colors (pictured below). CND Shellac will add six new colors to their line in March 2012, bringing the total available colors to 36.

CND Shellac Versus OPI GelColor

One of the perks of being a licensed cosmetologist is access to professional-only shops that carry products like GelColor by OPI* and CND Shellac. Since I’m a DIYer when it comes to manicures, this opinions expressed in this review are based on my experience, not a salon manicure.

Like CND Shellac and other gel hybrid manicures, GelColor by OPI is not meant for women who get bored with their nail polish color quickly. If applied correctly, a GelColor by OPI manicure should remain shiny and chip-free for at least 14 days.

The GelColor by OPI polishes that I tested were You Don’t Know Jacques, Kyoto Pearl and Bubble Bath (scroll down to view the gallery). As far as the preparation and application of GelColor by OPI, it is very similar to Shellac. The GelColor bottle and brush are the same as OPI nail polish, which makes application easy. I don’t have the OPI LED Light, and instead use the OPI Axxium UV Light for curing. I followed OPI’s recommended cure times for the UV light and I found that their recommended times were not enough to fully cure each coat. After trial and error, I doubled OPI’s recommendations for cure times using the OPI Axxium UV Light.

Like CND Shellac, my GelColor by OPI manicures each lasted a max of 14 days, which is great for my needs. My manicure was still chip free at the 14-day mark, so regrowth was my primary motivation for removal. Nail clients will need to return to the salon for removal, which should take under 15 minutes and cause no damage to your nails.

GelColor by OPI and CND Shellac are very comparable and worthy options for a gel hybrid manicure. If you are looking for a nail solution for a shiny and chip-free manicure that lasts at least two weeks, GelColor by OPI and CND Shellac are definitely worth trying.  GelColor by OPI is a professional salon service product and manicure prices typically range from $25-$45 depending on location.

*Please note: GelColor by OPI is a professional only product, to be applied and removed at a salon by a trained professional; I am a licensed cosmetologist.

Category: nails, reviews
  • Alexis says:

    I found your review very interesting and helpful. The OPI products are more readily available in my neck of the woods and I guessing the salons will quickly jump on board with this product. Thanks for the info!

    February 8, 2012 at 6:24 pm
    • Christina says:

      Thank you! It will be interesting to see if nail technicians abandon Shellac for GelColor by OPI. As a cosmetologist, the OPI GelColor costs just $2 more per bottle over the Shellac – but the OPI bottle is DOUBLE the size of Shellac (I believe a nail professional gets approx. 15-20 manicures out of one bottle of Shellac). The LED light (which I do not own) costs professionals around $400 (ouch) – but if they have the LED light, they can complete three OPI GelColor manicures in the the time it would take to complete one Shellac manicure, because the GelColor cures so much faster under a LED light. This is only true with a LED light; as I mentioned in the post, under a UV light OPI GelColor takes longer than Shellac to cure. But still, the cost per quantity is note-worthy. I’m looking forward to seeing more reviews/opinions from other bloggers/nail techs. :)

      February 8, 2012 at 6:47 pm
  • Regina Fries says:

    I Absolutely loooooove the OPI GelColor! I was using Shellac, which was a step up from the Axxium that I used before. I really like its ease of application, and found that it does not shrink back on the nail like the Shellac does. Very long lasting and the bottles are the same size as the OPI Polish Collections. Love, Love, Love it!

    March 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm
    • Christina says:

      Hi Regina! I tried Axxium and never liked it, but I do love Shellac and OPI GelColor! I too sometimes experienced shrinkage with the Shellac – but that was only if my nails were too short to “cap” the free edge. If I was able to coat the free edge well with the base coat, color coats, and top coat, I did not experience shrinking. Thanks again! :)

      March 1, 2012 at 2:50 pm
  • Melinda says:

    When you say you are a DIYer, do you mean you do your own nails? Are you a Nail Tech? I would love to be able to do this myself. Don’t you have to have a license to even purchase the gel? I would love to know more about this. Do you have a post that discusses this?

    March 5, 2012 at 8:54 pm
    • Christina says:

      Hi Melinda! Thank you for visiting my blog and for your comment! Yes, by DIY-er I do mean that I now do my own nails at home. I am a former hairdresser, so with a cosmetology license I am able to purchase items like GelColor by OPI and CND Shellac from professional-only stores. However, I do have some girlfriends that are not licensed cosmetologists that have purchased the items needed to do a gel manicure at home (like UV lights and the actual gel polish) from retailers like Amazon and Ebay. The secondary market is not hard to find. :) I hope this is helpful!

      March 5, 2012 at 9:56 pm
      • Melinda says:

        Thanks for your fast reply. I have someone doing my nails but it is so expensive. I would not want to purchase items, however, and then not be able to do my own well enough. I am pretty creative and like to do things right. Do you have a blog post that discusses making the switch to DIY shellac/new OPI gel? I would really like to see what you have to say about this—although this post was very informative, too. Glad I found your site.

        March 7, 2012 at 7:01 am
        • Christina says:

          Hi Melinda, I’m going to email you rather than respond via comment. Is the email address that you provided when you submitted your comments OK? It begins with ‘mcm’. Let me know. :)

          March 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm
          • Melinda says:

            cant wait to hear from you

            March 7, 2012 at 7:08 pm
        • Christina says:

          Will do – not sure if it will be tonight or tomorrow – but I promise soon. :)

          March 7, 2012 at 7:20 pm
  • Melinda says:

    Hey there can you remove my email address from the previous post. I would hate for my nail tech to see my post. Hee Hee. Or for some strange person to get my email…. I am looking forward to hearing from you though. I’m testing OPIs Lincoln park and love it, and I would not mind the investment but have some concerns like removal. I wouldn’t mind getting my license either. It’s a lot to think about. Looking forward to your thoughts. Thanks again!

    March 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm
    • Christina says:

      No problem – done. It looks like I won’t be able to email you until tomorrow, I’m sorry, feeling a bit under the weather today. :( Are you trying Lincoln Park After Dark with OPI GelColor or regular nail polish?

      March 7, 2012 at 9:12 pm
  • Melinda says:

    I’m trying gelcolor. Friday will be one week. I love it! Hope you feel better. It’s the time of year for colds.

    March 7, 2012 at 10:16 pm
  • Cindy says:

    Have you heard of Shellac causing weak nails?? I’ve been using Shellac (changing about every 12 – 16 days) for 6 months and my nails are so incredibly weak. I’m ready to stop! My nails were much stronger pre-Shellac, but I enjoy the finished look of the gel. I asked my stylist re the OPI and he completely dismissed me. He says my nails are weak because I tried to keep them too long & that the Shellac had nothing to do with the weakening. I personally believe he is pro-Shellac just because he doesn’t care OPI. Any comments on the weakness of nails after using Shellac? And would I expect similar results with OPI?

    March 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm
    • KCC says:

      I know your post is almost 5 months old, but, I wanted to let you know you are not the only person experiencing problems with weak nails after CND Shellac. I go to properly trained/certified technicians that use the proper application and removal of the product. I also use the CND Solar oil almost every night. But, I still have super thin and weak nails now after 2 months of Shellac (4 applications and removals) This is my 2nd attempt at trying the shellac (I gave myself a 6 mos break because my nails were so weak and thin from it and thought my nails were in better shape after the break…and now 2 months into the shellac again my nails are in sad shape.)
      I would like to know if anyone having this same problem after using Shellac has tried the OPI Gelcolor and had less damage to their nails.
      let me know, thx!

      July 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm
      • Barbara says:

        I’m still new with OPI gelcolor, however the damage I see is in the removal process. Peeling, picking to get the gel off. I teach my clients how to remove it if they can’t seem to wait. Soak your nails in acetone in a tiny bowl with your nails facing down for apx 10 minutes. GENTLY push it off. If it doesn’t come off easy you didn’t soak it long enough. The foil method doesn’t get enough acetone onto the gel itself for some reason. At least thats my experience.

        July 22, 2012 at 5:58 pm
  • Cindy says:

    I meant “he doesn’t CARRY OPI…..”

    March 13, 2012 at 9:42 pm
    • Christina says:

      Hi Cindy! Thanks for your comment. I have never experienced any damage or weakness in my nails with either CND Shellac or GelColor by OPI. I have always had naturally thin nails that are prone to peeling, and I actually feel that my nails are in better condition thanks to using these products since my nails are protected by the Shellac or GelColor.

      If you are experiencing damage or weakness in your nails I think it is occurring because either (1) the product the technician is using is not actually CND Shellac, but a knock-off, see here for info:, or (2) improper application or removal. The technician should be removing the product by applying small pads soaked in acetone to your nails for ten minutes, and then pushing off using an orange wood stick. There should be no filing on top of the nail bed, drilling, clipping it off with cuticle trimmers, etc.

      I hope this is helpful and that you are able to find a solution! Thanks again for reading. :)

      March 14, 2012 at 11:02 am
  • Barbara Van Erp says:

    I am a nail tech and my first experiences with gel nails were a real pain. They used to peel off especially at high altitude and dry climates (which is where I live). I am now using the OPI Gelcolor…awesome! I haven’t tried Shellac so I can’t tell you the difference. It’s awesome. Sephora has an OPI at-home kit for their nails and I would give that a try because you get a warranty. Barb

    July 12, 2012 at 4:49 pm
  • Jane says:

    I bought into the CND gel polish system. I am a licensed cosmetologist and a DIYer. I notoriously have problems with polish lifting. The supply houses I purchase from both recommended that I make sure my nail bed was completely dehydrated/free of any natural or unnatural oil residue. So I made sure I used OPI Bond Aid before I began the polishing process. While I managed to get a solid week of no lift, the days following were plagued by lifting. I would usually remove the polish on day 11 and give my nails a 2-3 day break making sure to nurture them at least twice a day with vitamin E because they would be very dry. Removal to me is the nightmare so I am going to try soaking in a dish as someone recommended. I found that the polish did fester up and come off fairly easy it was the residual bits that had to be pushed off with the orange wood stick that ultimately lead to maybe a little damage. If you don’t get every bit of the polish off, it reacts to the next polish job and causes insufficient results. So…I’m going to have to join the group of users in the opinion that CND does make your nails vulnerable to weakness (because CND is the only gel polish system “I” have used). Moving forward, I am going to try using OPI gel topcoat over a regular basecoat and two coats of polish to see if I can get a week of wear…what the heck? I overheard some nail tech’s at the supply house saying they use just the topcoat and clients are happy and love the shine (they are not ripping clients off, their clients know exactly what they are and are NOT getting). I also noticed that when you buy the polish strips by OPI it says to apply directly to clean dry nails and finish with gel topcoat and cure. So, I’m gonna give both processes a try. 1) conventional polish finished off with just the OP gel top coat and 2) the ready to go strips by OPI with a finish OPI gel top coat. p.s. I did use the CND topcoat over regular base coat and two coats of polish and got extended wear. I’m of the belief that it’s all about sealing the free edge. I am open to feedback….

    December 1, 2012 at 7:53 pm
    • Christina says:

      Hi Jane – thank you so much for your comment. I especially appreciate the detail in which you described your attempts. I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such challenges. I need to do my nails tomorrow, so I’m going to pay more attention than usual and see if I can come up with anything. I am friends with an amazing nail technician – are there any specific questions you’d like for me to ask her? I’d love to help out anyway I can. Thanks again for commenting, I appreciate the input. You can always feel free to contact me via email as well –

      December 1, 2012 at 8:00 pm
  • Brigitte says:

    I have been using the OPI GelColor for a few months now. I can’t say I have had the greatest results. I saw it in the supply store I frequented and had a UV light at home so I figured “why not”. I have, so far, used the OPI Ink and Strawberry Margarita. Both have cracked and/or just lifted/peeled off within minutes of application. I have done everything to dehydrate the nail, make sure I’m leaving space between the polish and skin/cuticle, cap the free edge and to make sure that the coats have been applied thinly so that it is not a thickness issue. Has anyone else had these problems within the first few applications until you “got the hang of it”? Being in San Diego, CA…everyone is all about the gel manicures and so far I’m not a fan.

    The other issue I have had is that soaking them off seems to take forever. I soaked my nails for about 25 minutes with the removal wraps and the OPI remover that comes in the starter kit (which after reading the ingredients is just acetone with a few nourishing ingredients like aloe) on four fingers and pure acetone on one nail to see if it made a difference…I didn’t find any difference between the two and after 25 minutes was done waiting and proceeded to gently push/peel off the polish. I didn’t see any real damage to my nail beds, but I felt I was using more force on my nails than a client might be comfortable having put on theirs. My “nail mentor” also seems to dislike the GelColor and Shellac for the same removal problems. I have found it’s much easier to just file the polish off (on myself…I have only applied the polish to one other person and she had the same issues with the polish cracking on her nails and picked the polish off while at work…I cringed because I knew how damaging it could be) but realize that if not done with the utmost of care a person could really end up with some damage to the nail this way.

    All of this being said…the one place I am able to get the color to stay…my toes. I have only had cracking issues when it is applied to my toes (usually only on my big toes)…it has never just come off. Some research I have done suggests that some of the darker polishes are the ones that have problems because they are thicker, but even applying them as thin as possible, I still can’t seem to get it to work properly. Any suggestions for what this operator can do differently are greatly appreciated! I feel like it has to be operator error, but I feel like I have done everything I can.

    Also, I have another nail tech friend that I think uses the Gelish color by Harmony. Has anyone used this after using OPI or CND ad had more success or liked it more?

    And…has anyone noticed a difference when using a regular non-OPI uv light opposed to the Axxium UV or OPI LED light?

    Thanks for any constructive criticism! I don’t want to be left behind if I can learn to love the GelColor trend!

    December 2, 2012 at 12:18 pm
    • Tracy says:

      Hi I have just started experimenting with the OPI Gel color. I have had the same experience on the the lifting, shrinking, & cracking?? I keep doing the steps and feel I am also do feel I am doing the steps correctly. I am going to try the CND shellac today and see if I have a better experience with it. I will continue to practice to get it right so I have a great product/service for my clients. It has been helpful reading everyones posts

      January 23, 2013 at 9:32 am
  • Brigitte says:

    I realized as my comment was posting that my email was wrong. The email associated with this comment is correct. Thanks!

    December 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm
  • Dorie says:

    Thank you to all of you ladies for your honest comments and trials/frustrations. I was trying to figure out what system to go with shellac vs the OPI gels and I do believe I will be using the OPI gels and buy the LED light!

    December 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm
  • Dorie says:

    oh by the way, which light do u ladies recommend?

    December 3, 2012 at 9:27 pm
  • drgrant says:

    fellow Nail tech, we all get burned out from time to time…but know that a sincere tech will use the best products possible on her clients…and will not lead them astray…even if their clients prefer to buy their own nail products….Just know that no other nail tech or client can take away your “God” given skill..,for you are blessed…and what God has for you, is just for you…..
    w/peaceful regards, drg

    January 3, 2013 at 8:33 pm
  • Jenny says:

    I’ve had both the OPI and the CND Shellac, and after using them for about 3 cycles, (re-doing them every 2 weeks), my usually hard, rather thick nails, were reduced to thin infant like nails. I don’t think the product itself is damaging, but the removal, especially if the tech uses anything to “smooth” out your nail, causes the damage. I think too, the acetone will take a bit of your nail with it as well. I’ve done acrylics, gels, shellac and OPI no chip, and when the products are removed, my nails are always weakened, and it takes about 8 weeks for them to get back to normal. A regular manicure is ok, but it only lasts a few days, as I have to use my hands like most women do! The best solution I’ve found is to use the shellac, and take it off myself. I put a piece of acetone soaked cotton on each nail and wrap with foil. I do one hand, then the other. I don’t scrape or buff, and I’m careful to not leave it on very long. Then I make sure I wash my nails well, and put on some type of solar oil, although it’s not an instant cure. The only “recovery” is time, and a break from products. I have a friend who gets the shellac, leaves it on for two weeks, takes it off herself, then gets a regular manicure for a few weeks. She’s a hairstylist now, but started doing nails, and she thinks any product that is long lasting will damage your nails in the removal process. She said if the tech is too rough or over zealous with the “buffing”, or leaves the acetone on too long, you need to find another nail tech. Hope this helps.

    January 3, 2013 at 10:58 pm
  • Maria says:

    My nails cracked an hour later :( don’t know what happen used opi gel polish

    January 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm
  • joymae says:

    “OPI goes very well after the second application for the nails now are adjusting with the products. Just remember to apply first the bond aid before the base coat to prevent the nails from weakening. I love doing nail arts just by combining several colors and tricks. I’m using LED light for fast and safe curing.”

    February 28, 2013 at 6:22 am
  • Cheryl N Cohn says:

    Thank you all for your opinions. I am in school to become a nail tech. I was researching the difference between the cnd shellac and the opi gelcolor and came across your site. Your site provides alot of information. Based on this information I have decided to furnish my clients with the Opi gelcolor. If for no other reason, than I like Opi better than any brand out there.

    March 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm
  • Mandi says:

    I have had the same experience with OPI gelcolor. I do them myself with an LED light. I start with trimming cuticles, applying bond-aid, OPI gel base coat, color coat then top coat. The longest I have ever had them last was 4 days. The shortest was ~24 hrs. SOOO frustrating! I know I am not doing the coats too thick and I beleive I am curing each layer appropriately. Is it possible that my nails just won’t hold a gel manicure? Thanks for any feedback!

    April 7, 2013 at 7:33 pm
  • ST says:

    I’ve had gel nails done in the salon and did them myself. the biggest problem for me is lifting after 1 week. The nail techs I go to have said that OPI gelcolor base coat is not very good and they all use gelish base and top coat. They said the OPI colors are popular but their base coat is not very good. I also found the gelcolor I ordered to get stringy after a few weeks. I think it might be the storage because I live in a hot climate. Should I be storing gelcolor in the fridge? I wasn’t sure if that would help it last longer.

    April 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm
    • ST says:

      I should clarify that when I do my gel nails at home, I have problem with lifting. Not so when I go to a nail tech.

      April 15, 2013 at 2:17 pm
  • Beth says:

    I have the CND UV Lamp with all CND Brand colors, base and top coats. I am wondering if I would be able to use my CND base and top coats with an OPI GelColor coat?
    If so, what is the curing time for each coat under the CND UV Lamp?

    April 18, 2013 at 7:24 pm
  • Mandi says:

    Agreed! Same experience for me. If I get them done professionally, no lifting; if I do them, lifting very quickly. I have purchased gelish, opi, etc and a professional nail lamp. Any additional suggestions on what I may be doing wrong or other tips would be appreciated! Thanks!

    April 19, 2013 at 8:58 pm

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