Before your next trip: The perfect travel manicure

Published on: April 28, 2012 | Last Updated on July 30, 2018
Before your next trip, consider a gel manicure

Shellac: The Perfect Travel Manicure

Is there such a thing as the perfect travel manicure?

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 become 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” my nails were left in shreds when the acrylic was removed. Moreover, while wearing these fake nails looked good, they felt like tentacles and weren’t very functional.

So when I was recently preparing and primping for three weeks on the road, I asked my manicurist about 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 required afterwards.

The operator told me the soak off gel that would last two weeks—but to my amazement, it turned out to last all three. Removal wasn’t very difficult either. It meant 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 for 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. She wrote about some of the generic risks of manicures, 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:

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