Hidden camera investigation finds nail salons advertising Shellac but applying a different product

Does Shellac really last two weeks?

CLEVELAND - A 5 On Your Side hidden camera investigation found stores advertising Shellac but offering consumers another product. See how to make sure you're getting the manicure you paid for.

Shellac is advertised as the manicure miracle. It's a polish that promises to last two weeks without chipping and smudging. We had 10 women test the product to see if it works. Even though our testers always asked for Shellac, our investigation found that wasn't always the product that was used.

"I've had manicures last longer than the Shellac process," Carrie Nagorka said.

Nagorka is one of 10 testers we sent to five Northeast Ohio salons. While she wasn't happy, other testers were thrilled with the results.

"They stayed wonderful looking for the full two weeks," Claudia Fleming said.

Shellac mixed with other products in our test
So, what makes the difference? First, look past the price on daily deal sites.

"It's a coupon for Shellac. What else would you need to know? Who would think to go in and say maybe I need to do my research on this place?" college student and tester Ellen Kopy said.

Kopy said she's seen Shellac on her friend's hands, and didn't expect the experience she got at a Northeast Ohio salon.

"I really like this color. Is that Shellac?" Kopy asked.
"Yeah," the nail professional responded.

Kopy went with tester and NewsChannel5 producer Tara Sutton to the same salon. Both women made it clear they wanted Shellac.

"So this is our first time we're getting Shellac," Sutton said.

However, they got a mix of Shellac and other products. We know this because the bottles used on their hands did not always say Creative Nail Design, or CND. Shellac is a product by CND.

On CND's website, it says mixing and layering the brands will compromise quality. The front page of the site even warns consumers, "Don't Be Fooled By Shellac Pretenders."

CND shows consumers the tools to look for at a salon so they know they're getting the service they paid for.

Kopy's polish did not say CND, and her results weren't what she expected.

"It's wearing down just like a normal nail polish would. If it's going to do that then 3 bucks at the drugstore versus 30 bucks at the nail salon, I might as well go with the drugstore," Kopy said of her manicure.

At the same salon, Sutton's French manicure was a mix of polishes.

"The white part of mine is CND, but the rest of it was this Gelish brand," Sutton said. "She called it Shellac the whole time."

Unlike Kopy, Sutton's nails held up despite the mixing.

Another salon also said it mixes brands.

"You can use Gelish along with Shellac. Like I can use this Gelish polish but the Shellac light. They have way more colors," the nail tech told our tester.

We questioned the salon management about this, and the owner admitted brands should not be mixed.

"Application is paramount to get the polish to stay on," Licensed Cosmetology Instructor Barbara Brussee said.

Barbara Brussee has been a cosmetology instructor for 36 years and currently teaches at Inner State Beauty School.

While formal training is not required, some nail techs have taken classes. Brussee said licensed professionals can also download instructions online with their license number.

The instructions for Shellac and Gelish are slightly different.

CND launches Salon Certification Program to help consumers
To guarantee you're getting what you paid for, CND is launching a Salon Certification program. CND will inspect and certify salons that use the right tools and techniques. Some of these include using a Brisa or CND UV lamp, no nail filing during application or removal, no mixing of brands, and that hands are not soaked in a bowl of acetone during removal.

In our test, there were differences in technique and even the number of layers of polish that were applied.

The certification program is so new, only 80+ New York City salons have the certification.

"Manufacturer certification is always nice. It's a credibility thing," Brussee said.

CND said education ambassadors will be in Cleveland to certify salons by the end of the year. CND said the certified salons will be made available online so consumers can search for one in their neighborhood.

There is a database of salons already online, but CND said these salons have not been checked for quality unless there is an indication it's been certified. Up until this point, any salon that carried CND polish could be included in the online database.

French Manicure results
In our test, none of the 100-percent Shellac French manicures lasted two weeks.

"I would do it if you wanted a solid color. I wouldn't do it for a French Manicure," tester Leah Richards said.

Some of Richards' nails chipped. She said it lasted for a week, instead of the two weeks as promised.

We shared our results with CND, and a nail tech who has taken training classes for Shellac. Both agree application is to blame. French manicures are done slightly differently to protect the tip.

Carrie Nagorka had a French manicure and said, "My nails started peeling after about 3 days."

While the French manicure Shellac didn't last in our test, three out of the five testers with colored Shellac had great results.

Results for colored Shella c
"I've had lots of compliments," Kathe Russo said.

Russo is a waitress, and her nails stayed chip free.

Claudia Fleming put her colored Shellac to the test gardening.

"It lasted well. It's still shining chip free. I was tough on them and they still lasted," said Fleming.

Tester Shari Snyder put her nails to the test being a mom baking a cake.

"They looked just as shiny as the day I walked off," Snyder said. "I have that little bit of growth toward the back of the nail. One of my nails started to lift off, but it didn't come off all the way."

The fourth tester, Kopy, didn't even get Shellac. And with our fifth tester, Whitney Hartman, there was some peeling.

"I went to get my ID out of my wallet. I stuck my hand in to get it, and it just peeled back my nail," Hartman explained.

Hartman said she'd still do Shellac again.

"I think it's definitely worth it but you need to know where to go and who to go to."

WEB EXTRA: Scroll down to see pictures from our testers and a journal about their experiences, including removing the Shellac

Our testers said they'd talk with friends and family to find a salon rather than relying on daily deal sites.

Once you find a salon, ask if the tech has been trained and if they guarantee results.

The women who didn't have great results, like college student Ellen Kopy, said they'd try it again.

"I want it to work because I don't have time to sit down and do my nails. To have a nail polish that won't chip for two weeks seems ideal. Hopefully one day I'll be able to try it and it will work well," Kopy said.

Watch this investigation tonight at 11 p.m. on NewsChannel5.

Tester Journals

DAY 1- OK ladies, we've all done it. Getting ready to go out, we save the nail painting for last, get a touch behind in our schedule… and the inevitable happens: The smeared manicure. Whether it be while oh-so-carefully slipping on the open-toed shoes, putting on our earrings, or even grabbing our purse, there's a marred finger or toe we must look at (or try to hide) the remainder of the evening. Or perhaps you're a dedicated salon-goer. I'd never had a professional manicure, but had heard tales of paying in advance and/or keeping the car keys out, in an attempt to keep that just-polished ten--or twenty—in pristine condition. This was only one reason I jumped at the chance to try out the Shellac Manicure. Purported to be bone-dry upon completion, shellac was said to be a modern miracle. The rumors of two solid weeks of glistening perfection, well, THAT was too much for this never-before-manicured rookie to resist. Not to mention I had somehow managed to grow ALL my nails long… a rarity worthy of this excursion. So it was with great anticipation that I entered the salon. My stylist was extraordinarily patient with the questions I threw at her. She explained that the polish dries from the inside OUT (by way of the ultra-violet light), and would be rather time-consuming to remove, but I figured it would be worth it. During my visit, another employee raved about how shellac had strengthened her nails, and that repeated manicures had given her longer, prettier nails than she had ever had. Since my nails are prone to breakage (due to a combination of being slightly weak, and me being fairly abusive of them), I hoped it would do the same for me. I had settled on Iced Coral as my shade of choice. A peachy-pink with an interesting greenish hologram-like iridescence, it was a color I thought would hold my interest for the entire 14-day test. Usually I would tire of a bolder color by then… but I was also concerned about the "new growth" showing; the one down side I had heard about the longevity of this type of manicure. My thought was that a lighter color would be more ‘forgiving' when my nails outgrew my manicure. One surprise: I can't believe how much FUN I had getting my manicure! My nails are BEAUTIFUL! After leaving the chair, I grabbed my purse and reached in with abandon to find my keys. Amazing. I accidentally bumped the nails of my right hand against the steering wheel post while starting the car. Later that day I opened my mail, played with my dog (including scratching her back, like, a LOT), accidentally jammed my thumb nail against the door lock while inserting the key, moved some furniture, did a little laundry, cooked and did the dishes (including scrubbing a big pot), accidentally scraped my nails against the brick of my house… did I mention I'm kind of klutzy? Took out the trash… all's well; looks the same as the moment my nails were done. So far, I'm giving this Shellac Manicure two (shiny) thumbs up.

Day 7- I took a long bike ride to the beach. Did some beach-combing…picking up several dozen rocks for a project I had in mind. I got some sand under my nails, so you know I was digging my hands in with no regard for my nails. Project Manicure Test was going along swimmingly, and happily, my Iced Coral remained unscathed.

Day 13- Did a lot of gardening today, including lifting heavy pots full of wet soil…and yes, it happened. One of the nails that had the start of a tear pre-manicure busted through the shield the polish had been providing. Though I was wearing gloves, my digging into the root-packed soil to release canna tubers for winter storage proved to be too much. I felt the nail break through my glove. Gotta say, though, it didn't break very far, despite bending all the way to my finger. Considering trying to glue it together… because, amazingly, the polish had held fast.

Day 14 (Final Day)- I'm not going to glue the nail after all, too much trouble, and my nails are getting rather long, anyway. Plus there's the consideration of new growth showing; before too long I would find it objectionable. All in all, my nails weathered whatever tasks I threw their way, and looked fantastic the entire two weeks. I'd recommend you use cuticle remover and/or be certain your cuticles are pushed back as far as possible before the polish is applied, and if you want your manicure to look its best for the longest time, choose a lighter or more neutral color. My score? I'd happily give my Shellac Manicure a Perfect Ten. After all, that's what it gave me!


DAY 1- The nail tech claimed it should last at least 2 weeks. It won't chip or wear off. It actually must be "soaked off" by a salon for awhile (15-20 minutes.) She also said that the shellac will not harm the nails and should help them be strong and grow. The shellac comes in various colors and I chose purple. My shellac nails turned out beautiful!

DAY 7- Nails look great! Still no chipping.

DAY 14- Cuticles are growing but still NO chipping! I was very pleased with the service and how my nails turned out. The process cost $36.00. I work at a restaurant as a hostess and I also have to bus tables. I am amazed that the nail shellac polish lasted through all my days at work and beyond.


DAY 1- I loved the process of getting the manicure. The woman who did my manicure definitely paid attention to detail and made sure that she put at least 2 coats of each shellac polish on (base,color,top). She was very informed about the product and was able to answer any question I had for her. I would say the only negative part would be that the white lines she drew were very thin because she just traced my actual nail. She said it would look better on my hand than a fatter line, but I wanted it to look more like a "fake" nail.

DAY 6- Starting to notice that the white polish is chipping slightly on my right middle finger. This is the only finger at this point I am noticing it on. Growth is becoming noticeable on all fingers. Polish overall still looks shiny.

DAY15- Chipping is evident on all nails - growth also very noticeable. White polish has worn off or chipped.


I was pretty happy with the results of my manicure. I got a French manicure, and was told that it should last about two weeks. I asked for Shellac, but the only CND brand polish the manicurist used was the white for the tips. Everything else looked to be a brand called Gelish, which is a gel polish. Besides the needing a touch up at the base of the nail because of normal nail growth, and a very little bit of peeling at the base of a nail or two after about a week, the polish did not start to chip until about day 19 or so. Also, I don't believe any of my nails broke at all when I had the polish on. I'm not sure I would get it in a colored polish, because by the time two weeks came around I had a lot of nail growth and it would have been evident with a color, but I would definitely consider getting another French manicure with Shellac or a gel polish, especially for a special event.

Taking off the polish myself was definitely more work than regular polish. I soaked each hand for about 10 minutes, then worked to rub and lightly scrape it off. Because I got a French manicure with fairly clear polish, I resorted to cutting off the part of my nails with the white tip and leaving the remaining polish on for the rest of that day. The next day, I soaked each hand again for at least ten minutes and again tried to rub and lightly scrape the polish off. More came off, but there was still a bit left on nearly every finger that wouldn't budge, so I wound up filing it down. Depending on the cost, I would consider going back to the salon to get the polish removed if I get it next time.


DAY 1- My nail appointment took longer than I anticipated and didn't have the color choices I wanted (no white for French Manicure). My nail technician seemed very knowledgeable about the shellac process and eager to learn more and get more colors to keep her customers happy. Overall I was happy with how they looked on Day 1 despite getting a color instead of a French Manicure.

DAY 8- My color peeled away from my nail on day 6 when reaching into my wallet to get out my I.D. After a few days of trying to re-secure the polish to my nail with clear top coats, the peeling stayed the same and started getting caught on things like my hair. After showing the consumer team my peeling, the color came easily off in two solid pieces. It was obvious a small area of my nail lost some layers as well when I peeled it off.

DAY 15- Except for the peeling on my one nail, I was very happy with the shellac process. I had very minimal chipping. I would have preferred to have a French manicure to have something more neutral on my nails since it does last so long. I thought all my nails still looked nice at the end of the two weeks despite the obvious growth of my nails.


DAY 1- All looks good.

DAY 6- Still looking good. Very impressed by product.

DAY15- The growth is starting to show, but my nails still look as good as they did when I started.







Join the conversation about this story on Twitter by using the hastag #WEWSnails. Connect with Jenn Strathman on Twitter ( @JennStrathman) and on Facebook ( facebook.com/JennStrathman).

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