Saturday, October 30, 2010

Shellac & Axxium - Test Drive

When my friend Sarah sent me a text asking if I'd heard about the "CND manicure" I just thought "Urgh - no thanks.  No wasting my money on manicures that last about 1-2 days in mommy land."  While I love the pampering of a mani, I get so disappointed when, after shelling out $30, my polish chips the next day or, if I'm lucky, the day after.  For that reason alone I almost never polish my nails.  There is no polish that can stand up to baby baths, washing bottles, washing diapers, fixing dinner, washing dishes, etc etc day after day.  Or, excuse, me.. there wasn't.  Now, there is!

Enter CND's Shellac system and perhaps slightly more well known OPI's Axxium system.  After looking into this "CND manicure" I became more and more intrigued.  It claims to be a manicure that lasts  "14+" days.  *insert jaw drop here*  I was VERY skeptical.   I was guessing it didn't really last 14 days.  Or, if it did, it would be a major ordeal to remove including damaging the nail bed.  The more I read on CND's website, ( I noted they claim minimal removal time and NO damage to the nail.  Did I mention the ZERO dry time (no trying to fish for your keys like a wingless chicken after the mani).

While looking into CND (and doing my regular neurotic research) I came across a few other "14 day" manicures.  The most popular being by polish pro OPI.  They call theirs the "Axxium" system.   In my reviews it seemed that Axxium was slightly more "durable" (i.e. you can actually paint OVER the color you got at the salon, and then remove it with nailpolish remover to see the original polish) however the down side was that reports said it took quite a bit more to remove (more time and more "doin'") and after repeated use might damage the natural nail.

In the name of fair research, my friend Sarah got the Axxium and I got the Shellac (what we won't do for the sake of science).  Below are photos of our progress and the eventual "re-do".   After the photos I'll give you the "low down" on what we both thought! [Note:  I don't have the first few days of Axxium - I pulled Sarah into my scheme a little late in the game, but you'll still get a complete picture of the durability)]

Day One, Shellac

Day Three, Shellac

Day Five, Axxium

Day Six, Shellac

Day Eight, Axxium

Day Nine, Axxium:  Post Pumpkin Carving

Day Ten, Shellac: Note Grow-out

Day Eleven, Axxium

Day Thirteen, Shellac

Day Fifteen, Axxium

Day Fifteen, Shellac (Yikes Grow-out!)

Wow.  Let me again say it:  WOW!   I was (and am) totally converted.  These manicures both did truly live up to exactly what they promised.  They were mirror shiny and "no chip new" the entire time until we both had them re-done.  They also are really and honestly dry the minute your top coat comes out from under the UV light.  And I mean "drag my keys across it" dry.   The down side is that if your nails grow lightening fast like mine do, you'll have some icky grow out to live with (or you'll have to have it done more often than every 2 weeks).   However if you look at Sarah's, the combo of the light colored French and her reasonable growth cycle shows almost no noticeable grow out.  

When it came time to have a re-do we both decided to stick with the company we'd started with (hence I stayed with Shellac and Sarah with Axxium).  When I asked Sarah about her removal process she said it took about 30-45 mins and involved the nail stylist coating her fingernails with acetone-soaked cotton, wrapping it in foil, and then heating it.  After that the nail stylist had to file some the remainder off.  [My guess is this is the point some nail techs can cause damage it they're not careful.]   For Shellac, CND makes these little "acetone soaker band aid thingies" that wrap around each fingernail and you let it sit for 10 mins.  Then, it literally flakes/crumbles off (my stylist used an orange stick to scrape it off).  The way my nail tech described it (who went to the official CND training) the acetone literally breaks down the bonds/structure of the gel polish so it flakes off.  No buffing. or filing was required prior to my re-do.  However for both our "re-dos" the whole process took about an hour and a half or slightly less.  So it sounds like a wash there.

Here are our respective new nail "dos":

New Axxium (Sarah decided to go all one color this time)

New Shellac.  Hey its Halloween Weekend!!

So - from what I have seen it sounds like Shellac may be slightly less durable than Axxium in theory (I say in theory since I sure didn't see any damage in my 15 days and while at the salon getting my re-do, a lady told me she kept hers on four weeks!).  In return, it sounds like Axxium has the potential for more damage to the nail than Shellac in theory (again I say in theory because Sarah experienced no problems and I presume it depends on the ability and experience/training of your stylist).  I would say whichever system you choose you will not be disappointed!

Now, what everyone wants to know:  Price.   Generally from my midwestern shopping around (Iowa, Kansas City, Chicago) both are comparable in price and tend to run from around $35 on the low end for an "express" version (which means no mani pampering - just the polish process) to over $50 on the high end (at more chi-chi salons and/or including more pampering).  The big key:  shop around in your town!!  The first place I had mine done would have charged me $10 to remove the polish IF I was getting the process redone and $14 if I just wanted it off.  I called around and found that right in my own backyard, my local salon would do the removal for FREE, IF you were having the process redone.  They did charge $10 if you just wanted it off and weren't having another service.  I figured that was more than fair.    NOTE:  Since these processes are becoming so popular so fast, not many salons have been able to get ahold of the process (many of the materials are on backorder from the companies).  CND has a "shellac salon locator" on their website.  For OPI you may have to just call around a bit.  Even in Des Moines I was able to find about eight salons that did Shellac.

Lastly:  I absolutely want to give a shout out Melissa at Shear Style Salon in Ankeny  where I had my re-do.  She fit me in on short notice, as I mentioned she did not charge for removal since I was having the process redone, she had this great new glitter technique I'd never seen before (the benefit of being CND trained), and she's just a really damn nice person!  I really enjoyed my time with her!   If you live in the Des Moines area and want to go Shellac - by all means give Melissa a call.  You'll be glad you did!  I know this will be my new Shellac home from now on.