TREND MILL | No-chip manicures


IN THE UK, Creative Nail Design (well done, CND) seem to have cornered the market (or at least the column inches) for this new trend with their Shellac system. But, as you might have guessed from the previous sentence, they are simply one of many players in a larger production that is called the no-chip manicure. 

Since the beginning of 2010, no-chip manicure signs have been cropping up in the front windows of nail salons across America. From California to New York (and, yes, I have seen them in both places with mein own eyes), the grubbiest to the poshest places are now offering to give you a glossy, professional manicure that lasts longer than many relationships. That would be two weeks.

So, let's break it down for you, shall we? The who, what where, why and when of it all.



YOU'RE FAMILIAR with a regular manicure, right? Nails are shaped and buffed, cuticles pushed down and trimmed (sometimes), hands scrubbed and massaged, base coat applied, color applied (twice), top coat and then you dry under a UV light with, perhaps, a spritz of quick dry oil at the end. You walk out of the salon with nails and cuticles that look pretty impeccable for two days... Then the cuticles get a bit dry, the gloss wears off and the edges of the tips start to wear down to their natural tone again. 7 days, if you sit at home like a Duchess wearing white gloves and having your man servants do everything for you, is the absolute longest a regular manicure will last. 

Enter the no-chip manicure. From what I've seen and experienced (at the hands of my sister and nail tech-in-training), the steps look very similar, although you'll be hard pressed to find a salon that takes as much care with cuticles/hands as they do with a regular mani. Why? Because a no-chip is the kissing cousin of gel or acrylic nails and, if you've ever had those done (at least in the US), they generally just slap on the nails, let them dry and then sit down the next girl. 

The no-chip manicure is a hybrid of the former and the latter. A base coat, color coat and top coat are painted on with a brush even though the formulas are acrylic. You get the lasting power of gel nails with the aesthetics of a regular manicure thanks to the thinness of the acrylic polish application. 



  1. LASTING POWER - No-chip manicures last up to two weeks, at which point chipping will start to happen and the acrylic will start to grow leaving a visible line of nail between the paint and your cuticle
  2. SALON ONLY - You can only have these applied professionally (for now).
  3. REMOVAL - They have to be soaked off in salon. Regular remover won't do the trick. However, you DON'T have to have your nails sanded down, either, as you do with acrylic nails, so that's a bonus.
  4. COLOR - You can actually paint over your no-chip manicure with a different color if you fancy changing it up for a few days as the topcoats are acetone-proof. Pretty cool, right?

 [Editor's note: Being the OCD nail and cuticle picker that I am, I picked off an entire no-chip manicure in, no joke, 3 days. I do not recommend doing that but just to let you nail pickers know where there's a will, there's a way and it's highly damaging if you do.]



RIGHT NOW, there are THREE (sorry, CND) big brands that do it:

CND Shellac Hybrid Nail

CND: Their Shellac nail system claims to be the first 'hybrid' nailcare. 14-day wear, zero dry time and mirror finish are what they say. Comes in 12 colors, mostly pinks and reds. Fedora (a chocolate brown) and Iced Cappuccino (a greige) are the trendiest of the lot. The system has remover wraps so that you don't have to soak your entire finger tip in less-than healthy solution to remove them. Also 3-free (no formaldehyde, toluene or DBP). Find out more about Shellac here.


Jessica GELeration Soak-Off Gel Polish

Jessica Nails: GELeration is their product offering for the no-chip manicure. It's offered in 26 of Jessica's best-selling colors and purports to last for up to THREE WEEKS (one week longer than the claims at other brands). The formula is patent pending. Colors like Hot Fudge, Cherry Wood, Windsor Castle, Midnight Moonlight, Confident Coral, Midnight Affair, Notorious, Birds of Paradise and Raspberry are all bang on trend. They are better than CND in the color stakes. Also 3-free and apparently odor-free too. Find out more about Jessica GELeration Soak-Off Gel Polish here.

OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel Lacquer

OPI: Axxium Soak-Off Gel Lacquer is OPI's offering and the one that I've tried. It looks the most clinical as the colors come in pots instead of the traditional nail varnish bottles. It's won an ALLURE Breakthrough Beauty award and comes in all of OPI's best-selling colors (You Don't Know Jacques, Russian Navy, Lincoln Park After Dark, Cajun Shrimp. Brisbane Bronze, Here Today... Aragon Tomorrow and 28 other best-selling shades). No word on whether it's 3-free or not. Find out more about OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel Lacquer (I warn you the site is, annoyingly, Flash) here. Here's a great image-led piece on a pedicure with the product.

IBD: Seem to wholesale an expansive range of gel colors and a professional soak-off manicure set.



Only at salons at the offer the service. There aren't a ton yet, but the number is growing swiftly every day. Unfortunately, the salon locators on CND and Jessica are not up-to-date but they are a starting point. 

CND Shellac is offered in the US and Canada and is starting to make its way to the UK. Right now Nails At Work are offering it in London (and Teresa Smith is GOOD at her profession). If anyone else is, leave a comment and let us know!

Jessica GELeration is available in the US and at, of all places, Beauty Temple in Nottingham.

There's no easy way to find the OPI treatment except by calling around. Luckily, I have a sister with the tools on speed dial.



  • It only costs a bit more (especially in the UK where manicures are already priced at 4 and 5 times higher than in the US) than a regular manicure and lasts for over twice as long with little to no maintenance.
  • If you're going on holiday, it's the ONLY WAY to have your nails done before you go. Otherwise, you are guaranteed mangy tips just a few days (and a few salt-water dips) in.
  • You can paint other colors on top while you have it to change it up because the topcoat is acetone-proof.
  • It isn't as tough on nails as full-on gel or acrylics.
  • Brands have gotten savvy and created hybrid shades in their best-selling colors.



  • Hard to find in some parts of the world still.
  • You can chip off the no-chip manicure if you're determined or OCD enough (me) and that leaves nails weaker.
  • If your nails aren't completely dry and product-free before the technician starts, you could grow a mean mold between the no-chip manicure and your nail bed (as happened to a friend of mine).
  • You have to go to the salon to have them removed.
  • They are more expensive than a normal manicure.
  • Hard to repair of you do get a chip.


And with that little guide to the wonderous world of the no-chip manicure, we hope you're armed and ready to try it out for yourself.