What Causes Shellac to Discolour? Investigating Common Culprits

Understanding Shellac and Discoloration

When you choose shellac for your nails, you’re opting for a durable, glossy finish. However, certain factors can lead to unwanted changes in color. The key to preventing discoloration lies in understanding the composition of shellac and the common issues that can arise.

Composition of Shellac

Shellac is a resin secreted by the lac bug on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It’s collected and processed into flakes which are then dissolved in alcohol to make liquid shellac. The natural resin is often mixed with pigments and dyes to create various colors for use in nail polish. These colorants can react to external elements such as UV light from the sun or artificial sources, causing changes in the shellac’s color.

Common Discoloration Problems

Your shellac manicure may encounter several discoloration issues:

  • Fading: Exposure to UV rays can cause the pigments in shellac to break down, leading to a faded appearance. This is particularly true for exposure to direct sunlight over extended periods.

  • Yellowing: Some shellac colors may develop a yellowish hue over time, a reaction that may be accelerated by sunlight or UV exposure.

  • Staining: Contact with strong dyes or colored substances can lead to surface stains on shellac, especially if the surface is slightly porous.

To maintain the integrity of your shellac’s color, consider applying cuticle oil to create a barrier against harsh chemicals, and limit the time your nails are exposed to direct sunlight. It’s also recommended to wear gloves when handling substances that could stain the nails.

Factors Contributing to Shellac Discoloration

Understanding what leads to the discoloration of your shellac is crucial to maintaining the beauty and durability of your manicure. Certain exposures and environmental factors can compromise the integrity of the shellac’s color, leaving it looking less than perfect.

Chemical Exposure

Your shellac manicure may experience discoloration due to chemical exposure. This can happen when your nails come into contact with harsh chemicals such as bleach or alcohol-based products. Even everyday substances like hand sanitizers and household cleaners can cause the color of your shellac to change or fade. It is essential to wear gloves while handling these substances to protect your manicure.

  • Common Chemical Culprits:
    • Bleach
    • Alcohol in sanitizers and astringents
    • Acetone found in nail polish removers

Physical Factors

Aside from chemicals, physical factors also play a role in the discoloration of your shellac. Improper application, such as insufficient curing under UV light, can leave the finish susceptible to staining from colored substances. Even your daily activities could lead to a change in color if your nails frequently rub against colored fabrics or materials.

  • Tips to Minimize Physical Staining:
    • Ensure a proper curing period.
    • Avoid direct contact with pigmented materials.

Environmental Influences

Environmental factors like high temperatures, humidity, and prolonged exposure to sunlight can contribute to the discoloration of shellac nails. These conditions may cause some colors to fade or change over time. It’s advisable to shield your nails from excessive sunlight and avoid extreme temperature changes when possible.

  • Environmental Factors to Consider:
    • Direct sunlight exposure
    • High humidity levels affecting the nail plate
    • Extreme temperatures that could alter the shellac’s color stability

Preventing and Repairing Shellac Discoloration


Keeping your shellac nails vibrant and clear of discoloration involves specific protection techniques and targeted restoration methods. Here’s how you can prevent shellac nails from fading and restore them if they’ve lost their original luster.

Protection Techniques

Prevent Fading: To preserve the color of your shellac nails, apply a quality top coat that can guard against UV light exposure. Wearing gloves while engaging in activities that could stain or damage your nails, such as gardening or cleaning, is also advisable.

  • Sunlight Exposure: Limit the time your nails are exposed to direct sunlight. Consider wearing UV protective gloves if you are outdoors often or sitting near windows.
  • Chemical Contact: Use gloves when using cleaning chemicals or solvents that may have acetone, which can break down the shellac’s integrity.

Restoration Methods

Restore Discoloration: If discoloration occurs, you can often fix the look of your shellac nails with gentle buffing. However, avoid over-buffing as it can cause further damage. After buffing, apply a thin layer of cuticle oil to hydrate the nails.

  • Natural Bleaching Agents: For minor stains, a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice can act as a natural bleaching agent. Apply this paste gently onto your nails, leave for a few minutes, and then rinse off.
  • Topcoat Renewal: Occasionally, the topcoat itself may dull or discolor. Reapplying a fresh layer can often restore the shine and protective barrier of your shellac nails.

Specific Considerations for Manicured Nails

Proper aftercare and maintenance are crucial for keeping your shellac manicured nails vibrant and shiny. Ensuring that your nail polish, especially when it’s gel or shellac, maintains its luster requires attention to detail and a few important post-manicure habits.

Shellac Nails Aftercare

To extend the life of your shellac nails and prevent discolouration, consider a few essential aftercare tips. First, avoid direct contact with harsh chemicals, which often means wearing gloves when cleaning. Remember, substances from makeup and spices, as well as exposure to smoking, can also contribute to yellowing or fading. Use tea tree oil carefully, as it can help maintain nail health but might affect your shellac’s color if used improperly.

  • Keep nails away from strong dyes and harsh cleaners.
  • Reduce exposure to direct sunlight; UV rays can alter polish color.
  • Moisturize your nails and cuticles regularly to support overall nail health.

Maintaining the Shine

Your gel polish shine can last longer with the right maintenance. Dust and small debris can settle onto your nails, creating a dull appearance. Here’s how to defend against the luster-loss and keep that fresh gel nails or French polish look:

  • Buff your nails gently with a soft cloth to remove dust and bring back shine.
  • Apply a clear top coat every few days to protect the polish and enhance shine.
  • Use non-acetone cleaners to clean your nails, as acetone can strip away the shine.

By incorporating these specific aftercare methods and shine-maintenance routines, your manicure can stay as vibrant and glossy as the day it was done.

Additional Causes and Solutions

To maintain the aesthetic appeal of shellac, understanding the various causes of discoloration and the corresponding solutions is crucial. Factors range from product interaction to the necessity of professional application and aftercare.

Lifestyle and Product Interaction

Shellac can interact with everyday substances causing it to discolour. For instance, tobacco smoke can result in a yellowish tint, while hair dye and strong cleaning agents, including turmeric, can cause stains. It’s advisable to wear gloves when handling such materials or to cleanse the nails thoroughly afterward with soapy water to prolong the shelf life and appearance of your shellac manicure.

  • Ink and stains: Quickly blotting with a Q-tip soaked in nail polish remover may lighten ink or colored stains.
  • Hairspray: If sprayed inadvertently on shellac, wipe nails with a cotton ball dampened with rubbing alcohol.
  • To avoid potential discoloration, also keep products like hairspray at a safe distance from freshly done nails.

Professional Care and Advice

The longevity of a shellac manicure is often linked to the proficiency of application at the salon. CND, a respected brand in the industry, suggests using an appropriate UV lamp to cure the shellac for a chip-free finish.

  • Preparation: Careful preparation of the nail, including capping the free edge, is vital for a long-lasting manicure.
  • Professional Advice: Seek a certified professional who can provide guidance on post-manicure care or offer a refund or correction if discoloration occurs shortly after application.

Regular visits to the salon for maintenance and advice can help identify personal habits, such as smoking or frequent contact with strong chemicals, that might affect the appearance of your nails, and can provide personalized solutions to keep your shellac looking fresh.

Frequently Asked Questions

When considering the care for your gel nails, understanding what affects their appearance is crucial. These common issues may help identify and prevent discoloration in shellac manicures.

What factors lead to the discoloration of shellac manicures?

Various factors can cause your shellac manicures to lose their original color. Low-quality materials in the gel polish, exposure to certain chemicals, and environmental conditions such as high temperatures and sunlight all play a role in the discoloration process.

How can exposure to sunlight affect the color of my gel nail polish?

Sunlight can have a significant impact on your gel polish. UV rays can break down the colorants in the polish, leading to fading or color changes, especially during the summer months when sun exposure is more frequent.

Can blending shellac with acrylic products result in color changes?

Mixing shellac with acrylic products is not recommended as it can lead to undesirable color changes. While these two products have different formulations, blending them can cause a reaction that alters the color of your shellac.

What might be causing my white shellac nails to develop a brownish hue?

Your white shellac nails may develop a brownish tinge due to exposure to certain elements like lotions or sunscreens containing ingredients that can react with the nail polish, or due to over-curing under UV light.

Why are my gel nails showing signs of a blotchy appearance?

A blotchy appearance on gel nails could be the result of an uneven application or the use of expired or low-quality polish. This unevenness can also be caused by the nails coming into contact with strong solvents or oils that can alter the polish’s appearance.

What could be the reasons behind my gel nails turning black?

If your gel nails are turning black, it could be due to a reaction with silver jewelry or the presence of sulfur compounds in certain beauty products and household items. It’s also possible that residual smoke or other strong chemicals have come into contact with the manicure, causing discoloration.

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