Lately, this seems to be the question I've gotten more than any other. In short, the answer is YES... but... (there's always a but, right?) So, what's the but? It begins with using quality product. At Sugarcoat, I exclusively use CND brand Shellac gel polish. There are a few "off brand" gel polish products on the market which are formulated differently than Shellac and do not wear or perform in the same manner. It is my experience that at certain salons, these off brand polishes are being used and clients are being told that the product is Shellac. Some salons also use Shellac products interchangeably with off brand base or top coats. Sugarcoat is a CND CERTIFIED salon, which means that the products must be used only in the manner prescribed by the manufacturer for optimal results and product safety.
The second step in getting a safe Shellac manicure comes with the application and/or removal of the product. In the application process, the surface of the natural nail should never be filed or "roughed up". A drill should NEVER be used on the natural nail surface under any circumstances, yet I've had clients tell me that their nails were "prepped" for Shellac by filing or drilling the surface. This is absolutely unnecessary and it will damage and weaken the nails. I do not use drills at all for any of my services. I will gently buff the surface of the nail with a soft block buffer similar in texture to a chamois cloth in order to smooth out surface ridges, and that is all that is necessary. With regard to removal of Shellac, it should also be done in the proper manner to avoid damage to the nails. The Shellac should never be peeled off by the client. If this is done, it can take the top layer of the nail plate off along with the product, which will result in weakened nails. The nails should also never be soaked in a bowl of acetone to be removed as this is extremely harsh and drying to the nails and surrounding skin. The Shellac should also not be filed off with either a drill or nail file. The proper way to remove Shellac is to utilize a wrap method where acetone is placed on a small cotton pad to cover the product and then wrapped in place. The acetone should only need to stay in contact with the product for about 5 minutes before it releases from the nail plate and can be easily scraped away with an orange wood stick.
Finally, Shellac also does require some home care and maintenance. While you are wearing Shellac polish, you should be sure you are oiling your cuticles at least twice per day with a high quality cuticle oil. I use and recommend CND Solar Oil. If you are particularly hard on your hands or nails or are in a profession such as nursing where you wash frequently with harsh soaps or alcohol based sanitizers, you will want to oil even more frequently. In addition, although Shellac is definitely far more durable than traditional nail polishes, it is not indestructible and care should still be taken not to use your nails as tools or to immerse them in harsh cleaning products without wearing gloves.
The last issue I will address is the use of the UV lamp that cures the Shellac polish. Questions have been raised regarding the safety of this UV exposure. I provide this link to an article which gives specifics on exactly how much UV exposure you can expect to get with a Shellac service and how that compares to a tanning bed or to normal everyday sun exposure. http://www.cnd.com/blog/cnd-shellac/2012/08/safety-first-10-facts-about-cnd-shellac-uv-nail-lamps/ i think you will find, like I did, that the risk is extremely minimal. I do understand, however, that certain clients may have specific health concerns with regard to UV exposure and/ or just prefer to be very diligent in protecting their skin. For that reason, I do have sunscreen available to apply in the salon if necessary.
To summarize, Shellac is absolutely a safe product if it is used and maintained properly. I do not perform any services in my salon that I believe to be harmful to skin or nails. If you have questions on whether Shellac is right for you, I would be happy to provide a free consultation.