Time Out Melbourne

Not all polishes are created equal

Sporting a set of shiny, painted nails feel amazing. Chipping them hours after application does not. If you're after flawless nail polish that lasts longer than a few days, then you've got a few choices to make – with bigger implications than you might think.

In many salons, your long-lasting option is Shellac – a hybrid of regular nail polish and gel polish. The gel is what gives it its high-shine, semi-permanent quality. Unlike regular nail polish you'd use at home, in order to set it needs to be heat-fused onto your skin by placing your hand inside a UV lamp.

Shellac itself isn't the problem here: the UV lamps are. Studies have shown that UV lamps can be much more powerful than sunbeds, which means they can cause skin cancer. While the risk is relatively low, not all lamps have been tested to ensure their safety. If you've ever been to a particularly dodgy salon, you might have felt the finger-burn first hand.

Slowly, salons are making the switch to LED lamps. They're completely safe on your skin, and work just as well. They're also commonly used for setting gel polish, which looks similar to Shellac and can last even longer. Where gel polish is concerned, look out for brands like Gelish or Bio Sculpture. Gelish recommends the use of LED lamps for setting. Bio Sculpture polish is now LED-friendly, and lasts the longest of all the gel polishes (up to six weeks). When salons use UV lamps for Bio Sculpture gel, they're required to get them tested and approved by the Australian Radiation Authorities.

Yep – the world of nail treatment really is this complicated. Lucky for you, polish-fiends, we've put together a list of salons using safe alternatives to UV lamps.

La Chic

La Chic specialises in nail enhancements: fixing chipped nails or making plain-coloured pinkies extra fancy. They love their nail art – just look at their client gallery online. They use Gelish and sell products that are all about keeping nails healthy. Gelish nails start at $35. Prahran.

Glam Beauty & Nails

Glam is a Bio Sculpture-preferred salon, which means they adhere to all the health and UV safety requirements set down by the brand. All beauty technicians at Glam have at least 17 years hands on experience so that no matter what product you choose, they'll create beautiful artificial nails and enhancements without damaging the natural nail underneath. Bio Sculpture nails start at $75 including colour. South Yarra.

Miss Fox

This sophisticated boutique salon evokes the decadence and glamour of the '40s and '50s, right down to the décor. They employ highly-experienced beauticians and specialise in nails – including hand-painted nail art. They use Bio Sculpture and Artistic Nail Design (another gel polish brand) and exclusively use LED lamps. While you can expect to pay a little more here (one hour Bio Sculpture treatments start from $90) you can be sure you'll be treated like an absolute star. Melbourne.

Orchid Day Spa

Located in the heart of the CBD, Orchid specialises in pampering of all sorts including themed nail art. They use Bio Sculpture gel, which starts at $65, and run seasonal deals. If you’re a bargain hunter, keep an eye on their webpage and Facebook page for specials (and pretty pictures). Melbourne.

Goddess of Nails and Beauty

If you're short on time and tight on cash, this is the place to go. Located inside QV, this salon takes walk-ins and appointments. Gelish starts at $30 and Bio Sculpture starts at $60. Melbourne.

Blonde Tiger

Book in for a session at Blonde Tiger and you'll meet Erin Margrethe: mistress of this one-woman nail art parlour and lover of all things glitter. She only uses LED lamps and her favourite polish is Gelish. Manicures start at $50. Collingwood.


GoldeNail is a no-nonsense salon specialised in nails, waxing and tinting as well as eyelash extensions and permanent makeup. They use Gelish polish, which starts at $40. St Kilda.

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Updated on 19 Jun 2014.

By Madeline Lakos   |  

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