First, let me start off by saying that I currently own 25 shades of OPI's Axxium SOG (soak off gel lacquer), all 30 shades of CND's Shellac (they call it "power polish"), and only 4 shades of OPI's GelColor (a gel polish). Second, let me remind you of my product cost -- .25oz Shellac bottles are $15.95, most Axxium are .24oz for $19.95 (however, some packages are only .14oz, & when on sale/clearance, they can be as low as $11.95), and GelColor is currently .5oz for $17.95. Third - lamps - I currently own CND's Brisa lamp (4 fingers or your thumb) as well as their newer Shellac Lamp (5 fingers at a time). I will own another Shellac lamp after my Master Painter class next week (included in the cost of the class), and am saving for a new LED lamp ($400 is a bit more than I want to spend at this time). I really hope they come down in price fairly quickly.
Axxium* SOG is basically a true gel (cures under UV lamp) that has pigments in it, but is much thinner than traditional gels. There are some brands of traditional gels which also have pigments in them, but they are not soak-off; they must be filed off. Axxium SOG can be applied over bare/natural nails, or any type of enhancement, but it needs a scuffed surface before it can fully adhere. Cure time for each hand (not including prep) is 8 minutes for base, two coats of color, & top coat. Removal is a bit of a pain; you must scratch the top coat before using an acetone-soaked cotton ball placed over your nail & wrapped with foil (I've used CND's wraps, as well), and wait a full 15-20 minutes.
Shellac, on the other hand, is basically a polish with only enough gel qualities to make it cure under the UV lamp within minutes. There is no scuffing of the natural nail, but like Axxium SOG, it can also be used over enhancements (see Pro instructions on CND's website for details). Cure times are shorter for Shellac than for Axxium; not including prep, you're looking at only 6 minutes & 10 seconds. Soaking Shellac off is much quicker & easier than Axxium's soak off, as well -- acetone-soaked cotton placed over your nail & wrapped with foil, or using their special wraps, wait about 10 minutes, it slides right off.
NOTE -- author really likes BOTH of these products equally. One is not better than the other; they are both great, but different. Also remember that there are a TON of other gel/polish products out there; some better than others (I used to use ibd's Gelac, but the product sucked big time -- wouldn't stay on, kept curing in the bottle, etc; I finally sold my remaining colors & my first lamp to a woman on Craigslist 'cuz I was just so frustrated with the whole thing, I didn't even care). I just haven't USED anything else because (1) nothing else is as readily available as these two products and (2) CND & OPI are two of the biggest names in the nail industry for a reason; they make great products.
So, then OPI decides to get into the gel/polish line (still selling their Axxium SOG, mind you). A lot of techs were excited! Finally; a gel/polish made by one of the biggest & best nail product companies in the world! My biggest questions were: (1) How much is is going to cost? and (2) How will it be different than the other two lines I already have? For some reason, OPI or distributors (I'm not sure which) required pre-order AND pre-pay for GelColor, so I bit the bullet, and ordered the base coat, top coat, and four colors. They came two weeks ago.
After swatching them (putting all four layers on a nail wheel), I asked a few clients if they'd like to test them out for me. All said yes, but only AFTER Thanksgiving; I didn't have any traditional T-day colors (oranges, browns, deep reds...). Ok, I get it; I have since pre-ordered (& pre-paid for) a classic red, as well as a creamy white & a sheer pink for French. Anyway, I decided to remove my own (traditional) gels about a week before Thanksgiving, and also didn't want to try a new product; just in case there were issues with it, I wouldn't have had time to fix them.
The morning after T-day, before my own family's traditional Friday Feast at my mother's, one of the salon's hairdressers decided to try OPI INK, which is a gorgeous deep purple (so dark, it's almost black) with glitter in it. She's a very busy hairdresser, as well! This should be a good test. Today, I finally had time to remove my Axxium SOG, and decided to try GelColor in Miami Beet (a cream purple-y red; very much like a beet). But, because I am NOT a cream polish kinda lady, I had to glitter over it -- I used a light coat of Axxium SOG in "Show It & Glow It" (fuchsia glitter).
So, that's two people (so far; hopefully more this week) with GelColor on. The process for prep is similar to Axxium SOG *EXCEPT* (& this is important to some clients) there is only BUFFING (as in, with a foam buffer) of the nail, not scuffing with a file! Cure times are the same for GelColor as it is for Axxium SOG. However, product is thinner; more of the consistency of Shellac without the wrinkling problem some of Shellac's opaque colors can have.
Stay tuned for Part Two of my review! By the end of this week, I'll have a report on removal and the condition of the nails...
*(Do not confuse this product with OPI's regular Axxium gel line -- that is a "traditional gel",)