Which brand for gel nails - CND, CJP & Ikon.IQ shortlist?


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Sep 8, 2021
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Any advice would be appreciated.

I'm starting out as a gel nail tech with a view to doing nail art too, but not acrylics. From reading past threads I have shortlisted CND Shellac, CJelP and Ikoniq but am open to other recommendations!

Ikoniq Prima Gels claim to be a true gel polish as opposed to a hybrid - I'm assuming the benefit of this is more hypoallergenic compared to hybrids... and it is good for nail art too as it is a one-coat application which I presume cuts down on time.

C Jel P, by CJP - this seems to get good reviews by some on this site. Is it a true gel or a hybrid as there is very little information on their website.

CND Shellac - what are the pros and cons of this being a hybrid gel polish compared to true gel polishes. I've read that you apply more than one thin coat as opposed to a single thick coat so it looks more natural. How do the longevity compare? There seem to be several threads about tricky application, wrinkling etc - is this a genuine issue or just more practice required as it applies differently to thicker gels?

So - any advice or comparisons of the above brands with regards to application and removal, longevity customer service and using it for nail art too?

Thank you.
CJelP is pure gel. Super high pigment. Honestly I think the website could be better, both info-wise and navigation. Their support group is fab for any sort of questions you may have Facebook Groups otherwise ask away on here and I'll do my best to help :)

Application - took me a while to crack it. I moved from a white bottle that only required a quick buff and sloppy prep. Prep is key with CJelP. For best results, cuticle prep, then you should etch the nail plate with a 150 grit hand file in circular motions. E-File prep doesn't do the same job. Dehydrate then straight in with the base. You've got a few choices here.

First Base - Standard base coat, I never use it.
All about the base - Apply one coat super thin, scrubbed into the etches on the nail. Then another coat with a bit more structure. It's got a pretty pinky hue to it. I have a handful of naughty nurses that aren't allowed their nails done, so will come and have 3-4 coats of this base coat and it's so beautiful.
Rubber It- Same application to AATB. But this one is crystal clear and designed for our clients with weaker nails that need a nice flexible barrier to protect them from snapping.
BOB - Brush on Builder. This one can be used to extend with tips or forms. There's a really detailed demo in the support group. Also.... not sure about everyone else, but my clients seem to have gone "builder gel" crazy. I have tried to explain that builder gel is not needed for everyone, especially as all of my gel sets include structured base coat, but some insist that they need builder gel. You CAN use BOB for this, but it's not designed for it. BOB needs to have a certain thickness otherwise it cracks. No one wants thick short nails. Using a thin layer of Rubber it before your BOB can help with overlays.

Then go in with 1-2 coats of CjelP gel polish. This needs to be applied thin but floated. You need to load up the brush enough that you can glide the gel across the nail without dragging it, because it will go streaky. Too much product will flood. Then topcoat. They've got a matte, a couple of different shinys and now a sparkle topcoat.

Removal is a breeze. File off the topcoat, soak in acetone for 10-15. I like to use the pre-made foils with the cotton in. Same removal as most other brands I've tried. HOWEVER, BOB is designed to be infilled. Soaking off can be not so fun. I treat it more like a file-off if I need to do a BOB removal. AATB and Rubber IT can also be infilled. Just file off the gel colour and fill in the back. This way, you're only etching each part of the nail plate once. If you soak-off and re-prep, you're going to thin the nail out.

Longevity - All of my ladies do 3 weeks easily. By week 4, some of my hands-on ladies might start lifting or get a little chip. I expect mine back for maintenance at 3-4 weeks. Toes are a completely different scenario. I've got a lady on week 23 of her toes. Gross I know. They look more like french tips at this point.

Customer Service - Amazing. As I mentioned before, the support group is great, but also their actual customer service at HQ are very helpful. Delivery is generally super-quick. Most orders arrive next working day if you order before 3pm. This is not guaranteed.

Nail Art - They cover MOST of what I need. I tend to handpaint most of my art so gel polish and their liner brush is what I reach for. I like their gel paints too. I still get water decals from ebay. And I get my glitter from Chameleon because they offer smaller amounts. My foils are from Naio Nails. CJelP matte topcoat doubles up as blooming gel, they have chrome, aurora pigment, decals, glitter, acrylic paint, water colour paint, all sorts. My biggest upset with CJelP is their colour range. They do have a lot of new releases and I'm sure over 100 colours, but they don't have a normal orange or normal green. They have dark, pastel, neon, shimmer etc, but I really need those basic colours. I can usually mix-up what I need, but would be so much easier to just have the colour to hand.

Hope this helps!
Thank you so much for your detailed reply to my post, really appreciated and CJelP does sound pretty good. It would have been good to have received replies from CND Shellac and Ikoniq nail techs as comparators. Hopefully they may be forthcoming shortly :)
Long story short. I developed sensitivity to gels. My fingers healed completely after 4 years, but stillI cannot use any gel polish but CND without a few blisters forming. Same for acrylic powder and liquid.

if it wasn’t for this product I would be shut out of gel polish completely. I’ve used CND gel polish since it came to market. I see no extra special care needed. The one thing I can’t stress enough is that IMHO, ALL gel polishes should be stirred and scraped from the bottom to mix white pigment that settles to bottom. Shaking just doesn’t do it.

Some shades are transparent, nice for layering color. Some are heavily pigmented, but still need two thin coats. I like this because I know the curing is reaching to the bottom of the layer.

When it first came out it was featured as a great way to layer colors to extend your repertoire without having so many bottles. Rose Brocade was a favorite over any neutral cream color.

I have tried a few brands but have fallen for Ikon,iq. I love how they are quite literally one coat not matter how thinly you apply it and how the white is too. Because of this nail art is very easy and the colours don’t shrink either, I love how I can paint a white heart in black no problem. My clients have been known to go 8 weeks with no lifting or chips (obviously I don’t recommend this at all) shown in the picture.

All of there colours are made by their own chemist and I also use their hard gel and polytek instead of acrylic and my clients love it as it lasts well.

Any questions just ask. Xx
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Hi MoS

As an Ikon.iQ tech I hope I can help you out here...

Prima gels are indeed pure gel and highly pigmented. If you placed a dot of gel on a surface it would spread a little but the edges of the product would maintain colour density. Most are indeed full coverage in one coat.

The fact that they don't contain any ingredients that are normally checked for in a nail product allergy test means they are about as hypoallergenic as you can get, something that gives me peace of mind given I'm working with gel products on a daily basis!

Soak off takes little time... I use an efile to remove colour and then wrap one hand which is then ready to take off by the time I've done the same with the other hand.

Ikon.iQ also have Hypnos gel colours and Inspire liner gel colours which, alongside Prima, are perfect for nail art.

Hypnos is a pure gel in a pot which has a stiffer consistency than Prima colours for painting with a gel brush. A dot of Hypnos gel wouldn't self level as much as Prima. Inspire liners are equally firm and designed for razor sharp one hit line painting.

Depending on what I want to achieve with nail art I will mix and match to get exactly the consistency I need. The variables are truly infinate.


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I started with CND Shellac when it first came out, but I felt that although it had several strong points - hybrid, easy removal, HYPOALLERGENIC, it also had some serious downsides - not durable, limited colors, a bit pricey, very strict requirements and finally, it did not come out with LED curable product for too long. I switched to OPI GelColours when it came out and I am very satisfied with it. Although not as easy to remove as CND Shellac, its base is hybrid, I love the iconic colors and it is very durable.

I have since retired, but stayed active in the field. If I were starting out now, Ikon.IQ would be my choice, hands down! I think allergies are going to be THE big issue in the future and IKON really has a handle on that, even insuring that techs have the proper lamp. It is deeply pigmented and although a pure gel, my impression is that it combines good removal with durability.
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