The process begins the same as a normal manicure. You soak, you get your cuticles pushed back and trimmed, your nails are filed and buffed. It's when the basecoat comes out that things change. Between each coat of base coat, polish, and topcoat, your hands are put into a small UV dryer. I lovingly refer to it as the nail tanning bed. Without the UV dryer, the polish will never dry! It's essentially baking the polish onto your nails. The dry time for each coat is about 4 minutes.
How do I like it? I tell you what - this stuff is amazing! It does not last a full two weeks for me, not because the polish looks bad but because my nails grow so fast that by the two week mark I have a full 1/4 to 1/2 inch of new growth, and that just looks silly. I love that I can walk out of the salon with dry nails - no smudging it when I open the car door, yay! I love that I can be rough on my hands, as usual, and the polish holds up to the challenge. I love that I appear to have quit biting my nails!
Now, about those nasty rumors that shellac will ruin your nails: according to the nail tech I've been seeing, there are two kinds of "long lasting" polish, the shellac and another called gel nails or Gelife. She said they tried switched to the gel because it was a lot cheaper and significantly faster, with a UV dry time of only 30 seconds for each coat. She said that at first they loved it, but then they realized that on a client's 2nd or 3rd time with the gel, their nails were completely ruined. She beliefs it's because the gel isn't as high quality as the shellac. While the shellac is more expensive and takes more time, the salon I patronize prefers it because they believe strongly that it's much healthier for the nails - so much so that they threw away all the gel polish and switched back solely to the shellac!
After about 10 days, I notice that the edges of the polish are starting to lift. This also happens to coincide with the noticeable growout, so I've been attributing the lifting with the fact that the polish is no longer butted up to the nail bed. If I'm good and don't pick, it's fine and not noticeable unless you get really close. When I'm bad and can't leave it alone, I notice that peeling the polish off is not great for my nails as it seems to take some of the top layer of the nail with it. I do not notice that it significantly weakens my nails if I have the shellac removed the proper way, however.
Speaking of the proper way, to have the shellac removed, the nails are soaked in acetone and then the shellac is easy to push off the nail. This is not something I've ever tried at home, and I don't intend to. The salon will remove it free of charge, no appointment or new manicure necessary.