Faster-drying than a regular ol' manicure. More powerful than nails of steel. Able to leap computer keys without a single chip.

It's ... Supermani - as in manicure.

Now that's most women's idea of a real superhero.

For those who love painted nails but not their painfully short life span, the new CND Shellac manicure, a polish-gel hybrid that recently debuted here, is nothing short of revolutionary. CND, Creative Nail Design, promises its glossy-as-a-new-car finish lasts two weeks without chipping. No joke - two whole weeks.

As proof, look no further than Jennifer Nyman's nails. Nyman - or, Scarlett, as she's known to her clients - directs Gadabout SalonSpas' nail departments. She gives manis and pedis all day long. A new mom, she's also constantly changing diapers and washing her hands, yet her longish, French-manicured nails look flawless. Only the pale crescent of new growth at the end of each nail bed gives away the age of her 2-week-old manicure.

"This is the biggest breakthrough in nails for at least 10 years," Nyman says.

Nancy DiMaria has weak, brittle nails and gave up on manicures after a disastrous stint with acrylic nails. But the Shellac manicure intrigued her. She's now a repeat customer.

"I'm working this into my budget," says DiMaria, an electrical designer for Tucson Electric Power. She paid $41 at Great Waves Salon for the service.

The process is similar to a regular manicure and takes about an hour. You get a base coat, two coats of color and then a top coat. After each step, the polish cures beneath a special UV light, a sort of nail tanning bed, for 10 seconds or up to 2 minutes. Nails are dry immediately, so you can dig through your purse for keys without any problems.

Expect to tack on about an extra $20 for such perfection; regular manicures typically cost in the $20 range. A soak in pure acetone loosens the polish, and any residue is easily scraped off.

Nail technician Zelda Alt said many of her clients, like DiMaria, are hooked on Shellac, which has been lasting three weeks.

"Everybody's just so in love with it."

How the acid test turned out

I am nothing if not a thorough reporter, so I put CND's Shellac manicure through the ultimate test: staying put and chip-free on my nails. I rarely use nail polish on my fingers because it flakes off if I even look in the general direction of my hands. I chauffeur, cook, wash dishes and spend endless hours at a computer shopping online, er, working. Would the Shellac last?

Nail Watch, Day 1: Can't stop staring at the shiny red (Wildfire is the color) nails. Already this is the longest I've ever had dent-free, smudge-free, no-chip nails.

Nail Watch, Day 5: As glossy and pretty as Day 1. Had a scare at one point when it looked like half the polish was missing from my thumb. Turned out to be special sauce residue from my In-N-Out burger. Phew.

Nail Watch, Day 12: I attempt to slice off part of my middle nail (a near daily occurrence). Amazingly, the knife doesn't penetrate the Shellac, which backs up the untested theory by the nail techs I interviewed that it makes your nails stronger. After this photo shoot, I chip two nails. Don't know how. The chips are pretty minor. I also filed down my right index finger so I wouldn't skewer my eyeball when removing my contact lenses. Didn't bother the polish a bit.

Nail Watch, Day 14: Aside from grow-out and some wear at the edges, the manicure still looks really, really good.

Where to get CND Shellac around Tucson

CND Shellac manicures became widely available only a few months ago. Some local salons performing the service:

• Gadabout SalonSpas, several locations, 325-0000

• Great Waves Salon, 6542 E. Tanque Verde Road, 886-5261, www.greatwavessalon.com

• Abstrax Salon & Day Spa, 2970 N. Swan Road, 325-4662

• Nails-Go-Round, 651 W. Roger Road, 292-2206, www.nailsgoround.com

Contact Kristen Cook at kcook@azstarnet.com or 573-4194.