UV vs LED Nail Lamp – What’s the Difference?

woman gets her nails polished

A nail lamp is an essential equipment in any salon, together with the tools you already got used to like the lighted vanity mirrors, or facial steamers. It is necessary for curing traditional polish and is an absolute necessity for gel setting. Gel polish does not harden properly under normal lighting conditions. With the rise of gel polish in the manicure market, they became necessary for most salon owners for better clients satisfaction.

Just about anyone who’s into it can own one. They are portable, easy to use and not very expensive. They are also very easy to maintain, and you can easily get one from the market for yourself.

They come in two popular variants: LED Nail Lamp and UV nail lamp – Both emit radiation per se but on different wavelengths. While LED features less radiation spectrum, most ultraviolet lamps feature a wide range of radiation spectrum. There’s actually a compromise between these two on the market which seems to be well received by both sides: the UV-LED nail dryers, but more on these later.


LED Nail Lamp

led nail lampIt uses Light Emitting Diode to cure nails. These long-lasting bulbs produce light of a particular frequency which is used to activate photoreactions in gel polish to cause it to harden and remain in place for long.

They are typically expensive as they are more durable in the long run. They are also very portable. They emit ultraviolet rays too(because after all, LED lights are also UV lights) but these are very minimal and may not cause any significant damage to your fingers or skin.


UV Nail Lamp

uv nail lampThey are the earliest ones. They typically feature bulbs which produce ultraviolet rays which are required for nail curing.

They are quite cheap but at the same time are “lazier.” A UV nail lamp takes up to twice the time necessary to cure compared to an LED nail lamp.

This slow curing process tends to make many people feel concerned about using them. The prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays can be especially dangerous to the skin. But most experts decry this popular belief. Most believe it is safe to use them.


How Nail Lamps Cure Gel Polish

Nail curing is a primary chemical reaction. The type of chemical reaction is called a photoreaction. It needs a catalyst, in this case, light, to initiate the reaction process.

Light comes in different wavelengths which is evident in the rainbow – which is a separation of light into its various components wavelength. The particular light wavelength needed for gel curing is the ultraviolet.

Ordinary white light, like those emitted from your room bulb, can cure traditional polish, but not the gel polish. If you must use a gel polish, then you’ll need ultraviolet rays to cure it.

There are ways to curing gel nails without UV light(more of these discussed here) and you can get this from the sun too, but it’ll typically take a long time and will not set correctly, hence, the reason for their use.

They produce ultraviolet lights which activate tiny molecules called photoinitiators, found in the gel polish. Once activated, the photoinitiators cause a series of other smaller chemical reactions which leads to hardening of the gel polish otherwise called “curing.”


Are you up for a challenge? Here we go: count your nail polishes. More than 50? You definitely need a storage solution. Here are some of the best wall-mounted nail polish racks on the market! Go check them out!


Differences between LED and UV Nail Lamps


1. Bulb Life

Both of them come with bulbs. These bulbs are used to create the ultraviolet rays necessary for curing gel polish.

LED Nail Lamp bulbs are known to have long-lasting bulb life. Most LED bulbs typically have up to 50,000 hours lifespan. That’s more than five years of emitting ultraviolet rays for your use.

Also, since they last a lot longer, most salon owners don’t know when they need replacement and as such may continue to use them even when they’ve worn out resulting in ‘faulty’ cure.

UV nail lamp typically features bulbs which are long lasting also but not up to the LED bulb life. They usually have a bulb life of around 5,000 hours. You’ll probably need to replace them on an average of every five months.

Buying one shouldn’t be a problem in the short run since they are cheaper. However, their use, in the long run, makes them more expensive as you’ll need to replace them every few months.


2. Power Usage

They use electricity to power the bulbs that produce ultraviolet light. You probably should not be concerned about power usage as they won’t make any significant impact on your electricity bills.

What you should be more concerned about is the wattage rating before buying one. Often the higher the wattage rating, the better and you probably will want to avoid any with ratings less than 10 wattages, those will not work well.

A LED nail lamp consumes less energy. This is because they require less energy to accomplish the same task.


3. Weight

Weight is not a concern for most users. They are all light anyway and very easy to move about.

LED Nail Lamps are typically lighter. If you’re looking for something you can quickly move about, say from one client to another then getting a LED Nail Lamp might make the job a lot easier for you.


4. Curing Time

Curing time is the time needed for each gel polish to be completely and adequately cured. This time varies from one lamp to another.

LED Nail Lamps often require your nails to be under them for a few seconds – around 30-60 seconds in most cases for them to get hardened. Most of them come in three different curing modes, and you can adjust them to meet your needs.

UV nail lamp has a curing time of around 2 to 3 minutes and also comes with three different timers to help you keep track of time.


5. Type of Bulb

They feature bulbs for curing processes. A LED nail lamp uses the light emitting diode bulbs which are reputed for long-lasting life. This type of bulb can also be made to produce different colors, hence the numerous color variations.

Ultraviolet lamps typically feature the Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). This sort of light bulbs can also be made to produce different colors by altering its interior coating materials.


Types of Gel Polish


Gels come in different varieties. Some manufacturers recommend unique lamps for their products. This is because these gels require a particular type of lamp to cure correctly.

LED lamps typically can cure most gel polish save CND Shellac. This is because they produce a narrow range ultraviolet wavelength which is not adequate for CND Shellac.

A UV lamp is an all-purpose lamp as it typically cures all types of gels. It produces a broad spectrum of UV wavelengths which is adequate for any gel polish.

You may want to consider getting a lamp recommended by your gel manufacturer, but if you’re going to use the lamp for different types, especially as a salon owner, you may want to get an “all compatible” one – the UV LED lamp.


Types of Gel Builder Gel Nails

Both of them can cure almost any type of gel builder. However, you might want to check the recommended lamps by the manufacturer before making any purchases.


UV Light Exposure Compared

Ultraviolet rays from the sun are known to cause skin cancer. This often begins with mutation of skin cells which then develops into cancerous cells.

The more you are exposed to UV the more your chances of developing skin cancer. This is why most Dermatologists frown on the use of tanning booths as they give out high radiation.

Both emit some quantities of UV rays which are necessary for gel curing. Though most Dermatologist insists that it is entirely safe as the number of ultraviolet rays is very small compared to what is obtained from the sun. Others argue that the constant use of UV can have a cumulative effect on the skin.

LED Nail Lamp is believed to give the lowest doses of UV rays per curing section since it takes less time. While users get more UV doses from UV nail lamp since they keep their fingers under the rays for more extended periods.


What to Consider Before Buying a Nail Lamp

Getting a nail lamp is a necessity if you’re planning to use gel polish or as a salon owner. They come in different shapes, sizes and brands. But underneath all the fancy outlooks and brands, most of them offer the same features with minor variations.

Before getting one, you might want to consider the type of gel you’ll be using it for. UV lamps are general purpose lamps and can cure all kinds of gel polish while LED lamps cannot cure CND Shellac.

Nail Lamps whether UV or LED cure faster when the bulbs are numerous. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time, you may want to go for a lamp with many bulbs as they will produce more UV rays for faster curing.

As a salon owner, you might want to go for LED Nail Lamps as they cure faster, last longer and require less maintenance. Though more expensive, it will help you save more money in the long run and help you cure more in shorter times.

Ultraviolet lamps are okay for individuals; though, they will require constant maintenance such as bulb replacement. If you don’t want to worry about that, then you can go for a LED Nail Lamps.

For most experts, the UV dose per curing session does not pose any serious health problems, but if you’re worried about it or even have a susceptible skin, you may want to get a skin protector.

One of the most recommended skin protectors is the Anti-UV Gloves which comes in form of a glove. The glove material is specially designed to protect against UV rays.

You may also use apply some of your sunscreens before putting your nails under the lamp. They are effective against UV rays from nail lamps too.


The Solution

So there are UV and LED lamps, curing different types of gels. What the industry did in return for the market’s signals was to come up with the hybrid, a combination between the two technologies – UV LED Nail Dryers – these cure multiple types of gels and are safe for your health since they’re mainly using a light wavelength between 365nm-405nm.

We’ve put together a list of the best on the market which you can check it out at https://uvhero.com/best-uv-led-nail-dryers/


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Passionate about everything that shines, settled down on UV(ultraviolet) lights. I'm motivated and with a mission to help people live a better life!

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  1. Since CND shellac now says that all of its shellacs can be cured with their LED lamp, what is the difference between their LED lamp and any other lamp. They emit the same wavelengths of light don’t they? I cannot find an answer to this anywhere, and would appreciate the input.


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