UV vs LED nail lamps. What is the difference? I’m sure you have seen LED lamps and UV lamps all over Amazon, but what makes them different? Well.. it is based on the type of bulb used and how fast your gel can cure under each lamp. Below, I’ll discuss the key differences, pros/cons of each lamp, and common misconceptions.
This blog post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase.
WHAT IS A UV LAMP
What makes UV lamps different from LED lamps are the bulbs that are used. UV Lamps use what is called a CFL bulb(Compact Fluorescent). These bulbs are able to be replaced and the light in these bulbs is less focused. These are the traditional UV lamps that have been used in nail salons for a long time and can cure all types of gel polishes.
WHAT IS AN LED LAMP
Unlike UV Lamps, LED lamps use an LED bulb(Light-Emitting Diodes). These lamps are newer and the light in these lamps is more focused. That is why your gel manicures can cure in 30-60 seconds. These newer LED lamps are only able to cure newer LED curing gels and not a traditional gel polish.
PROS AND CONS OF UV LAMP
The biggest pro of traditional lamps is that they are cheaper. If you are looking for a more budget-friendly gel nail lamp, then traditional UV lamps may be a great option for you.
2. LESS LIKELY TO EXPERIENCE A HEAT SENSATION
Because these lamps have less focused light, you are less likely to experience a heat sensation when curing thicker gels like builder/rubber base gel. Learn more about builder/rubber base gel here.
3. A LOT MORE RESEARCH ON THIS LAMP
The good news about older gel lamps is that there is way more research around them. This is because they have been around for a much longer time. If you would like to use a tried and true gel lamp, then the traditional CFL lamp may be a great option for you.
3. CAN CURE ALL TYPE OF GEL
The nail industry is constantly introducing new types of gel to the market but fortunately, older lamps can cure all types of gel. If you are at all interested in using gel from newer/older brands, these types of lamps may be ideal for you.
1. LONGER EXPOSURE TIMES
The light in traditional UV lamps (CFL bulbs) is less focused. That means that these lamps can take anywhere from 2-3 minutes to 3-5 minutes to cure. If you don’t want to have too much UV exposure, the amount of time these traditional lamps take to cure your gel nails is definitely a downside.
2. BULBS NEED TO BE REPLACED
These UV bulbs(CFL) don’t last as long. You would need to have bulb replacements in case one of the bulbs in these lamps goes out.
PROS AND CONS OF LED LAMP
1. LAST LONGER
LED lamps can last between 3-5 years and don’t require any bulb replacement.
2. SHORTER CURE TIMES
Shorter cure times are one of the biggest advantages of LED lamps. The light in this type of lamp is very focused. This means that your gel polish cures a lot faster. That means that it reduces your exposure to UV rays and saves you time on your gel polish manicure.
1. CAN’T CURE ALL TYPES OF GEL NAIL POLISH (OLDER GEL)
LED lamps can cure new LED formulated gel polishes. It may not be able to cure traditional gel polishes. If you have a lot of older gel polishes, this lamp may not be ideal for you.
2. NEED TO CURE THUMB SEPARATELY
The light is very focused and not diffused like the traditional UV Lamps. This means that if you put your hand straight into the lamp and your thumb is not flat down, your thumbnail may get less UVA exposure and not fully cure. That is why it is important to cure your thumb separately in LED lamps.
Note: If you ever noticed that your thumbnail forms bubbles, it not being fully cured in the UV lamp may be the cause.
3. MORE EXPENSIVE
The biggest con is that LED lamps are more expensive than traditional UV lamps. If you are looking for a budget-friendly gel lamp, it may be tricky to find an LED one.
4. CONSTANTLY CHANGING
There are so many lamps and products that are launched onto the market. This can make it tricky to ensure your lamp is curing the brand of gel polish that you are using.
1. LED DOES NOT EMIT UV LIGHT
There is a big misconception that LED lamps emit LED light which makes them safer than UV lamps. Unfortunately, this is not true. LED lamps do emit ultraviolet light.
In order for your gel polish to cure it needs to be exposed to UV light. This is because gel polish contains ingredients called monomers. These monomers move freely throughout the gel polish. In order for your gel to harden or ‘dry’ these freely moving monomers need to bond to each other. The only thing that makes these monomers bond to each other is exposure to UVA rays. Without your gel being exposed to UV Light it will never harden or ‘dry’.
2. LED LAMPS CAN FULLY CURE GEL IN 10 SECONDS
LED lamps can cure gel polish faster, but not in 10 seconds. I sometimes see videos on YouTube of people curing their UV gel only for 10 seconds. You can not fully cure gel in 10 seconds.
3. THERE ARE HYBRID UV-LED LAMPS
There are only two types of nail lamps. Traditional CFL and LED(Light Emitting Diodes). The biggest difference between these is the bulbs. The bulb is either CFL or LED. It can’t be a mix of the two lamps.
My personal preference for lamps is the LED lamps that cure gel faster. Below are 2 gel nail lamps that you can check out on Amazon. These lamps have been recommended by pro nail technicians.
2. Sun UV Sun 4
That is everything you need to know about UV and LED Lamps. Now, when it comes to flash-curing lamps. Well.. that is another school of thought.
HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOUR SKIN WHILE USING A UV LAMP?
Safety is everything and I recommend using sunscreen or fingerless gloves (or both) when doing gel manicures. This will protect your skin from UV light and lower your risk of skin damage or premature aging. I like applying this sunscreen from Neutrogena before doing my builder gel. You can get it from Amazon here. I also like using these fingerless gloves. You can get them from Amazon Here.
CAN YOU USE GEL WITHOUT THE LAMP?
No, you can not dry gel polish without a UV Light. The gel contains ingredients called monomers that move freely through the bottle. In order for your gel to harden these ingredients need to bond together. The only thing that can bond these ingredients together is exposure to UV Light in particular.
DO YOU NEED UV LIGHT FOR REGULAR NAIL POLISH?
No. Traditional nail polish contains solvents like alcohol. When you apply nail polish to your nails, these alcohols evaporate or ‘dry’ which is what makes your nail polish dry. You don’t need UV light for regular polish.
CAN I JUST FLASH-CURE MY GEL?
No, flash curing helps reduce heat spikes and hold structured gel or gel x in place. However, these flash-curing nail lamps don’t fully cure your gel. If you do get a flash curing lamp, it is important that you get a regular gel lamp as well to make sure that your gel is fully curing.