Ultimate Guide to Choosing a LED or UV Lamp for Nails

There are so many nail lamps online to choose from that it is completely overwhelming. Wattage, voltage, cure time… it can be very confusing to know what matters and what things you should look for when deciding which brand and type of lamp to go with. This guide simplifies everything and will hopefully answer all of your questions!

Factors to Consider to Choose The Best Nail Lamp For You!

1. What’s Your Budget?

Figure out how much money you are able and willing to spend on a nail lamp because $20 and $150 will get you very different lamps. $150 might seem expensive but if you consider how much you spend on one manicure with tip ($35-$45), a nail lamp is only the cost of several manicures and will last you decades. Most women get manicures twice a month so they are spending at least $840 a year on manicures – a nail lamp is easily affordable once you see how much you are already spending at the salon.  And remember, this does not include the savings for pedicures as well! Check out how much money you can save by using the calculator below.

2. What Nail Polish Brands Do You Use?

opi photoThe main factor you should consider when buying a nail lamp is whether or not it will work with polishes you like, and it can be confusing. UV lamps cure all LED & UV polishes. LED lamps state that they only cure LED polishes. If you love CND Shellac like I do, they indicate that you have to get a UV lamp because shellac is a UV polish and “doesn’t cure” under a LED lamp. However, readers have reported that CND does, in fact, cure perfectly fine with an LED lamp. Conundrum, right? The majority of polishes are LED so they will work with both lamp types. Click here to see a chart of which polish brands work with which type of nail lamp UV or LED.The manufacturers of gel polishes design nail lamps to emit the precise UV wavelengths to activate specific ingredients in their gel polish formula – so if you use one brand heavily then it might be worth it to buy the lamp from the same brand, or a lamp with the same wattage.

3. Cure Time

LED cures much more quickly than UV. It typically takes 30 seconds to cure a layer of polish under LED and takes 90 seconds to cure a layer under UV. So the bottom line is that LED manicures can take under 2 minutes of curing while UV manicures can take 5+ minutes. If you’re impatient then LED is the lamp for you.

4. Bulb Life Span

LED lamps come with bulbs that are never replaced and last 50,000 hours. Bulbs in UV lamps can vary by manufacturer but generally last around 100 hours, then can be replaced for around $30. 100 hours doesn’t seem like much, but remember that each manicure only takes 5 minutes of curing so if you do your nails once per week then the UV bulbs would last you 23 years before needing to be changed. Ultimately, either type of lamp is a great investment as it will last you decades (If you buy from a reliable and high quality brand).

5. Size

Be on the look out for size because some lamps only fit 4 fingers so you have to cure your thumb separately which is a pain and just awkward unless you are a contortionist.  The majority of cheaper lamps (under $40) fit 4 fingers and do not work for pedicures. Other lamps usually just fit one hand and have a removable bottom part to let you do pedicures one foot at a time. The best lamps let you cure both hands at the same time and both feet at the same time (this is my preference as it saves a LOT of time).

6. Warranty

1 year warranty seems to be standard if you buy the lamp new and directly from the manufacturer (most don’t sell directly to consumers on their websites so you have to buy the lamps on Amazon from the manufacturer. Just check the seller’s name and search for the lamp being sold by the manufacturer and not some random person on amazon). I’ve seen some that are 90 days. Not all brands offer this support. It is nice to have in case you are in the small percent of people who have issues with the lamp breaking down or being dysfunctional.

7. Extra Features

Many brands have special timer features to make it easy to custom program a setting or have all the preset timers you’d ever need. Timing it yourself is a pain so it’s really nice to have a lamp with that feature. Other lamps have motion sensors that start the lamp automatically when you slide your hands under. Another added bonus is a lamp that also has a fan included, for those times you just want a regular lacquer polish, say on your tootsies.

Nail Lamp Comparisons

The following tables were created to help you compare the different types of popular nail dryer lamps. Note that prices often fluctuate online depending on special sales etc. so please know in advance that the prices may be different than posted in the tables (but they shouldn’t be off by very much).

UV Lamp for Nails Comparison

Great all round lamps for all types of gel and shellac polish!

UV LampWattsPriceSizeTimersNotesRating (Out of 5)
54 WATT ROYAL NAILS PROFESSIONAL UV LIGHT GEL AND ACRILIC NAIL DRYER 54W$165.00Two Hand Two Feet5 setting Timer: 90sec, 120sec, 180sec, 240sec, 300secFan for faster drying4.5
CND UV Lamp 36W$144.95One Hand One Foot4 Preset Timers CustomizableErgonomic Design, Fan 4.5
LKE White Phototherapy Nail Dryer 36W$63.99One Hand One Foot3 Preset Timers: 60s, 90s, 120sRemovable floor5
Salon Edge 36W$25.95One Hand One Foot3 Preset Timers: 90sec, 120sec, 180secAuto shut off, Removable bottom, Compact for travel4.5
Thermal Spa 45W$53.75Two Hands Two Feet3 Preset Timers: Always on, 2mins, 3minsRemovable, easy-to-clean bottom4.2
MelodySusie® High Quality Black 36W UV Nail Dryer UV Lamp Light 36W$26.99One Hand One FootAuto timer control: 120s, 180s, up to infiniteRemovable, easy-to-clean bottom4.1

LED Lamp for Nails Comparison

Many readers of this blog are opting for the LED lamps and I have posted some of the most popular. Check them out for yourself.

LED LampWattagePriceSizeTimersNotesRating
Harmony Gelish Salon Essentials 18G 36W$186.90Both Hands Both Feet3 Preset timers: 5, 20, 30 secs Motion Activated, Patented eyeShield™ to limit light exposure4.8
Harmony Gelish 5-45 18W$114.99 One Hand One Foot1 Preset Timer: 45 secsLight weight 4.4
OPI Studio LED Light 32W$129.99One Hand One Foot4 Preset Timers: 15, 30, 45, & 60 secsMotion Activated4.3
VOGUE PROFESSIONAL ® 18 Watts LED 18W$59.50One Hand One FootDigital Countdown 3-step Timer: 30-90 seconds1 year limited parts and labor warranty4.7
SensatioNail 7W$24.99 Four Fingers at a time1 Preset Timer: 60 secs with a 30 second beepLight weight 4.6
Thermal Spa 10W$89.93One Hand One Foot3 Preset Timers: 10s, 30s, 60sBottom reflective base4.5
MelodySusie® New Collection High Quality 48W LED Lamp 48W$109.99One Hand One Foot3 Preset timers: 5s, 20s, 30sAutomatic sensor, Removable magnetic bottom tray 4.8
MelodySusie® High Quality Portable 24W LED Lamp 24W$49.99One Hand One Foot3 Preset Timers: 15s, 30s, 60sLightweight, portable4.6

UV & LED 2 in 1 Lamp for Nails Comparison

If you are torn between getting a UV lamp or an LED lamp ~ here are some 2-in-1 combination lamps to consider. Great bang for your buck!

2 in 1 LampWattagePriceSizeTimersNotesRating
Lumcrissy Professional Diamond Shaped CCFL & LED UV Nail Lamp36W$39.98One hand, One footThree adjustable timersCompact and lightweight3.8
Lumcrissy Professional Automatic Sensor Quikly Dry Diamond Shaped CCFL & LED UV Nail Lamp48W$56.99One hand, One foot3 preset timers: 10s, 20s, 30sAutomatic sensor 4.2
Lightimetunnel™ Led Nail Polish Dryer 36W$86.99One hand, One foot10s, 20s, 30s with countdown of the timer mode1 yr warranty5
MelodySusie® Pro60W Smart Lamp 60W$134.99One hand, One foot4 Preset timers: 15s, 30s, 45s, 60sAll in one - disinfection & drying4.7
LKE 48W Nail Polish Gel Art Tools Professional CCFL LED UV Lamp 48W$57.88One hand, One foot3 preset timers: 10s 20s 30sAutomatic sensor 4.7

FAQ 

Does a higher wattage mean it’s a better nail lamp?
No. Higher wattage does not mean it’s a better lamp. Wattage simply indicates how much electricity the bulbs use. In general, you don’t need to consider the wattage amount when comparing lamps. However, when a lamp has a really low wattage (less than 10W) you might want to double check which polishes it works on because sometimes a low wattage UV lamp won’t cure LED polishes.

What are the differences between LED & UV Lamps?
Checkout my post here to learn all about the differences: The Truth About LED vs UV Nail Lamps

Resource Links

The Chemist Corner:The differences between soak-off-gel polish and gel polish

The Science of Gels: How UV and LED lamps cure gel polish

 

Photo by m01229

Photo by Svadilfari

 

Comments(3)
  1. Karen January 29, 2016
    • Cindy February 7, 2016
  2. Luke Smith November 18, 2016

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