What’s the difference between UV and LED Nail Lamps? 152

What's the difference between UV and LED nail lamps?

I receive a lot of questions about UV and LED lamps for curing gel polish, and thought it might be helpful to provide a brief comparison of the two.

Cost More affordable Generally more expensive, though prices are starting to come down
Typical Curing Time 2 minutes 30 seconds
Efficiency Use more energy (less efficient) Use less energy and are more eco-friendly
Bulb Life Bulbs need to be replaced periodically Bulbs last the life of the lamp and never need replacement
Types of polish Effectively cures ALL types of gel polish Only cures polishes that are formulated for LED technology


Most soak off gel (SOG) manufacturers sell lamps that are compatible with their products, and you would likely get the best results when using a lamp provided by the manufacturer.  If you’re like me, I like to try a variety of brands so I prefer powerful lamps that will work with most brands.  As mentioned above, not all polishes are formulated to work with LED lamps so you should check with the polish manufacturers to determine which polishes are compatible.  Most brands are now offering products that cure in LED lamps, and that is the wave of the future for soak-off gel polish.  I own a Gelish 18G LED lamp and it cures almost every polish in my collection. I also keep a UV light handy for the few gel polishes that I own that aren’t LED compatible, but I almost never have to use it any more.

Regarding the safety of these lamps, both types of lamps emit UV light and one type of lamp is not “safer” than the other in terms of UV exposure.  Read my previous article about two quick and easy things you can to to minimize UV exposure during your gel manicures.

Below are a few lamp recommendations:

LED Lamps:

Harmony Gelish 18G LED Lamp:  Gelish makes and recommends this lamp for curing their products.   I purchased this lamp and couldn’t be happier with it.  It cures Gelish foundation in just 5 seconds, and colors in 30 seconds!  Many pros use this lamp, and it’s considered the mother of all lamps.  It’s on the expensive side, but if you do gel manicures regularly it will be well worth the investment.  Read my formal review of this lamp here.

Harmony Gelish 5-45 LED Lamp:  Gelish recently released a less expensive LED lamp.  This lamp is 18 watts and has a 45 second timer.  It’s 3 times more powerful than the MINI lamps, but still only half as powerful as the 18G which is 36 watts.  It also doesn’t have all of the bells & whistles that you get with the 18G lamp.

Thermal Spa One Hand LED Lamp:  This is a more economical LED lamp that fits all five fingers, and it’s a brand that I am familiar with and recommend.

Orly Smartgels LED Lamp or Red Carpet LED Light:  These are smaller, less powerful and cheaper LED lamp options, but you can only cure four fingers at once and have to do the thumbs separately.  They also have a 45 second curing time.

DuoLite LED and UV Lamp:   Esther’s Nail Center sells a combo lamp that has both types of curing technology in one unit!

UV Lamps:

Thermal Spa UV Lamp:  I own and love this lamp.  I used it for 2 years and never had to change the bulbs.  You can cure both hands at once in this lamp though I normally do my nails one hand at a time anyway.

Shany UV Gel Lamp: This lamp was recommended by friends as a cheaper alternative to the Thermal Spa unit.  It’s more compact and is only big enough to cure one hand at a time.

Royal Nails 54 Watt UV Lamp:  I have not personally used this lamp, but it’s another popular brand that many of my SOG friends like to use.  It’s a two-handed variety and has great reviews.


** This post was updated on 12/31/13


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