Traditionally UV lamps have been used for years and are extremely reasonably priced compared to their LED counterparts. But are they being overtaken in popularity by LED? And does it really matter which type of lamp you use?

It all comes down to personal preference! Nail lamps are classified as being either LED or UV, which refers to the type of bulbs inside and the light they emit, but there are several functional differences which distinguish them.

Which is Better: UV or LED Nail Lamp?

What is the Difference Between an LED Lamp and UV Nail Lamp?

The difference between an LED and UV nail lamp is based on the type of radiation the bulb emits. Gel nail polish contains photoinitiators, a chemical that requires direct UV wavelengths to be hardened or ‘cure’. This process is called a ‘photoreaction’.

Both LED and UV nail lamps emit UV wavelengths and work in the same way. However, UV lamps emit a broader spectrum of wavelengths, while LED lamps produce a narrower, more targeted number of wavelengths.

Science aside, there are a number of key differences between LED and UV lamps for nail technicians to be aware of:

  • LED lamps typically cost more than UV lamps
  • However, LED lamps to tend to last longer while UV lamps often need bulbs replacing
  • LED lamps can cure gel polish faster than a UV light
  • Not all gel polishes can be cured by an LED lamp

You can also find UV/LED nail lamps on the market – these have both LED and UV bulbs, so you can switch between what type of gel polish you use.

Read on to find out more about the key differences between LED and UV nail lamps…

How Long to Cure Gel Nails with an LED Light and UV Lamp

The main selling point of an LED lamp is the time that can be saved when using it compared to curing by UV lamp. Typically an LED lamp will cure a layer of gel polish in 30 seconds, which is a lot quicker than the 2 mins that it takes a 36w UV lamp to do the same job. However, whether or not this will save you time in the long run depends on how quickly you can apply the next coat of colour while one hand is in the lamp!

Glitterbels Cordless UV/LED Lamp 48w

Glitterbels Cordless UV/LED Lamp 48w

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Glossify Professional Nail Lamp

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The Edge Apollo 48w UV/LED Combination Lamp

The Edge Apollo 48w UV/LED Combination Lamp

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How Long do LED Lamps Last?

Most UV lamps have a bulb-life of 1000 hours, but it’s recommended that the bulbs are changed every 6 months. LED lamps should last for 50,000 hours which means you should never have to worry about changing the bulbs. So whilst they might be considerably more expensive an investment in the first place, you should factor in what you’d spend on bulb replacements when weighing up your options.

Whilst it has been proven that UV exposure will cause minimum to no damage to your clients’ skin, if you are in any doubt then it’s best to stick to LED as they do not use any UV light and so pose no risk.

Related: Which is the Best LED Nail Lamp?

What Wattage is Best for a Gel Nail Lamp?

Most professional LED and UV nail lamps are at least 36 watts. This is because higher watt bulbs can cure gel polish faster – which is very important in a salon setting. For LED polish, a high wattage LED lamp can cure it within seconds, while a UV lamp will always take a little longer.

Can You Use Any LED Light For Gel Nails?

LED nail lamps differ from regular LED lights you might use in your home because they have a much higher wattage. You will notice how bright LED nail lamps are – this is because gel polish needs a higher level of UV radiation than could be provided outside or by a regular lightbulb.

However, not all LED nail lamps can cure every type of polish – some polishes are designed specifically for UV nail lamps, as we will explain below…

Does an LED Lamp Cure UV Gel – Or, Can You Cure UV Gel with a LED Lamp?

Some gel polishes have been formulated to be used with UV nail lamps only, so an LED lamp will not work in this case.

You should always check whether the brand of gel polish you are using is compatible with an LED lamp. All gel polishes will be compatible with a UV lamp, as they emit a wider spectrum of wavelengths that can cure all types of gel polish. It will indicate on the bottle what type of lamp can be used with the product.

Some gel polish brands recommend you use their own specially developed lamp for their particular formulas – this often is to ensure you are using the right wattage to avoid over curing the polish.


View our extensive range of UV and LED lamps and gel polish starter kits online at Salons Direct now.

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