As the trend continues to rise of using Gel polish over traditional nail polishes, we see a lot of questions about the tools and equipment involved. One of the most frequently asked (and often misunderstood) questions is the difference between UV and LED nail lamps. So let’s discuss what similarities and differences they have.
How Gel Polish Cures
Before we can get into the differences between UV and LED lamps for curing gel polish, let’s understand how Gel polish is cured.
Every brand of gel polish is formulated differently, but they all contain photinitiators. These photoinitiators react with UV light to create a chemical reaction that hardens or cures the gel polish. This means that ALL Lamps, whether UV or LED will emit UV-A light.
Every reputable brand will have a lamp that is designed for and has been tested to properly cure their specific gel product. To get a proper cure, the light must penetrate the layer of polish fully. Which is why it’s so important to apply gel polish in thin, even layers. Applying polish in a layer too thick for the light to penetrate leaves you at risk of developing an allergy to the polish from prolonged contact to uncured/undercured product.
UV Nail Lamps
UV Nail lamps were the first to hit the scene when gel polishes were introduced. They have long U-shaped Compact Florescent bulbs inside the lamp. These bulbs typically have a lifespan of around 5,000 hours before they need to be replaced. They work by emitting a broad UV wavelength to cure the gel product. Because the wavelengths emitted by a UV Lamp are broader, they work slower. Cure time in a UV Lamp is usually about 2-3 minutes, which is double the time required in an LED lamp.
LED Nail Lamps
LED Nail lamps use Light Emitting Diodes to cure gel polish. The bulbs in LED lamps typically have a lifespan of up to 50,000 hours before they will need to be replaced. They work by also emitting UV wavelengths, but a more narrow wavelength. The narrow wavelengths makes the cure time in an LED Lamp between 30 and 60 seconds on average, or about half the time of a UV Lamp.
Are these UV Rays safe?
A common question asked is whether or not gel polish and exposure to the UV Rays in both the LED and UV lamps are safe.
Most of the ultraviolet light emitted by gel lamps (whether they’re marketed as UV lamps or UV-LED lamps) is Ultraviolet-A (UV-A), which is safer for humans than Ultraviolet-B (UV-B). The bulbs used in UV nail lights contain special internal filters that remove almost all UV-B.
For more information on whether or not Gel Manicures are safe, check out this post Can Gel Manicures cause Cancer.
Are these lamps Universal?
The short answer is no. Some gel polish products require UV Lamp Cure, while others require LED cure. And even products designed for an LED cure, are best used with the lamp created by that specific polish manufacturer. As mentioned previously, the polish and lamp were designed to work together for reputable brands.
Using an LED or UV Lamp to cure a gel polish it wasn’t designed for runs the risk of over or under curing the gel polish product. Under cured gel polish will look hard on top well before it’s actually done fully curing, so you could unknowingly be exposing yourself to uncured product, which can cause adverse skin reactions, and over time, an allergy can develop. Over curing gel polish will lead to discoloration, shrinkage, bubbles, and lifting or product breakdown.
So, it’s important to ensure the Lamp you are using is designed for and has been tested with the brand of Gel Polish you are using. Most companies will have a lamp available for purchase with their polish as kits.
Can you use Gel Polish without an LED or UV Lamp?
No. Gel polish is specifically designed to cure with exposure to a UV Light source, whether that comes from a UV Lamp or an LED. Without the lamp to cure, your polish will not harden and you will not get the expected longevity from your manicure.
Ready to get started with a Gel Polish Kit at home?
Doing your gel manicures at home saves you time and money over salon visits. It can be done in the comfort and convenience of your own home and for a fraction of the cost of a salon visit. GelMoment makes it even easier with their revolutionary ONE step system. That’s right – no base or top coat required! GelMoment gel polish is also 5+ Free, Non-toxic, Latex Free, Lead Free, Gluten Free, Cruelty Free, Vegan Friendly, and virtually odorless!
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