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Ask anyone who paints their nails, and they’ll tell you that the worst part of a manicure or pedicure is waiting for your tips to dry completely. This is especially true for anyone who can’t sit still and is just itching to use their hands immediately after applying their last coat. Luckily, thanks to the invention of UV nail lamps, long wait times post-polish application can be a thing of the past.
UV lamps aren’t just the solution to a lack of patience; they’re the key to successfully replicating salon-quality manicures at home. Powered by professional-grade UV rays and LED lights that are strategically placed to sufficiently dry each nail, these innovative devices not only significantly decrease drying time, but also provide even curing and can properly adhere some nail stickers and nail decor, like gemstones. You don’t have to be a professional nail artist to purchase or operate these types of devices, either. They’re great tools for anyone hoping to take their artistry to the next level, as well as the beauty guru who still feels uneasy heading back to the salon amidst the pandemic.
Many times, lamps are included in select nail polish sets, but some of the best UV nail lamps on the market today are sold independently of a brand and marketed as compatible with any and all nail formulas. Must-have functionalities include multiple timer settings, an automatic sensor and a spacious design that allows you to comfortably fit your hand or foot inside. Beyond the basics, ensure that your gel nail lamp is compatible with the type of polish you’re applying.
LED Vs. UV Nail Lamps
According to StyleSeat nail technician Salina Néou, one of the main differences between LED (light-emitting diode) and UV (ultraviolet radiation) lamps lies in the type of radiation the bulbs emit. UV lights imitate sunlight and are mostly invisible. LED lights are visible, but can contain invisible light sources, including UV. So, which lamp is the better purchase?
In short: There are pros and cons to each type of lamp. For example, celebrity manicurist and founder of Julie K Nail Artelier Julie Kandalec tells WWD that “LED lamps cure nails much faster than UV lamps,” in as little as 30 seconds, while UV lamps can take around three minutes to cure nails. However, Néou points out that LED lamps can restrict which polishes you can use, as not all gel polishes are compatible with these devices. UV lamps, she says, can cure almost any gel.
If you’re basing your purchase on what the pros use, Kandalec says salons tend to stick with the lamps that go with the product line their professional nail artists prefer such as CND, Gelish, The Gel Bottle and Kiara Sky, which all have their own products. Bottom line: Which lamp you choose will ultimately depend on your personal preferences.
Top Nail Lamps
- Best Overall: Sunuv Gel UV Nail Lamp
- LKE Gel UV LED Nail Lamp
- Best Portable Nail Lamp: Kempa Mini UV LED Nail Dryer
- Fastest-Drying: Gelish Harmony Professional Salon LED Light Lamp
- MelodySusie UV LED Nail Lamp
- Fastest-Drying, Runner-Up: Lumcrissy UV LED Professional Nail Dryer
- Coolest Design: Beetles UV LED Nail Lamp
- Jewhitney UV LED SunX4 Gel Polish Nail Dryer
- Also Consider Portable Nail Lamp: Sunrich UV Gel Nail Lamp
- Best Budget: Aokitec Portable UV LED Lamp
- Easkep UV LED Nail Lamp
- Wisdompark UV LED Nail Lamp
- Best for On-the-Go Touchups: XFZM UV LED Flashlight for Gel Nails
- Ovlux UV LED Professional Nail Dryer
Are UV Nail Lamps Safe?
According to Tracy Evans MD, MPH, a board-certified dermatologist and medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology, “The light emitted by a UV lamp falls within the UVA spectrum and can cause cellular damage [a potential cancer risk], photoaging and brown spots on the skin.” The same goes for LED lamps, though some people think this alternative is safer.
However, some nail artists like Kandalec argue that you get more UV exposure walking to your mailbox than you do in an entire nail appointment. “There’s a lot of miseducation out there that creates unnecessary confusion among consumers,” she says.
Still, because nail lamp usage involves exposing your skin to UV rays, whether you’ve chosen a UV lamp or LED lamp, it’s essential that you protect your hands and feet before each curing. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on the skin that will be exposed or stock up on a pair of UV-shielding gloves to prevent absorption and damage.
Sunuv Gel UV Nail Lamp
Offering 48 watts of power and 33 LED beads with over 50,000 hours of curing time, the Sunuv Gel UV nail lamp uniformly and efficiently cures gel nail polish and is suitable for every brand of polish and extensions. Able to fit five fingers or toes at once, this Amazon bestseller is equipped with four timer settings and has an automatic sensing feature to ensure a safe at-home manicure experience.
LKE Gel UV LED Nail Lamp
Created for a simple user experience, the LKE gel UV LED nail lamp has an easy-to-navigate LED screen and smart automatic sensor feature so the treatment will begin and end when you’re ready. Its curved design protects your eyes from the UV light, while its soft light prevents skin discoloration. It works best with gel polishes that contain UV.
Kempa Mini UV LED Nail Dryer
Best Portable Nail Lamp
An Amazon Choice nail lamp, the Kempa mini UV LED nail dryer is perfect for manicures on-the-go thanks to its compact design, which can easily fit inside a makeup bag or purse when deconstructed. Providing a 50,000-hour lifetime, its light beads adopt advanced dual optical wavelength technology without causing damage to the eyes or skin. Choose between four time settings to create a customizable gel curing experience.
Gelish Harmony Professional Salon LED Light Lamp
Boasting salon-quality results courtesy of its LED-accelerated technology, the Gelish Harmony Professional salon LED light lamp provides the fastest curing in the industry, efficiently and evenly drying gel nail polish in just 30 seconds under the LED lamp and two minutes under the UV light. Perfect for nail salon owners or manicure enthusiasts who want to create salon-quality gel manicures and pedicures at home, it comes equipped with three time settings, a patent-pending eyeShield feature to limit light exposure and a curved interior design to guide the fingers for correct placement. Plus, its acetone-resistant and magnetized tray is easy to clean between each use.
MelodySusie UV LED Nail Lamp
Featuring a high-powered and LG dual light source, the MelodySusie UV LED nail lamp emits a wavelength ranging between 365 and 405 nanometers to cure and dry gel nail polish quickly, evenly and sufficiently. Equipped with four time settings and utilizing energy-saving, environment-friendly LG chip technology, this top-rated nail lamp has been found to shorten curing time by up to 50% compared to similar models.
Lumcrissy UV LED Professional Nail Dryer
Perfect for nail salon owners, the Lumcrissy Professional LED nail dryer is a 64-watt powered nail lamp that is built with a heat-absorbing zinc alloy metal cover to protect eyes and extend the bulbs’ lifetime. Compatible with all gel polishes and extensions, the nail lamp features strategically-placed bulbs to evenly distribute heat and eliminate “dead zones,” has four time settings and is equipped with an automatic sensor and LED screen for safe and easy usage.
Beetles UV LED Nail Lamp
Whether it’s to follow a nail art tutorial while you work or stream a show while you wait for your tips to dry, it’s likely that your phone is nearby and in use when you treat yourself to an at-home mani-pedi. While you could lean your device on a pile of books or prop it up against bottles of polish, the Beetles UV LED nail lamp comes with a built-in phone stand on its surface to save you the hassle. But that isn’t the only feature worthy of Amazon’s stamp of approval. The high-tech nail dryer and curer runs on 630 nanometers of red light, which reduces the risk of wrinkles on your hands. It also operates on an adjustable timer you can set to 30, 60 or 90-second sessions and is compatible with most brands’ poly gels, base coats, topcoats, hard builder gels, rhinestone glues and more.
Jewhitney UV LED SunX4 Gel Polish Nail Dryer
This UV nail lamp from Jewhitney has over 35,000 ratings on Amazon alone, so if peer reviews affect your purchases, it’s one to consider. The product’s description dubs the dryer suitable for both at-home and salon use, and its professional quality reflects in its features. The UV lamp is designed with the customer’s safety in mind, featuring automatic sensors that turn the light on and off, and uses a dual LED light source that imitates the sunlight. The device also detects internal temperature automatically and adjusts itself to low-power operation when the lamp overheats and returns to normal when it cools. Its timer settings include 10, 30, 60 and 120 seconds, and the device is USB-powered, meaning it’s compatible with laptops, computers, power banks, wall chargers and USB adapters.
Sunrich UV Gel Nail Lamp
Also Consider for Travel
We’re well aware the Sunrich UV gel nail lamp looks like a boombox, and that’s part of its appeal. The lamp’s design, though reminiscent of ’90s entertainment, makes it easily transportable, so you can bring it on trips or to a friend’s house. What’s more, Sunrich uses 120 watts of power to cure nails 80% faster than its competitors, and because its base is detachable, users can also cure gels on their toes.
Aokitec Portable UV LED Lamp
Don’t let the price of this portable UV lamp from Aokitec throw you off. According to its over 6,000 reviews on Amazon, its low price tag does not reflect the quality of the device, which is high. Similar to the aforementioned Kepma miniature, Aokitec’s dryer is pocket-size and therefore perfect for travel — not to mention for living spaces with limited storage. The device cures nails with less heat than a larger lamp, but still gets the job done in 45 or 60 seconds at a time. And if your entire hand doesn’t fit under the lamp all at once, no problem. Just cure your thumbs separately from your other fingers.
Easkep UV LED Nail Lamp
For an even, complete cure, there’s the Easkep UV LED nail lamp. This smart device features 12 lamp beads on top of its internal structure, as well as 24 lamp beads on its sides to ensure the entire nail dries seamlessly. Plus, with 120 watts of high power, Easkep’s lamp cures gel manicures twice as fast as the standard 80-watt lamp. The dual light sourced device runs on pre-fixed timers (from 10 seconds to 99 seconds), features an infrared sensor and temperature protection to guard users’ hands against potential burns.
Wisdompark UV LED Nail Lamp
The Wisdompark UV LED nail lamp doesn’t have a handle and is not a miniature lamp. However, its design is so sleek and lightweight, that it’s still considered a portable device. In fact, its open design is what makes this lamp a desirable purchase, because it makes it easier for hands and feet to comfortably fit inside. Plus, the open concept makes the device much easier to clean. The lamp also features a white light, which is less harmful to the eyes and skin than red tints. It has three adjustable timer settings (30, 60 and 90 seconds) and a smart auto-sense function that turns the lamp on or off according to your movements.
XFZM UV LED Flashlight for Gel Nails
Best for On-the-Go Touchups
This UV flashlight from XFZM is arguably the most innovative device on this list. It won’t take the place of an actual lamp for full mani-pedis, but it is the perfect solution for on-the-go touchups. The flashlight is the literal definition of pocket-size and portable. Drop it in your purse or keep it at your desk — you can always have this miniature lamp on your person for curing on the fly. It’s comprised of LED purple lamp beads but that work at phototherapy speed, outsourcing the equivalent of a 12W lamp. What’s more, in addition to curing nail polish, the flashlight can also be used to check currency, jewelry identification, trademark anti-counterfeiting, and more, so it’s a handy device all-around.
Ovlux UV LED Professional Nail Dryer
Powered by 72 watts and containing 36 LED bulbs that can last up to 50,000 hours, the Ovlux Professional nail dryer brings the salon to your home with its professional-grade technology. Spacious enough to fit both of your hands and feet and compatible with most gel nail polishes, it offers four time settings, various heat settings and has infrared heat sensors that detect when your hands and feet are inside.