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
  • 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. 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. UV lamps can take longer to cure your gel polish. Typically a layer of gel polish will take 2 minutes to fully cure. Whereas LED lamps, with their narrower wavelengths, can cure polish a lot quicker. An LED lamp can cure a layer of gel polish in just 30 seconds, or flash cure a nail art design in just 15 seconds.


The wattage of your lamp can also have an effect on performance. The higher the wattage of your lamp, the faster curing it will provide. The wattage of most lamps is 36w. This is higher than regular lights, so it emits a brighter light, which will speed up the curing process.

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.


One common misconception about nail lamps is that only UV lamps emit UV light rays, and this is untrue. Both UV and LED lamps emit UV rays. While overexposure to UV rays has been known to cause damage to the skin, studies have found that the amount of UV rays emitted by a UV or LED lamp is very minimal and therefore nail lamps are safe to use.


There are some gel polishes out there that are UV only gel polishes, so these will only cure under a UV lamp, and not an LED lamp.


One other thing to point out is that neither LED or UV lamps will cure or dry regular nail polish. Regular nail polish needs time to dry in the open air, and doesn’t cure or set like gel nail polish does.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of each?

For the distinct reason that LED nail lamps offer a faster drying time compared to UV lights, they are said to be safer than UV lights. A faster curing time equals less time one is exposed to harmful radiation, so this is a definite advantage for clients. It takes UV lights anywhere from 2-4 minutes to cure gels, while LED lamps take 30-45 seconds. Second, LED bulbs last much longer than UV bulbs. Typically, UV bulbs must be changed after about 1,000 hours of use. If they are not, they could impede the overall quality of your gel manicure. Additionally, if broken they could emit harmful mercury vapors. LED bulbs however, last for up to 50,000 hours and they use less electricity. Many salons and techs do not know when to change the bulbs, and since they're not changing them, they're causing bad output and subsequently bad curing jobs, which results in a duller finish and faster chips. Although LED lights are more expensive than UV lamps, you will get a safer and more economical product by choosing an LED lamp in the long run.

View our extensive range of UV and LED lamps and gel polish starter kits online at CRYSTAL CLAWZ.

If you enjoyed reading this blog, you can view all of our latest blogs by clicking here.