Have you ever wondered what makes a LED nail lamp cure your gel nail polish so quickly?
A LED or light-emitting-diode nail lamp is a light source that emits a narrow range of UV wavelengths between 350 to 375 nm that can convert gel nail polishes from liquid to solid stage. LEDs that create this UV light are durable and compact so they reduce the cost of a LED nail lamp compared with other UV light sources.
Let us look into different aspects of the LED technology used in a typical nail lamp that cures gel polishes.
How does a UV LED lamp work?
UV LED nail lamps are used to cure gel polishes.
These LEDs are part of an electronic circuit in a lamp. This lamp emits a narrow range of UVA light. When this UV light shines on a substance called photoinitiators in gel polish, it energizes and converts them into new chemical groups. These groups will react with the gel polish solvent and polymerize or plasticize it.
The whole reaction takes place in a few seconds. In other words, this polymerization process turns gel polish from liquid to solid form. Different manufacturers formulate their gel polish according to their preferences and requirements.
Therefore, gel polish from one manufacturer might not chemically be the same as the others.
The LED nail lamp is an essential part of a gel polish curing process. Without LED light technology, the gel polish will not be as popular as it is now.
From UV-CFL nail lamp to UV LED nail lamp: the history
At the beginning of gel products in the early 2000s, the UV lamps that emitted light used compact fluorescent light or CFL bulbs. These bulbs emit a wide range of UVA light to cure early versions of UV gel and gel polishes. The time it took to cure these older versions of gel and gel polish was about 5 minutes.
However, these UV gel and gel polishes became solid after curing. These early versions of cured gel polishes were hard and brittle so they were easy to chip or crack and did not last long on the flexible natural nail plates.
Not long after, the new version of gel polish was designed so that it when it cured by using a much narrower range of UVA light wavelengths, the gel polish plasticized, not solidified so it had the flexibility characteristic to conform with the natural nails as they bent.
This characteristic of the new gel polish allowed it to last up to 3 weeks on the real nails with minimal chipping, cracking or lifting.
Since the light wavelengths of an LED can be changed using a specially-designed electronic circuit, the gel polish manufacturers could create a LED nail lamp that produced a narrow range of light wavelengths that work for their new gel polishes.
That was how the UV LED nail lamps or LED nail lamps were born. Gelish was the first commercialized product using this new technology.
Are LED nail lamps safe?
Even though UV LED nail lamps do emit UVA light, which can be of concern for skin damage for the users, however, given the low intensity and short exposing time during a typical gel polish application, this process is considered safe by the FDA.
The FDA views nail curing lamps as low risk when used as directed by the label. For example, a 2013 published study indicated that—even for the worst-case lamp that was evaluated—30 minutes of daily exposure to this lamp was below the occupational exposure limits for UV radiation. (Note that these limits only apply to normal, healthy people and not to people who may have a condition that makes them extra sensitive to UV radiation.)FDA
If you are particularly against being exposed to UV light, then you should find another alternative to polish your nails, regular nail polish, for example.
To further minimize the exposure to UV light during gel polish curing, you can:
- wear a protective glove that covers your hands and only expose your nails
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher on your hands and take care not to let the sunscreen come in contact with the nail surface as this will make improper adhesion and the gel polish will lift prematurely.
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommended curing time, try not to over cure gel polish unnecessarily. Furthermore, over cured gel polish will be very difficult to remove later.
- Learn how to apply thin gel polish because it will require less time to cure than thick gel polish will.
Which is the best LED nail lamp?
Choosing the best LED nail lamp to buy has a lot to do with where and how often you use it.
If you do you gel polish at home
You do not need to own an expensive LED nail lamp because there are many off-brand ones are available for as low as $25 that will do the job.
Since you only use it once or twice a month, investing a lot of money in a salon-quality LED nail lamp is not necessary as you can use that money to buy more different shades of gel color polishes for your collection.
I have used a lot of different types and brands of UV and UV LED nail lamps during my nail technician career. The one that beats the test of time and survives the longest after repeated uses and rough handling in my salon is the SunUV. It costs about $25 on amazon. For the gentler and infrequent use at home, this SUNUV is a good buy.
What I like about this particular model is it has a stainless steel bottom plate. This steel plate is better than a plastic one. If cured gel polish stuck on the metal plate
The best LED nail lamp for nail technicians
The LED nail lamp for a nail technician should to be used at least once a day, every day of the week.
So, it makes sense to purchase a larger, high quality and more expensive model. This LED nail lamp will have a longer working life, less chance to break down in a middle of a workday and the light will evenly cover a larger space so the gel polish will not be in a weak light spot where it is placed under the light.
Also, to project a professional image, nail technicians or salons tend to buy a brand name UV LED nail lamp. This kind of nail lamp has the highest quality and it can cost upward $300. However, the higher price tag comes with a top-quality product. A nail technician can have peace of mind that the LED nail lamps will function properly after countless uses and will last a long time.
How long should a UV LED nail lamp last?
Even though LEDs’ are supposed to last up to 50,000 hours of use, the whole LED nail lamps will not last that long.
These LEDs’ are part of an electronic circuit board that supplies power to them, controls how long they should stay on and holds several other functions like motion sensors, overheat-automatic shutoff to name a few. This circuit board is intricate and fragile and can easily be affected by excessive heat, a strong impact from accidental drops, or improper usage.
An LED nail lamp should last as long as the whole unit works perfectly. Even if one tiny electronic part like a resistor or a capacitor on the electronic board is bad, or if a small soldering joint comes loose, the whole LED nail lamp will stop working.
Exercise great care when you use, handle your nail lamp to prevent it from excessive heat or hard impact. If all the inner parts are assembled well, your LED nail lamp should last a long time.
Can UV lamp dry regular polish?
Regular nail polishes are chemically different that gel nail polishes. Regular nail polish’s chemicals are air-dried, meaning that all the solvents will need about 20 minutes to evaporate completely before the regular nail polishes can be dried. Therefore, regular nail polishes do not need a UV LED lamp to dry.
Can UV LED nail lamps cure UV gel or gel nails?
UV gel is a nail-enhanced product that was created long before gel polishes. UV gel needs a wide range of UV light wavelengths to cure properly. That is why it should be cured under a compact fluorescent UV bulb-type lamp. Furthermore, the time it takes to cure this UV gel is between 5 to 10 minutes.
On the other hand, since UV LED nail lamps emit a much narrower range of UV light wavelengths, they do not have an adequate range of UV light wavelengths to cure UV gel completely.
If you work with UV gel, you should have a UV nail lamp that has fluorescent bulbs to ensure proper curing.
Can UV LED nail lamp cure polygel?
Similar to UV gel, but polygel is the latest innovation using LED technology in artificial nails. It is a nail-enhanced product, not a nail polish.
Because each manufacturer produces its polygel products using its proprietary formula that is not publicly known or about which UV light wavelength range is used, it is better to use the manufacturer’s recommended UV LED nail lamp.
You can try to use your UV LED nail lamp. If your current LED nail lamp does not cure the poly gel you are working on, then you should consider purchasing a UV LED nail lamp from the same manufacturer.
Can UV LED nail lamp disinfect?
To disinfect using UV light, the light source has to emit UV light that has wavelengths within the range of 100 – 280 nm that is also called UVC range. Since UV LED nail lamps emit UVA light whose wavelength range is 350 – 370 nm, they will not be able to disinfect or kill bacteria or viruses.
Why does UV LED nail lamp burn, flashing or hurt?
When gel polish is exposed to UV light, an exothermic or giving off heat polymerization reaction will take place. This quick spike of generated heat will be on the entire surface nail surface where the gel polish is applied.
Some people will experience this sudden increase of heat if either their nails are sensitive or if the gel polish is applied too thick. If the gel polish is applied too much or too thick on natural nails, there will be a higher amount of generated heat compared to that from a thinly-applied gel polish.
So, it is always a good practice to know how to apply thin coats every time.
What is the best wattage for an LED nail lamp for salon use?
The higher the wattage, the more LED’s in a nail lamp’s circuitry so the lamp itself can be made bigger. That is why you can tell the correlation between these two factors as you first look at a particular lamp.
To ensure a complete cure, and minimize the accidental smudge when a customer unintentionally moves her hand while it is under the lamp, nail technicians and salons prefer large-sized LED lamps which produce 36 to 48 watts.
What is the best wattage for an LED nail lamp for home use?
Now we know that the higher the wattage goes with a bigger lamp. For gel polish enthusiasts who do their gel nails at home, they should consider a lamp that can fit one hand comfortably. This kind of LED nail lamp should have about 30 to 36 watts.
Do not go for much higher wattage LED lamps because the heat generated by these LEDs makes the whole lamp hotter including the intricate electronic circuit board inside. Excessive heat will “burn out” the little components on this board prematurely.
Moreover, many newer LED lamp casings do not have vents to allow hot air to escape so if there is an excessive heat that builds up inside, it can not escape. The lamp can get so hot that some lead-soldered joints become loosen. This over-heat effect can reduce the working life of these lamps or damage it.
How long should gel polish be cured under an LED lamp
Typically, gel polish that cures under a LED nail lamp for 30 seconds will be completely cured. This is also the time recommended by most LED lamp manufacturers. However, many users tend to over cure their gel nail polish because they think that 30 seconds is too short and try to cure the gel polish a little longer “just in case”.
Rechargeable UV LED nail lamps
Rechargeable UV LED nail lamps are made with different kinds of LEDs that run on 5 volt DC instead of 12 volts or 24 volts. This 5 volt DC source is also used by smartphones and their external battery sources. The rechargeable UV LED nail lamps also have a small built-in Lithium battery to power them when they are not plugged in. When this battery is drained, it can be recharged by an external DC power or a backup battery for smartphones.
These rechargeable LED nail lamps are compact and do not require to be plugged in to be operational so it is a great tool to have for traveling. It is also convenient for a quick repair or little touch-ups.
Being small in size, this rechargeable LED lamp is a great back up. The LED nail lamp that you use often will one day stop working when you need it the most. Having a cheap, compact back up LED nail lamp handy will save your day, or night. Check out the latest price on amazon.
What is the best LED nail lamp for you?
Now you know all you should about LED nail lamps. The best nail lamp for you particularly should have as many as features in the following checklists that apply to you.
- Have at least 30 watts of power.
- Can fit all five nails comfortably.
- Big enough to cure gel polish on toes.
- Have a metal bottom backing.
- Various timer settings.
- Motion sensors.
- Display panel on the lamp.
- Priced from $25 to $50.
- Aesthetically looking
How to clean your UV LED nail lamp
To clean the unit, you should only use a soft and wet sponge, piece of cloth or paper towel with warm soap water to clean the outer and inside the lamp housing.
To disinfect, wipe the entire surface, outer and inside with disinfecting wipes or paper towel with alcohol. Do not spray alcohol directly on the lamp as excessive alcohol will find its way inside the lamp and short circuit the internal electrical board.
WARNING: Never use acetone to remove any polish that sticks on the housing! The acetone will dissolve the plastic and ruin the finish.
To remove any polish stuck on the plastic housing, use a back of a small knife and gently scrape it off. Take your time because if you scrape it too hard and fast, you will scratch the finish.
The best way to keep the LED lamp free of polish is prevent polish from spilling, dropping on the unit. If you have to polish your nails over your LED lamp, cover it with a work towel or paper towel first.
How to use and care for a UV LED nail lamp
- READ the instruction manual if the lamp has one.
- UNPLUG the power adapter when not in use.
- DO NOT yank or pull on the power connector pin recklessly
- DO NOT slam it down when move it around.
- Lastly, DO NOT drop it.
Choosing a UV LED nail lamp should be fun because it helps beautify your nails and improve your look. After reading this article, you should have adequate knowledge about which nail lamp you will buy.
As an old saying goes: “Take care of your tools and your tools will take care of you” also holds true with your LED nail lamp.
Hopefully, you will pick one that you like and will last as long as your love for gel polish until the next innovation in nail polish comes along.
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