LED vs. UV: By Rise’ Carter

I spent a good deal of time researching the new LED lights to cure light-cured nail products.  There has been quite some buzz on this new gel technology, but is it all hype?

I wanted to find out, but I had a difficult time even finding sources to purchase the LED light here in the United States.  There seems to be very few companies that sell them.  Is it because I heard that when they initially came out, they were quite expensive?  If my memory serves me correctly, they were at least double a regular full hand UV lamp.   So that would make it close to $500.00 – $600.00 each.  They supposedly cure in half the time without heat.  The heat that can occur during a regular gel service is from the type and amount of photo initiator, and also depending on the health of the natural nail on the client.  Some light-cured nail products can be cured in both LED and UV lamps, which most likely means they contain two different photo initiators in their formulations.

LED Nail Lamp

Apparently with LED lamps, you never need new bulbs.  They stay good for “life”.  Does that mean my life or the life of the lamp?  Just as a comparison, you could buy our new Versa Cure UV Bonding Lamp (probably the most reasonably priced high-quality UV lamp on the market) and 5 ½ years worth of replacement bulbs for the price of an LED lamp.  Depending on how long the lamp lasts, it could potentially be a money saver.

I would imagine the price of the LED lamp is bound to come down, like all new technology.  Although LED technology has been around since the mid 1960’s and is used in indicator lamps in cars and even airplanes – it is still new to the nail industry.

Now, as far as it being a time saver, I’m not exactly convinced.  It takes 50% less time to cure theproduct.  This would not be a benefit for me unless I am doing a demonstration on one nail.  I just simply don’t work that quickly.  I work on one hand while the other one cures, and if it cures in less than a minute….it will be finished curing before I have a chance to add another layer of product to the other hand.

I would love to hear from nail techs that have switched to an LED lamp and get first hand feedback of what you like and don’t like, or if you feel it was worth the investment or not.  Please comment below or start a conversation on our Facebook page.

Concerned about the safety of UV lamps? Relax, take a deep breath, and click here for some information on the safety of UV lamps.

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48 responses to “LED vs. UV: By Rise’ Carter”

  1. LED lights generally pay off sooner than you think. with the power output reduced by more than 60% its a guaranteed good buy. Initial cost is high, but that pays itself back after approx a year or so for bigger lights the rule applies: the bigger the light or the more lumen it produces the bigger and faster the save

  2. Jessica Knepper says:

    Can you cure balance gels with an LED light?
    If so then I would buy one

  3. tim chow says:

    LED is the future but it is too expensive right now.

  4. Victoria Lynn says:

    I purchased an LED Lamp and I love the speed! I can do a gel mani in just 35 mins. But, I hate the inflated price of the gels. The few companies that do carry LED gels know that availablity is scarce so they charge way to much for their product. Many of my clients will wait the time for UV gels rather than pay an increase for LED because both provide the same results.

  5. Rise' says:

    Thanks for all your comments.
    Let me just say, that Balance UV Gel does not contain the required photo initiator for LED lamps. For best results with Balance, use a traditional full hand UV lamp.

  6. I have purchased a LED UV nail light and am trialling it at the moment with it’s matching brand LED nail gels. The curing is really efficient but I haven’t yet come across a LED product which I would call ‘fast’ curing compared with standard gels and UV lights that are available. I will be trialling a variety of LED gels and lights to find out if a ‘quicker’ and more efficient curing is available. I do believe salons are becoming more energy efficient and would like to not have to change their light globes constantly (LED promises up to a good 50000 hrs, if that’s 4 hrs a day constant use – it should last 30+ years!). Thanks for bringing up this topic, I was hoping a company was asking the same questions I was. 🙂

  7. Linda Reyes says:

    After just recently hearing about & experiencing LED Gel lamps I am sold! 5 seconds to 20 seconds versus 20 sec to 2 minutes…. plus the fact of less exposure. The US is so behind in “Gel Marketing” compared to Europe, there are so many gel products we will not see available for years!
    Now on to more research. Now that LED has caught my eye I am anxious to know all I can. 🙂

  8. Claudia says:

    I will be purchasing one in the future, just because it makes energy-wise sense. But I am in no real hurry as I am fine doing them with the traditional UV lights. However, I am not fond of replacing the sensitive bulbs so often and the cost of those bulbs. So, once the price comes down on the lamp itself, I will practically be an instant savings on bulbs and energy usage.

  9. alfiya says:

    hi, what is it Balanced UV Gel?

  10. Claire says:

    Can the LED/UV lamp cure both LED and Uv Gel

    Logic says if they do – just know your timing & go!!

    What about the heat?

  11. patty-ohio says:

    i tried lcn led light…700.00.. used it 2 days and sent it back..didn’t save me any time. my clients keep sticking their hands clear thru to the back of the lamp..( the back is open) and missing the led lights. and i was really never sure they were cured.

  12. cathy says:

    I heard alot about LED Light, I think its reasonable now. I think everyone here know about the risk of cancer for using UV light. Well my customers are concerning about the UV light, and refused to have Gel polish services. I think of switching over LED light. But, my question is LED light safe for the skin?. Will LED light cure all type of gel or only to their perticular company products.

  13. kylie says:


  14. admin says:

    I think what your teacher is trying to say is that manufacturers like you to cure their gels in their own UV lamps, because that is how they are tested. This is not to say that other lamps WON’T cure the gels, but to be 100% sure you are getting a complete cure, it is best to work in a system.

    Jessie Burkhardt
    Director of Marketing & Communications for NSI

  15. Bobbi says:

    I have been using the LED off and on for about 2 1/2 months got mine from LCN and though i love the technology and the fact that it cuts curing time, I am not able to use it with all gels. I love Many different gels because some work on clients well where some don’t and every client is different so we as techs have to adapt to our clients. I carry 5 different systems and it works for me but only one works with the LED and its the LCN, there are many reasons that i love LCN, but it doesn’t stop me from Loving other brands too. I especially love the NSI and Onyx lines but they don’t have the photo initiators so i am still using my UV lamps for the most part. I would love to use the LED lamps all the time since it is more cost effective in the end and environmentally friendly ( no need to throw bulbs away or take them to be recycled properly) I love the Polish Pro it is my product of the year for sure, and it has been said it cures in both lamps is this true? I haven’t tested it out because i am afraid of doing all that work on a client or myself and having it come undone! I wish all products would reformulate their gels so that they could cure in both lamps just so that we could use which ever lamp we prefer.

  16. @ Bobbi
    Currently Polish Pro can only be cured in a UV lamp, but we are working on an NSI LED lamp and a dual cure for Polish Pro. Stay tuned!

    Jessie Burkhardt
    Director of Marketing & Communications for NSI

  17. QsGirl says:

    I have been getting Gel nails done for 6 months. My nail tech invested in the LED light for $349. I love it done in 35 minutes she loves it she can fit more customers in.

  18. Beth C. says:

    A few days ago I used Red Carpet Manicure’s system for the first time. I followed all of the steps and used their smaller LED lamp, which costs only $20 at Ulta. It came out beautiful! Although the LED lamp runs on 4 AA batteries, you can buy an adapter for it at Radio Shak. The lamp is small, so you must do your thumbs separately, but I did my fingers on both hands separately, and then both thumbs at the same time. The base coat cures for 1 minute, the color 2-3 minutes, and the top coat for 2 minutes. I spoke with a representative from Red Carpet Manicure and she said their Pro Light will be available in a few weeks and costs $50. You still have to do your thumbs separately, but the curing times are much less. Also, it is a plug in, as opposed to battery operated.

  19. Jan says:

    Why not buy an LED flashlight for under $20?

  20. margo says:

    Sally’s Beauty Supply just started carrying a Gelish brand LED light for 59.99 reg. price

  21. Chris says:

    I was thinking…the same thing Jan had to say.

  22. Lenn says:

    Why not buy an LED flashlight for under $20?

    To cure gels, you need UV light. Regular LED flashlights, produce mostly visible white/bluish light but no UV light, so they can’t dry the gels.

    Nail UV LED “lights” are similar in shape to LED flashlight but they produce mostly UV light and almost no visible white light.

    All gel lamps, whether LED or traditional fluorescent bulbs work on the same principal: ie emitting UV light. LED’s produce more UV light, consume less power, last 100,000 hours and are not breakable. Regular UV lights, fade out in time, need replacement every 2-3 years, produce a lot less UV light (so client keeps nails under light much longer, are very breakable, and run hotter and consume more power.

    LED is the way to go. Prices should drop down a lot in the near future.

  23. Something else to consider….The Red Carpet LED lamp and the inexpensive Gelish LED lamp sold at Sally’s are designed for the DIY, at-home nail enthusiast who is going to use the lamp a few times a month, tops. A nail technician needs to invest in a professional quality LED lamp. Those are the lamps we are referring to on this blog, whose audience is the licensed nail professional.

    *Note – Gelish also sells a professional-quality LED lamp which is much more expensive than $50 – probably closer to $300.

    Jessie Burkhardt
    Director of Marketing & Communications for NSI

  24. think of the LED lamps? the uv work best?

  25. Diana Dinh says:

    Diana’s nail and spa in Chicago has the LED light for all the new OPI Gel Color/ Gelish no chip manicure and pedicure

    see video here


    Lightning speed, 30-second cure. GelColor by OPI is fully LED cured from foundation to finish in 4 minutes per set, versus 12 minutes-plus for standard UV cure

  26. ashley says:

    LED bulbs are NOT the same as UV bulbs… if they were, they wouldnt use 60% less power. I also am pretty sure that LED bulbs do not emit UV light In theory, you could buy an LED bulb for 12 dollars that’s enough “comparable wattage” and put it in a lamp and cure your nails. I’ve been wanting to construct something like this to keep the overseas companies from making any more money.

  27. Sharon says:

    I just received all CND brand UV3 nail colors and an LED light from Sally’s but don’t I want to open the light until I know for sure if the LED light will cure the CND brand UV3 nail colors…help?

  28. Josie says:

    I am new to gel nails. Bought the Red Carpet LED light at Ulta for 50.00-I am looking at doing my own gel nails and realized that you can use LED or UV. I need to know which brands I can use with my LED light other than the Red Carpet brand. They seem to have a limited selection on colors.

  29. Dawn says:

    @ Margo. I’m using IBD clear gel at home to strengthen my nails which keep chipping/peeling. I purchased the Gelish Mini LED lamp Pro 45 but am not sure how long to cure the Bonder, Clear Gel & Intense Seal for. Do you know? THANKS!!

  30. Denise says:

    I gave in and purchased the CND Shellac kit after saying NO NO NO for 9 mos. I also purchassed quite a bit of the NSI Poiish Pro…both I love and will continue to use. Now Opi has come out with their LED cured gel. For 2 weeks agonized on wether to purchase another light..especially one for $400. But finally did and I can get 2 clients in an hour now. Before with removal and application it was taking 40 mins..now it takes less then 30. And not to mention the shine difference!!!!! It makes the nails look like they are covered in glass! I have not tried any of my NSI colors with it. DIdnt know if they would work with it, so continued to use my CND UV light with them.

  31. andrea says:

    just wondering.
    i am not doing a nail course, so i just started doing my nails on my own. I only did two sets of nails so far, and ordering more supplies. Just a quick question hopefully you can help me with. Can a ” Gelish LED Lamp” from Sallys Beauty cure ” pro UV gel ” ….

  32. @Sharon, you’d have to contact CND to be sure.

    @Denise, currently our Polish Pro is not LED compatible.

  33. Danielle Baker says:

    im currently using Jessica Geleration and ibd gel , was wondering if anyone knows if the Jessica led pro lamp will cure ibd gel aswell? or if not which gels can be cured in an led lamp, am currently using uv but wanted a quicker method, mainly for geleration but didnt want to have to lamps,
    also, the Jessica led pro lamp is about £420 with VAT, and says cures geleration in 10 secs , does anyone know of any lamps just as good but not as pricey?

  34. Shell says:

    Hi does biosculpture gels cure in an led lamp?

    Thanks in advance

    Also can u overcure??

    Why does the gel go wrinkly? I tried the biosculpture and this is what happened at the side! Boooo

  35. Kitzie says:

    does anyone know if the LED lights will cure the Nailite brand of gel?

  36. kainell says:

    I recently purchased a led nail lamp, and i wish i never did it sucks… i mean it really sucks i tryed everything to getting different gels down to making it as thin as possible and still nothing worked it just wont cure.. if i knew what i know now i would have taken that money and invested in a traditional uv lamp… sucks to be me

  37. Jennifer says:

    Biosculpture doesn’t cure using LED bulbs. When the color is applied too thick it wrinkles. I would guess that you are appling the color too thick and it is running down the side of the nail. Shellac will sometimes do this as well. It is more common with white than the other colors.

  38. Mar says:

    Led lamp cures any gels soak off colours or gels, the fact here is the timmings, 10 seconds (led) = 1minute (uv lamp 36 watts) 20 sec. =2 mins. And so on.. they work really good, but for some reason I rather the uv lamps, clients love to spend time getting pamper instead of sit, ready and bye, unless they are in a hurry I would have to use the led just for efficiency and convenience (save energy and time)

  39. lucillelee says:

    don’T EVER BUY THE LED LIGHT I’t not fast and not really dry the nail , I have a big mistate , I just bought onely one day , but cannot return , because , I try to clean the machine and inside the shinny color came off , so … I”M so mad because now cannot do anny thing with that ….

  40. LED nail Curing Lamps are better, because of using less energy!

  41. Sharon says:

    Hello, the lamps in the states are far more expensive…. I bought 2 lamps from a singapore supplier and cost me US$256 only including shipping.

    One thing is u need an adaptor becos the plug is for asia standard.

    Works fine for me with an international adaptor 🙂

    their website

  42. corina says:

    Can the red carpet LED cure orly brand and IBD?? If yes how long to cure for either or brand? and can you put rhinstones on after the top coat? I am having trouble putting the rhinstones and keeping them on. How can I maintain them on?? Thnks..

  43. @Jessie: I’m a chemist who’s doing research on LED vs UV light for a question we’ve received on our blog. I’m really impressed with the quantity and quality of knowledge you’ve shown here. Would you be interested in writing a guest post on this topic for our readers? Email me at thebeautybrains@gmail.com if you’d like to discuss. Thanks!

  44. Sammie says:

    I just brought the led uv light and I’m so not happy with it !! It’s taking forever to cure my clients nails !!!

  45. Patricia says:

    I’m thinking of buying a lamp for home use for the Gellux nail products. I’m so confused with what to buy…..I can’t afford any of the expensive lamps. So I have seen a lamp that is advertised as 12w coil LED soak off gel polish nail cure UV dryer. Please can someone advise me if this is likely to do a good buy….all thoughts on this appreciated. many thanks

  46. Laura says:

    Hi, I am a nail customer – my technician was using UV light then switched to LED for Artistic colour gloss – since then I have had a lot of problems with chipping, nails not curing properly. Does the type of light make a difference? Thanks

  47. nicole says:

    Does anyone know if Artistic gel polishes can be cured with a UV lamp? or if it’s only possible to cure them with the new LED lamp?

  48. admin says:

    Hi Nicole! We do not have information on other companies but we can assure you the NSI Polish Pro is both LED and UV curable

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