What Is The Best Wattage For An LED Nail Lamp?

close-up of a woman using an LED nail lamp to cure her gel nails

With all the nail products on the market, it can quickly become difficult to decide what to buy. If you’re looking to purchase the necessary products to give yourself the money and time saving freedom of at home manicures, you might be asking yourself, “What is the best wattage for an LED nail lamp?”

If you purchase a nail lamp with weak bulbs, you risk undercuring your nails, leaving them soft and prone to breakage. If you purchase a nail lamp with bulbs that are too strong, your nails can overcure, causing a brittle, chipped manicure. 

So, how do you choose? Let me walk you through everything you need to know about LED nail lamps, so you can ensure you’re getting the most for your money. 

What Wattage Should My LED Nail Lamp Be? 

36 watts is the best wattage for an LED nail lamp. 36 watts will provide enough power to cure most types of gel polish, while still being energy efficient. A 36 watt LED nail lamp will also help to prevent your gel polish from being overcured, which can cause it to become brittle and crack.

Depending on if you’re a salon owner, or if you’re a DIY nail artist at home, this number will vary slightly. The lower your wattage, the longer it will take for your nails to cure. LED lamps emit narrow UV wavelengths, so, in contrast, the higher the wattage, the faster your nails will cure. 

Most professional nail salons use LED lamps with between 32 to 36 watts. This is a safe number to hover around since it can cure them quickly without overdoing it. If you’re giving yourself a manicure from the comfort of your own home the wait may not bother you.

You can turn on your next binge-worthy Netflix show and relax. In this setting a lower wattage LED lamp would work just fine. However, in a salon setting where clients are consistently coming through the door, the quicker the nail can cure the better, thus a higher wattage LED lamp is recommended. 

What Should I Look For In An LED Nail Lamp?

Whether you own a salon, or you’re practicing your nail skills at home, an LED nail lamp is a necessity. Lamps can either be LED, or UV—depending on the type of bulbs inside, and what type of light they emit. So, first things first, ensure you’re purchasing an LED lamp.

Here are a few tips when deciding what type of LED nail lamp to purchase:

Consider What Kind Of Polish

When it comes to LED nail lamps, you want to make sure you’re using gel polish that can cure under an LED light. Where UV light lamps can cure any kind of polish, LED lamps can only cure specific types of gel. 

Decide If Timing Matters

As I said before, in a salon, those few extra minutes per client can make all the difference when it comes to getting them in and out the door. However, if you’re just at home and you aren’t rushed, timing isn’t as big of a deal.

LED nail lamps cure quicker than UV lamps, however, the exact time varies per machine. On average, an LED nail lamp will cure in around 30 seconds to 1 minute, whereas a UV nail lamp will take 2-3 minutes to fully cure. 

Take Space Into Consideration

While LED lamps are on average smaller and lighter than UV lamps, you’ll have to determine what size lamp you can fit comfortably in whatever space you’re in. If you’re a traveling beautician and you’re consistently visiting client’s homes, a lightweight LED lamp is your best option. 

A benefit of smaller LED nail lamps is, of course, the cost. However, many smaller lamps are only able to fit 4 fingers at a time, while the thumb will have to be cured separately. If you’re an impatient person, a larger LED lamp can fit both hands, or both feet at one time, for quicker results. 

Wattage

Just because you increase your wattage, doesn’t necessarily make your lamp any more efficient at curing your nails. Keep in mind, while the wattage goes up, so does the price. While most people only consider the risk of undercuring, there’s always the risk of overcuring as well. Make sure to stay between 24 to 36 watts for an ideal manicure.

Lifespan

When it comes to bulb life, LED lamps blow UV lamps out of the water. UV lamps typically only last 1,000 hours, while LED lamps last around 50,000 hours on average. 

Cost

While LED lamps are more expensive than UV lamps, they last much longer and are more durable, so you won’t have to replace them nearly as frequently. However, due to consumer demand for LED nail lamps, they’re becoming slightly more affordable. 

Motion Sensor

Many LED nail lamps come equipped with a motion sensor that makes a world of a difference! It’s not necessary, and simply for ease, but when you have wet nails, on the other hand, you want to prevent anything from smudging them, and thus, motion sensors come into play. 

Different Time Settings

Many LED nail lamps have timers of 30 seconds, 60 seconds, or 90 seconds. 

LCD Clock

Again, not a necessity, but nice to have. An LCD clock panel will countdown on your curing timer, allowing you to see how much time you have left. 

How Long Do LED Nail Lamps Last?

While it all depends on your usage, LED nail lamps are supposed to last anywhere from 30,000-50,000 hours. However, you won’t see a stark difference right away. Unlike UV lamps that simply die one day, an LED nail lamp will gradually decline over time. 

It’s important to stay aware of your usage, because this decrease in power can greatly influence the end result of your manicure. If you’re an at-home beautician, using your LED nail lamp 2-5 times a day will result in about a year of use. 

What Is The Difference Between UV Lamps And LED Lamps?

While UV nail lamps and LED nail lamps have many similar qualities, there are stark differences as well. Both UV and LED lamps emit wavelengths set to cure nail polish. However, UV lamps emit a more broad spectrum of UV wavelengths, whereas LED lamps are more narrow focused. 

Here are a few basic differences to be aware of:

UV Lamps Can Cure All Types Of Polish

This is one benefit of purchasing a UV lamp, its versatility. LED lamps cannot cure all types of polish, only gel. Whereas UV lamps have no boundaries. 

LED Lamps Are Faster

When it comes to curing time, LED nail lamps cure much quicker, with only half a minute to a minute of cure time needed. UV lamps can take anywhere from 2-3 minutes depending on how thick the gel polish is. 

LED Lamps Have A Longer Lifespan

The bulbs used in UV lamps are not nearly as equipped to last as long as LED bulbs and they die after around 1,000 hours. 

LED Lamps Cost More Than UV Lamps

This is due to their longer lifespan, and more efficient curing wavelengths.

UV Lamps Emit Harmful Rays

It’s a well known fact UV rays can cause serious health problems such as skin cancer. While using a UV lamp once or twice doesn’t pose a serious risk, using UV lamps for years can greatly increase your chances. When it comes down to it, although LED lamps are more expensive, there’s a reason for it. 

Is LED Or UV Better For Gel Nails?

This question is a bit of a grey area to answer. It all comes down to wavelength. An LED light emits light wavelengths of 365 nanometers, while a UV gel lamp emits around 350 nanometers. With these nanometers comes speed.

An LED light will cure your gel nails faster all while protecting you from harmful UV rays, utilizing a narrow spectrum of light, and is more durable than a UV light. While both lamps will ultimately get you your end result, unless you’re on a strict budget—an LED nail lamp is recommended by professionals. 

What Is The Best Wattage To Cure Gel Nails?

The minimum wattage you should ever use to cure gel nails is 24 watts. Wattage for gel nails can range from 24 to 36 watts depending on the type of gel nail polish being used and the specific curing requirements. If you are unsure of the wattage you should use, contact the gel manufacturer for clarification.

Most nail lamps are made up of multiple bulbs, in order to fully surround your hand. So, for example, if you purchase a 36 watt nail lamp, 4 bulbs at 9 watts each should do the trick. Never purchase a bulb over 10 watts, this can cause overcuring, resulting in brittle, breakable, chipped nails. 

On the other end of the spectrum, not purchasing bulbs that are strong enough can also result in breakage of your manicure, however in a different way. If your gel nail doesn’t cure completely through to the core, the middle is likely to remain soft and therefore prone to breakage. 

Can I Use Any LED Lamp With Gel Polish?

No, you cannot use any LED lamp to cure your gel polish. Some gel polishes have been formulated to be only used with UV nail lamps, while others require LED light. It’s important to make sure that the lamp you choose is compatible with your specific brand of gel polish.

Some gel polish brands like Gelish often recommend using their own specially developed lamp to ensure that you are using the correct wattage to avoid overcuring the polish. For example, the most commonly recommended LED lamp to cure Gelish products is the Gelish 18G LED Light.

Will My Gelish LED Light Cure CND Shellac Polish?

If you’ve never heard of CND Shellac before, don’t worry, I’ll explain. In 2010, Creative Nail Design, Inc. (CND) launched their new gel polish aimed at creating a safe, durable, and long lasting product allowing at home manicures to compete fairly with salon sets. 

CND Shellac gel polish has since improved their formula to last up to 14 days without breaking, or chipping. So, can you use your Gelish LED lamp to cure this high quality polish? No, you can’t. According to their website, all CND Shellac base coat, colors, and top coats, should only be cured under either a CND Shellac UV or LED Lamp. 

Can I Use Regular Nail Polish Over Gel?

If you’ve recently gone to the salon to get a fresh, clean, polished manicure done, only to come home and find a chip in your pinky finger, you’re not alone. Thankfully, you can apply regular nail polish over your gel nail set to avoid taking that lengthy trip back to the nail salon. 

If you simply want to experiment with colors and only have a combination of gel and regular polish on hand, you can do this too. The base coat of gel polish applied beforehand is simply there to protect your nail bed from staining, so don’t forget to apply this, even if you’re using a mixture of the two. 

Nothing bad will happen if you apply regular polish over or with gel. If anything, it allows you to change up the look of your manicure, or fix any imperfections, without having to dish out all that extra money to do so. 

How Do You Use Gel Polish With LED Lamps? 

When it comes to the application of gel polish, there are a few key steps to follow in order to get the results you want. 

File Down Your Nail Bed

This is critical if you have had your nails done recently, or still have leftover polish from before. Even if those two scenarios don’t apply, always, always file your nail bed down before applying gel polish. This allows your nail to become rougher, giving the gel polish (and nail tip) something to adhere to. 

Dehydrate Your Nails

Creating a clean surface for your polish to be applied on starts with wiping your nail bed clean of any oils or residue. Oils can mess with gel polish, or any type of nail product, so this step is crucial. 

Wash Your Hands

After you’ve filed your nail bed down, and dehydrated it, wash your hands to remove any excess flakes or powder caused by the previous steps. 

Apply Base Coat

Applying a base coat of gel polish creates a barrier between the colored gel, and your nail bed. Colored gel can easily stain, so this protects your nail bed from unwanted side effects. 

Cure Gel Under Lamp

Cure your base coat under an LED lamp, typically for 60 seconds to allow it to fully dry. 

Apply Color

Don’t worry about laying it on too thick, you can always go back and add another layer. 

Cure Color Under Lamp

Again, cure your gel nails under an LED lamp. Depending on the type of gel, and how thick your layer was, your curing time may vary. As a general rule of thumb, continue curing until it no longer feels wet. 

Add Another Coat (Optional)

If you feel as though your manicure requires another coat to even out any streaks, apply a second coat and cure under lamp. 

Apply Top Coat

This top coat is important to protect your nails from the outside world. In order for your manicure to last as long as possible, you want to add this top coat as a shield of armor. 

Cure Top Coat Under Lamp

As before, continue curing until you feel confident it is no longer wet. 

The Best Wattage For LED Nail Lamps: Final Thoughts

As far as nail products go, it’s shocking to even think some salons still use UV lights. LED lamps are safer, more durable, longer lasting, and quicker than UV lamps. If you’re thinking about creating an at home nail salon, remember that even though UV Lamps might save you a dollar or two now, they last significantly less time than LED lamps.

When on the market for an LED lamp, make sure your wattage stays between 24-36 watts to give you the best manicure possible. Keep in mind, the lower the wattage, the longer it will take to cure. Whereas, higher wattage will speed up the curing process.

If you have to cure your nails several times, don’t panic. Many factors such as gel type, thickness, and strength of your lamp come into play. Just continue curing until you feel they are dry to the touch. Now, get out there and make your hands beautiful!

By Emma Eliason

Emma Eliason is a beauty writer at Kintegra Research. She has a passion for makeup and both skin and haircare. She is also a mom to a little girl whom shares the same love for beauty as Emma does. Emma is regularly trying out new products and always looking for the best!