Gel Nail Lamps: UV vs LED | How to know which one to buy?

Curing units, is there a universal one that cures all gels? Should you buy one for every brand you own? 

The answer to those questions and more are coming up in today’s Episode #4 of our current Japanese Gel Fundamentals Series.

Lets begin.

Greetings and welcome back, if you are new here I am Paola and I help current and aspiring gel nail stylists become thriving entrepreneurs by mastering all of their gel nail services using soft gel only. If this sounds like a niche you’d like to learn more about, then do consider subscribing.

So this topic of curing units is slightly controversial. The experts say Yes, you need to use the lamp that is sold by the brand of products you use. The nail tech on the other hand is like well I use a number of brands, and the DIYER says I use a ton of different brands and I also don’t want to spend over $50 on one…

So what do you do? Yes, you!

Here’s what I do, and what I recommend those who contact me to do also.

Let me go on this tangent a little bit before our curing unit talk. It’s super beneficial.

First and foremost… please, please, please narrow the amount of brands you use. YOU HAVE TO. This will not only save you money but also headaches trying to troubleshoot what went wrong in your application with all the different variables of mixing brands.

And if you’re a licensed nail tech, you’re supposed to keep Safety Data Sheets for all of the products you use. Can you imagine the work putting all of those togethers and then imagine the thick binder of SDS you’ll have to collect? 

And here is the thing… I think it is absolutely wonderful to be selective. When you are, you’re also sending a message to brand manufacturers that they need to earn your business. You’re saying… Hey, I don’t buy into it all so easy. How is your product different? Why should I buy it?

My recommendation?

Use no more than 3 brands! (For some this may really be the easiest thing to do as they only have a brand or 2 their interested in, and for others it may be a tough decision. (Kind of like choosing a nail color, lol)…

OK, and out of those 3 brands choose the 1 whose clear gels you will be using regularly. 

For instance, say you chose Leafgel as your main brand for clear gels, then you can use color gels from any one of 3 similar brands. Since I stick to soft potted gel, then my colors can come from Leafgel, Kokoist, or Vetro.

If you’re not sure which brand of clear gel to start with… literally just pick one,use it for 1 or 3 months. If you’re a busy or fully booked nail tech you can figure out which one worked best for you in a month’s time. But if you’re DIY or just filling up your books then feel-out your clear gel of choice for about 3 months and decide if you want to test out a different brand.

What you don’t want to do is try a brand once and say, it sucked, I didn’t like it. Always give things a fair shot before moving on, It’s life right?

Now I just want to lightly touch on something in regards to DIY, keep gels and other products off of your skin at all times. Allergies are ever so prevalent because of constant contact or overexposure of products on the skin. If you need a little help with application check out the details to my DIY course and see if it is a good fit for you. I’ll link you down in the description box below.

Now once you’ve narrowed down the amount of product lines to one, two, or maybe three, it is time to choose your curing unit. The way you will choose your curing unit after doing your homework of narrowing down brands, is not by price or even looks.

I would hope it is within your price range and that it looks gorgeous indeed, but the decision on what unit to buy ultimately should come down to the number one product line you use the most, with your plan B being the second brand you use the most. This way you take out the guesswork of being your own electrician trying to figure out the wattage, power input and output, or wavelength range you should look out for.

And then, say you do your part and buy the unit you’re supposed to… well you can confidently contact the manufacturer for their support if something seems to not be curing properly. Now if you mixed another brand in your application, do a test cure of each gel separately to make sure it is indeed their product that seems to not to be curing. You’ll just take a little dollop of gel and ensure that even the underside has cured.

Now let’s just say that for whatever reason you’re like… Paola, that way of buying my unit doesn’t work out for me. Either you don’t like the unit your main brand uses, you’ve already had a bad experience with it, whatever the case may be . Then here are 3 things you should consider before buying a unit. At Least these are the 3 guidelines I would use right now to buy one if I was going outside of my main brands.

#1 Power

Now this topic of power I’m going to leave to the pros to dissect because it definitely is more technical then just Oh, use a 36 watt instead of a 9 watt curing unit. So I’ll put a couple links down in the description box for you to learn further on this topic.

I think, in general,  most of us understand that we will not be curing nails in the salon with a little hand held lamp, but rather the full size, full power unit. With that being said yes the minimum average power wattage you need is 36 watt when buying a unit. But as I understand it, the quality of parts plays a significant part into that power variable. For example, the quality of the AC adapter, the circuit board, and wires among other parts.

And if you think about it, this is the case for all of our electronics, whether you know it or not, you can only imagine that our television, our microwave, our cars etc all have competitors that source their parts from different places. The same is true with your curing unit.

#2 Wavelength 

Nowadays lamps are created or designed to be UVLED. What does that mean you may be wondering? It means that it will cure your gel whether it has UV spectrum photoinitiator only, which is in the vicinity of 365-380 nanometers, or photoinitiator that emits deep violet or violet spectrum light and that is higher than 380 up to 420 nanometer. Some gels only have UV spectrum curing photo-initiator, others only have deep violet spectrum curing photo-initiator (BTW if deep violet spectrum light sounds foreign is because we’ve mislabeled these gels for years by simply calling them LED gels. At least for Japanese gels by the way, 405 nm is the photoinitiator used so as to stop calling gels LED, I’ll be using Deep Violet or DV in the rest of this video.).

Now in today’s day and age there are gels that have both UV and DV. While generally the correct thing to say is that there is not ONE curing unit that will cure all gels. Having a dual wave unit, so one that cures both photoinitiators UV AND DV, will cure most of the gels in the market so long as it is a quality unit. Again you have to assume that the power is there via the quality parts of the unit. And so now do you maybe see why a $50 unit online vs a manufacturers choice at $200 have such a price discrepancy. It could be that one took the time, money and energy to source out high quality parts including by the way the type of LED bulbs in your lamp to ensure you’re getting a consistent and powerful cure for the next 203 years. 

Simply put, I recommend buying from pro brands, especially if you are already a licensed pro or planning on becoming one. Remember your quality unit should come from the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd brand you’ve chosen to work with.

I work with Leafgel, Kokoist, and Vetro and so I have 2 units, the Kokoist one and the Leafgel one.

And just know, on a little side note, that a gel is not cured completely just because it has hardened.    

The #3 factor I would use to make a curing unit purchase is number & position of bulbs.

This is literally a visual inspection of where the bulbs are at. Is there enough at the front and  back of the lamp, is there one by the thumbs. Is there a lot of bulbs period. Because LED bulbs are position specific, you literally can test that your bulbs are at a prime location where your fingernails will sit simply by putting your hand inside and ensuring there is a bulb right over the nails.

So after narrowing down my brands those are my 3 buying factors power, wavelength range, and amount and position of bulbs.

After these 3 factors I would then look at esthetics of the lamp if they are important to me, and my budget of course. Sometimes you buy a unit and it feels cheap, it doesn’t feel durable, it’s not acetone resistant, etc. etc…

On another little side note before rapping up. Now that we’ve cleared up what we really mean when we are saying LED gels let me briefly talk about bulbs just so we’re fully cleared up on UV, DV, LED or CFL.

So, LED refers to the bulb emitting the LIGHT, not the type of light that is being emitted. If you’ve been around the industry for a little while you may be familiar with long lamp bulbs, these types of long bulbs are actually called CFL and in our curing units way back when they emitted UV spectrum light. An LED bulb in our modern dual wave units emits both UV & DV light.

Also in general, I’ve said this for years, and just based on my research there is some validity to it. If you have indeed bought a quality unit, either because you trust the manufacturer or you paid “good money” for it. When using it on products that are not the same brand, fully cure each layer for 60 secs. 

And unlike when the LED units first came out and we were being told that they will last about 5 years. Manufacturers have now learned that for whatever reason, lamps, the whole unit in other words, should be switched out every 2-3 years. So if you’re a fully booked tech go for that 2 year mark.

Well… while I’d like to say that choosing a lamp is super easy, I think you definitely need to use a few or all of the factors covered in this video to make the best decision on a curing unit.

Sometimes you may be able to find a replica of your manufacturer’s unit, say on Amazon, but just because the shell of the machine is the same, it does not mean the hardware inside are quality or even the same. Just like the parts in your vehicle, in your refrigerator, and other electronics vary in quality, so do the ones in your unit.

If you’re interested in either the Kokoist or Leafgel units that I use, I have made separate video reviews on each, I’ll also pop those links in the description box below for you along with other videos directly from the pros on this topic of lamps and also any current active product promo codes.

I hope this Episode 04 of our Japanese Gel Nail Series helped you tremendously and if it did do me a big favor and give this video a thumbs up.

Find me here again next week for Episode 5 of this series all about nail prep products needed with JG. That’s Monday @ 4pm EST, mark your calendar, hit the bell notification below, or join our email club to get a notification as soon as it goes LIVE.

Thank you for watching, and bye for now.

2 thoughts on “Gel Nail Lamps: UV vs LED | How to know which one to buy?”

  1. Excellent detail oriented educational information! I hope to become a licensed nail tech in Florida. Most classes are focused on acrylic and my asthma HATES the stuff. I hope to specialize in gels. Any suggestions for Central Florida based classes? I would happily get certified in Japanese gel.

    1. No suggestions on JG classes in that area of Florida from the top of my head! You may want to go to the Leafgel USA site and see what educators are near that area.

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