Four timer settings. Long-lasting LED bulbs. Large enough to fit your entire hand.
Some customers have complained that it gets hot when longer curing times are used.
Four time settings with automatic shut-off. Long-lasting LED bulbs. Great value for the price.
Small size makes it difficult to do all five fingers at once.
Fits one hand or foot at a time. Smart hand sensor and over-temperature protection. Cures gel, UV polish, acrylic gel, and builder gel, as well as top and base coats. Efficient UV bulb reduces drying time. Bulb lasts up to five years.
Wiring on some units seems to break quickly. Some wish the cord was longer.
Gel nails cure in as little as 30 seconds. Reasonably priced. LED lights last a long time. Can use right out of the box.
Must do thumb separately in order to get it to dry evenly.
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When you’ve just finished a perfect manicure, there’s nothing more frustrating than having your nail polish chip or peel within a day or two. Gel manicures are the ideal solution — gel polish is as quick and easy to apply as traditional nail polish, but the finish is extremely durable so you can go chip-free for up to two weeks. The only caveat is that you need a high-quality nail dryer to cure the polish effectively.
Having an at-home nail dryer means you can do gel manicures and pedicures yourself, which can save you money and time. Gel polish provides a high-shine finish that traditional nail polishes usually don’t.
Curing a gel manicure with a nail dryer is easier than at-home gel manicures that require multiple steps, too, so you can finish your manicure in a matter of minutes.
LED vs. UV
Gel nail polish requires either LED or UV light to cure based on the photo-initiators it contains. LED nail dryers can only cure LED polishes, but most UV nail dryers can cure any type of gel polish, including LED formulas. If you only use polish that requires LED curing, either type of dryer would work. If you use UV gel polishes or switch back and forth between the two types of gel polish, opt for a UV nail dryer.
The bulbs in LED nail dryers tend to last longer than those in UV dryers. An LED bulb can last for approximately 50,000 hours, whereas a UV bulb typically lasts for approximately 100 hours. While this difference might sound significant, you likely need only five to seven minutes of drying time to cure gel polish, so you’d actually get plenty of use out of either type.
Some newer nails dryers feature smart LED UV technology. This technology uses double light-emitting bulbs or beads and provides light that can handle a greater range of the UV spectrum. As a result, you can use the dryer on any type of gel nail polish, regardless of its formula.
Keep in mind that there are some health concerns with nail dryers that use UV light because the light is actually stronger than UV rays from the sun, which are known to cause signs of premature aging and increase your chances of skin cancer.
To make the manicure process as easy as possible, it helps to choose a nail dryer that can dry or cure your polish as quickly as possible. The wattage of a dryer lamp determines how fast it can dry your polish, so it’s a key feature to consider when shopping.
The higher the wattage, the faster you’ll be able to cure your gel polish. Most dryers are 12 watts are higher. For a UV dryer, avoid any models with less than 20 watts. For an LED dryer, opt for a model with at least 12 watts.
Most nail dryers are designed to accommodate one hand at a time. However, some dryers are smaller than others, so you may only be able to fit four fingers inside at a time. This increases drying time because you’ll need to dry your thumb separately.
Not all nail dryers are large enough to work for pedicures, either, so if you plan to use your dryer on your feet, make sure it can accommodate them first.
Some nail dryers have an auto sensor feature, which means you never have to worry about turning the dryer on or off. Once you place your hand under the dryer, it automatically turns on. When you remove your hand, it turns off.
Some nail dryers only have an auto-off feature, which turns the dryer off once you remove your hand. To turn the dryer on, you usually have to press a single button on the top of the dryer.
The cure time for gel nail polish determines how long it will take for you to complete a manicure. The time varies depending on the nail dryer that you use. In general, LED nail dryers require less time to cure polish than UV nail dryers. The reason: UV bulbs use a broad spectrum of light.
An LED dryer can usually cure a single layer of gel polish in approximately 30 seconds, whereas a UV dryer typically requires 90 seconds per layer. For most manicures, that means a total of two minutes per hand with an LED nail dryer and five minutes per hand with a UV nail dryer. Smart LED UV nail dryers usually have curing times that fall somewhere between these two time frames.
Keep in mind that curing time can also differ based on the brand of polish that you’re using, so one UV gel polish may take longer to cure in a dryer than another.
Nail dryers usually have preset timer settings to make drying your polish easier. Some models have as few as four settings, such as 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 60 seconds, and 90 seconds. Others have up to six settings, such as 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 60 seconds, and 90 seconds.
The more timer settings a nail dryer offers, the easier it will be to find the ideal curing time for your polish.
Nail dryers vary in price based on bulb type, wattage, and size. You’ll find them from anywhere between $10 and $120.
The most affordable nail dryers are usually models with LED bulbs of 12 to 24 watts that can fit four fingers at a time. These dryers tend to cost between $10 and $20 and work best for individuals who use LED gel polishes and do a couple of manicures a month.
For a UV nail dryer with 12 to 24 watts that can accommodate an entire hand at a time, you’ll likely pay between $15 and $30. These nail dryers work well if you like to use both UV and LED gel polishes and tend to do a fresh manicure every week.
For a smart LED UV nail dryer that offers up to 36 watts and can accommodate an entire hand, expect to pay between $27 and $58. If you prefer a smart LED UV model with more than 38 watts, the cost could be $58 to $85. If you want a model that can cure both hands at once, you may pay up to $120.
No matter what type of nail dryer you opt for, it’s best to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen to your hands (or feet) before curing your polish. UV, LED, and combination models emit UV rays that could damage and potentially harm the skin despite the short exposure times.
Prep your nails before applying gel polish. Remove oil and other residue from the surface of your nails to help the polish adhere better.
When using gel polish, begin with a gel base coat. Cure it under your nail dryer for approximately 30 seconds or according to the bottle’s instructions.
Two coats of gel polish usually provide the best coverage and highest shine. Make sure to cure each coat in your dryer before moving on to the next.
Follow up your polish with a gel topcoat. Allow it to cure for approximately 30 seconds or according to the bottle’s instructions.
Remove any gel polish from your cuticles and skin before you cure it in your nail dryer. The polish is extremely difficult to remove once it has dried.
Q. Are UV nail dryers safe to use?
A. Both UV and LED nail dryers emit UV light similar to the rays emitted by the sun. While the light from a nail dryer won’t burn your skin, it could still damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. To protect yourself, consider wearing a pair of fingerless gloves in a dark color and/or applying sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection of at least SPF 30 before using a nail dryer. Avoid curing your nails any longer than necessary, and limit your use of the dryer to once a week at most.
Q. Can I dry traditional nail polish in a UV or LED nail dryer?
A. Traditional nail polishes only require air drying to harden effectively. Drying your manicure under an LED or UV lamp won’t dry them any faster, so you’re risking exposure to UV rays for no reason.
Q. Will I get the same results with a gel manicure at home that I would at the salon?
A. The gel polishes marketed for home use and accompanying nail dryers are extremely similar to those used in salons. An at-home dryer is usually just smaller and features a lower wattage. While nail technicians at a salon may be more skilled at applying gel polish, you can get similar results at home with patience and practice.