Best Nail Polish Curing Lamps

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

39 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
440 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best nail polish curing lamps

Last Updated September 2020

Have you taken up at-home manicures in lieu of visiting the nail salon? If so, you’re probably using regular polish and simply letting your nails air-dry. Believe it or not, if you invest in the right tools, you can give yourself a salon-quality gel polish manicure, and your first purchase should be in a nail polish curing lamp.

Unlike regular nail polish, gel polish is made with a polymer formula. For this reason, most types of gel nail polish require curing to dry, set, and harden. This can only be done with a nail polish curing lamp that has an LED or UV light that activates the polish to begin the process. It takes up to a couple minutes per coat to harden the gel.

To help you transition from regular nail polish to gel polish, we’re sharing this buying guide on nail polish curing lamps. Keep reading to find the best one for your first gel polish home manicure, and take a look at our favorites, too.

Research the proper application process for a gel polish manicure. This can save you a lot of trial and error as you improve your at-home manicure skills, not to mention that it cuts down on wasted product.

Key considerations

Regular polish vs. gel polish

The top reason people make the switch from regular polish to gel polish is to extend the life of their manicure.

Regular polish: Even a salon manicure using the best regular polish can chip within three to five days. It also takes significantly longer to dry than gel polish. Even fast-drying polish, such as those that dry in a couple minutes or less, aren’t fully hardened for several hours, often resulting in dents.

Gel polish: Gel polish dries and hardens in a couple minutes per coat, and your manicure can last for two weeks or more without chips or peeling.

But as great as gel manicures are, they come with a few pitfalls. For one, the gel polish can damage nails and nail beds, and some people are allergic to certain gel formulas. There’s also the risk of skin damage and premature aging from using a UV curing lamp. And removing gel polish can be quite a chore because it requires the use of a special remover.

Overall investment

Regular polish vs. gel polish: Regular polish costs from as little as $1 per bottle to as much as $12. Gel polish, on the other hand, can cost as much as $20 per bottle. Many consumers invest in multi-bottle gel collections, which can drop the price down to $5 to $10 per bottle.

Salon manicure vs. at-home manicure: A gel manicure at a salon costs between $30 and $60. At-home gel manicures come with a modest investment of a couple hundred dollars for the curing lamp, manicure tools, and gel polish. With that said, your only future expense after that is the gel polish, and one bottle can last through 4 to 20 applications depending on the size.

LED vs. UV

The top reason people make the switch from regular polish to gel polish is to extend the life of their manicure.

Regular polish: Even a salon manicure using the best regular polish can chip within three to five days. It also takes significantly longer to dry than gel polish. Even fast-drying polish, such as those that dry in a couple minutes or less, aren’t fully hardened for several hours, often resulting in dents.

Gel polish: Gel polish dries and hardens in a couple minutes per coat, and your manicure can last for two weeks or more without chips or peeling.

But as great as gel manicures are, they come with a few pitfalls. For one, the gel polish can damage nails and nail beds, and some people are allergic to certain gel formulas. There’s also the risk of skin damage and premature aging from using a UV curing lamp. And removing gel polish can be quite a chore because it requires the use of a special remover.

Overall investment

Regular polish vs. gel polish: Regular polish costs from as little as $1 per bottle to as much as $12. Gel polish, on the other hand, can cost as much as $20 per bottle. Many consumers invest in multi-bottle gel collections, which can drop the price down to $5 to $10 per bottle.

Salon manicure vs. at-home manicure: A gel manicure at a salon costs between $30 and $60. At-home gel manicures come with a modest investment of a couple hundred dollars for the curing lamp, manicure tools, and gel polish. With that said, your only future expense after that is the gel polish, and one bottle can last through 4 to 20 applications depending on the size.

LED vs. UV

There are two types of nail polish curing lamps: those with LED lights and those with UV lights. There are also some hybrid models, often referred to as dual lightsource lamps, which use a combination of UV and LED light to cure the gel.

One thing to keep in mind is that many nail salons are phasing out their use of UV nail polish curing lamps. Some manicurists and beauty industry experts feel it’s only a matter of time until everyone — nail salons and consumers alike — transition to exclusively using LED curing lamps. Even so, UV and dual lightsource curing lamps remain on the market for the time being.

LED lamps: These curing lamps can dry nails within 30 seconds to a couple minutes per coat. These lamps are built better and last significantly longer than UV lamps, with some offering up to 10,000 hours of functionality.

On the downside, with their advanced features and functions, LED curing lamps typically cost a couple hundred dollars, which is a steep price if you’re only planning to do an occasional manicure.

UV lamps: These curing lamps are significantly cheaper than LED lamps and are often recommended for budget-conscious beginners. They’re also much easier to find online and in stores.

Unfortunately, it can take as long as 10 minutes for each coat of polish to dry using a UV curing lamp. Not only is it time-consuming, it also means your skin and nails are directly exposed to UV light for a prolonged period of time. Also, not every UV lamp clearly indicates when the bulbs are burning out. If you don’t replace the bulbs in a timely manner, it results in poor curing and a dull finish.

EXPERT TIP

If your nail polish curing lamp doesn’t come with a box, invest in a protective case to keep dirt and dust at bay when it’s not in use.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Timer settings

Nail polish curing lamps are equipped with a timer, and you can select how long the light remains on for curing the gel. Entry-level curing lamps only offer a couple settings, while salon-quality curing lamps can offer as many as six. More often than not, the timers in LED lamps have 30- and 60-second increments. Timers in UV lamps have 30-second- to 5-minute increments.

Wattage

The wattage of nail polish curing lamps ranges from 12 watts to 72 watts. The higher the wattage, the brighter the light, which means the faster the gel polish will cure. Middle-of-the-road lamps have between 40 watts and 56 watts, so investing in one of these models will give you the most bang for your buck.

Opening

You’ll find nail polish curing lamps in countless shapes and designs, and one feature to be mindful of is the opening size. Some curing lamps have small, narrow openings with enough room for one hand or foot at a time. Other curing lamps have a much wider opening to accommodate both hands or feet at the same time.

EXPERT TIP

Carefully read the product information for your nail polish curing lamp, because it’s not always clear whether the lamps are entirely LED or UV/LED.


Staff  | BestReviews

Accessories

Gel polish: Modelones Gel Nail Polish Set
Invest in a collection of gel polish like this one from Modelones featuring 16 shades in mini bottles. The palette includes gray, pink, red, and more. You’ll also receive full-size bottles of base coat and top coat with the set.

Manicure tools: Tweezerman Nail Rescue Kit
It’s easy to give yourself a quality gel manicure when your nails and cuticles are trimmed and shaped. This travel set by Tweezerman includes a file, clipper, cuticle pusher, and cuticle trimmer.

Gel polish remover: Pronto Professional Gel Polish Remover
To remove gel polish, you need to invest in a salon-grade acetone formula like this one. It’s effective at removing gel as well as glitter polish, nail glue, and even artificial nails.

EXPERT TIP

Always set up your nail polish curing lamp on a clean, flat surface, such as a kitchen table or desk.


Staff  | BestReviews

Nail polish curing lamp prices

Nail polish curing lamps cost between $30 and $600. You certainly get the quality you pay for with these devices. If you plan on making a full transition from salon to at-home gel manicures, it’s worth spending a bit more on a curing lamp.

Inexpensive: Budget-friendly lamps cost $30 to $100. These lamps are usually UV or UV/LED, and, unfortunately, you won’t find any strictly LED lamps at this price point.

Mid-range: These lamps cost $100 to $200. This bracket includes models featuring far better construction, reliability, and advanced timer settings.

Expensive: To find LED-only nail polish curing lamps, be prepared to spend $250 to $600. These models are often used in salons and offer accelerated curing times. These curing lamps are designed for heavy use and so are the most durable by far.

Tips

  • Compare warranties. Nail polish curing lamps come with a warranty, which ranges from 30 days to 36 months. Be sure to keep all your purchase information, including your receipt, somewhere safe in the event you need to open a claim with the manufacturer.
  • Shape and file your nails. For a salon-quality gel manicure, dedicate time to shaping and filing your nails. Not only does this give nails a professional appearance, it also smooths over cracks and ridges that could result in an uneven coat and premature chipping.
  • Don’t rush your manicure. Gel polish can be difficult to remove once it’s on. Never rush your manicure, because taking your time improves accuracy and precision when applying the polish.
If more than one person in your household uses the nail polish curing lamp, it’s important to clean it prior to each use. At the very least, all areas of contact with hands should be wiped down with alcohol.

FAQ

Q. Will a curing lamp dry and harden a manicure using regular nail polish?
A.
No, they only work on gel, shellac, and gel-based polish that requires curing. Regular nail polish must air-dry.
 

Q. How do I clean or sanitize a nail polish curing lamp?
A.
Because each design is different, it’s recommended that you defer to the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the cleaning process. Certain curing lamps can be taken apart for cleaning, while with others you’ll need to maneuver around openings and crevices to wipe them down.
 

Q. What type of power source does a nail polish curing lamp use?
A.
Most have an AC adapter, so you’ll need to be within reach of an outlet. There are some travel curing lamps available that are powered by USB or batteries.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn Llewellyn
    Bronwyn Llewellyn
    Editor
  • Ciera Pasturel
    Ciera Pasturel
    Digital Content Producer
  • Kristin Yarbrough
    Kristin Yarbrough
    Writer
  • Melinda Snowden
    Melinda Snowden
    Web Producer
  • Sian Babish
    Sian Babish
    Writer

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