Ultraviolet Manicures: UV-Cured Gel, LED-Cured Gel, and Should We Worry?

by Janine on 29 June 2011 · 102 comments

When I wrote about the coming-soon OPI GelColor gel-polish hybrid which cures via light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, I was careful not to say UV is no longer a factor. That’s because LEDs come in UV versions too. And besides, gel manicures require ultraviolet light to set. And while I’m still waiting for clarification from OPI, after a chat with our favourite expert Leeanne Colley, I’m pretty sure OPI GelColor, a gel with a consistency and finish similar to CND Shellac (a hybrid of gel and polish), requires UV light to cure. (Update: Yes, it does.)

UV-cured manicures and pedicures absolutely can increase the uv exposure on your hands and feet. But you can render that exposure pretty much harmless by wearing sunscreen. And you can reduce the amount of time you need in a UV lamp by using an LED-sensitive UV gel or hybrid with an LED unit. Gel or hybrid formulas with LED-sensitive ingredients will cure faster in LED UV lamps than in standard, salon UV compact fluorescent-bulb boxes — 30 seconds vs two minutes. Plus, you can rest easy that standard UV lamps and LED units emit a fraction of the UV you get from sitting outside at lunch time without sunscreen.

UV lamp exposure vs sunlight

If a 2009 study that suggested UV nail lamps increase the risk of skin cancer on hands has you worried, this might make you feel better. A report by three industry experts claims those results are way flawed.

The rebuttal paper is actually a pretty easy read, but to sum up, an independent lab study funded by nail-industry experts revealed that UV nail-lamp bulbs filter out most of the UVB: 10 UV-lamp minutes every two weeks = 26 real-life UVB-exposure seconds. That’s why your hands won’t burn or tan at each salon visit.

The UV in UV lamps is pretty much all UVA, the “aging” UV rays. That makes this scary: 10 UV-lamp minutes every two weeks = about 37.8 real life UVA-exposure minutes. That’s more than half an hour of extra unprotected UVA exposure every two weeks; it boils down to 2.7 minutes of UVA exposure per day.

pshaw to the tanning-bed theory

Yes, you could use your calculator to figure out how much extra sun exposure that could mean from now to your last UV-cured mani ever. If the answer alarms you, take comfort in knowing you’re not getting anywhere near the same amount of damage you would if you were spending your mani or pedi time in a tanning bed, which blasts skin with much, much more UV (#giantmicrowave).

minimize your risk

So the short answer to “should we worry about UV-gel manicure exposure” is this:

Cut UV-lamp exposure time down by switching to a nail colour formula — Artistic Colour Gloss, Entity, Gelish, OPI GelColor — that cures faster in LED lamps. And apply broad-spectrum UV protection before your mani or pedi.

* * * * *

UPDATE JAN 2013: This study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in December 2012 — last month — sheds more light on the aforementioned report by three industry experts. There was a technical issue, but the conclusion was about the same:

“Although some sources of UVA and UVB contribute to the development of KCs [keratinocyte carcinomas], UV nail lamps do not appear to significantly increase the lifetime risk of KC. Dermatologists and primary-care physicians may reassure patients regarding the safety of these devices.”

UPDATE MARCH 2013: Here, another sensible voice in all the UV mani = cancer fear-mongering: Allure.com.

Do you get UV-cured manis? Do you worry about the UV-lamp exposure? Does shorter curing time make you want to try an LED-cured formula/LED UV lamp combo instead?

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{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

Louise Armstrong 29 June 2011 at 8:21 am

Perfect timing Janine! I got my first Shellac manicure two weeks ago and I love it. It still looks shiny and fresh and it’s mostly chip-free. But as my hands were “curing” under the UV lamp, I did worry that I was hurting myself for the sake of a chip-free manicure. I added “research potential health consequences of UV manicures” to my To Do list and imagine how pleased I was this morning to see that an expert I trust (that’s you) has done it for me.


Janine 3 July 2011 at 2:56 pm

Happy to help, Louise! :-)


Tracy@Beauty Reflections 29 June 2011 at 5:42 pm

I have a gel mani right now. My nails kept breaking and chipping and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I put on some sunscreen on my hands before I go to try and protect them. But honestly, I hardly spend any time in the sun so it doesn’t bother me.


Janine 3 July 2011 at 3:03 pm

I’m the same — sun-shunner! I do like the idea of reduced time in the lightbox, though.


Leeanne 29 June 2011 at 9:48 pm

Janine, this is a really well written post! I’m sure Mr.Schoon would agree.

I think the thing we all need to remember is we are all exposed to UV on a regular basis, we drive our cars (gloveless), we walk to the subway, and we sit under fluorescent lighting at work (yes its true). The risk of exposure during a manicure once a month using UV is very minimal compared to our daily lives.

Thanks for being such a *geek* and for calling me your expert :)


Janine 3 July 2011 at 4:10 pm

Hey, I needed to know about this stuff myself because I’m so hooked on Axxium! Thanks for all your help, Leeanne!


Marika 29 June 2011 at 10:11 pm

Ever since finding out that UV-light curing is potentially harmful, I’ve stopped using the machines. I used to use them multiple times, over and over again in one sitting – eeeek! Now I let my nails air dry – but that’s for regular polish. I’ve haven’t tried gel manis yet, but the reduced time of the LED method definitely has more appeal for me.


Janine 3 July 2011 at 4:18 pm

Well, they do need to be used after each coat of gel, certainly, so more than once per sitting. But the accumulated exposure isn’t all that much in comparison to our everyday experiences. Heck, changes we make in our daily risk habits would probably have more impact than giving up UV-gel manis.
Can’t say I don’t find the LED UV timing more appealing, though.


Dot & Lil 30 June 2011 at 10:30 am

There’s a really good perspective on this and how insignificant the exposure is in Perry Romanowski’s book “Can You Get Hooked On Lip Balm?”

Actually, the book in general is packed with truthful, useful info. Pretty rare, most books like that are packed with lieeeeeees.


Janine 3 July 2011 at 4:21 pm

It’s a great resource, that book — reviewed and recommended it here.


Vivian 30 June 2011 at 2:39 pm

Great article Janine! Always wondered what the effects were, if any at all. Thanks for the clarification ;)


Janine 3 July 2011 at 4:24 pm

Glad you found it helpful, Vivian! I’ve been wondering about this stuff for ages; glad I finally got the chance to investigate!


Kim 18 August 2011 at 11:14 am

I’ve gotten UV Manicures for years and I love having perfect nails for weeks afterwards. I was worried about UV exposure even though the jury seems to be out on the risk. I’ve started using [fingertip-less] UV protective gloves and I don’t worry about it anymore one way or the other.


Susan 1 September 2011 at 11:57 am

Ulta has come out with new gel polish and they are saying LED lamps. Is it the same as the UV lamp for OPI and CND polish?


Janine 1 September 2011 at 7:26 pm

Hi Susan,

If it has four nine-watt bulbs, then yes, it’s the same type of lamp used for OPI and CND soak off polish. Nailene is releasing an at-home soak-off gel-mani system including UV lightbox this Fall — is that the one Ulta is carrying?

UPDATE: Susan, I may have misunderstood your question. I believe you’re actually referring to OPI Gelcolor, which is LED-sensitive. That means Ulta will be using an LED-UV lamp to cure that forumula in 30 seconds per coat. But to cure CND Shellac, they still have to use a standard 36-watt fluorescent bulb lamp, which cures CND Shellac and OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel (two minutes per layer).


Kathy Peterson 22 September 2011 at 11:05 am

What Wattage should the LED light be for curing OPI and CND gel polishes?


Penny 5 November 2011 at 3:21 am

Hi do you know if axium gel will cure under led lamps, i would like a new lamp for my salon but would like one to suit all- is that a tall order? We use axium buff off, soak off and will get new gelcolor,although it doesnt launch in uk until early 2012.would appreciate any help


Janine 5 November 2011 at 1:01 pm

Hi Penny,

If you want one lamp that cures all, then a regular UV lamp will do it. A regular UV lamp will cure even LED-sensitive formulas — but they’ll take two minutes like everything else.

An LED UV lamp cures LED-sensitive gel in 30 seconds per coat. An LED UV lamp won’t cure Axxium, though, because Axxium’s formula is not LED sensitive.

Does that help?


JL 30 December 2011 at 10:37 am

Great post… I thought I was the only one wondering about this topic, as well as some of the questions people asked following the post. Thank you!


Elle 6 January 2012 at 5:38 pm

I don’t plan to wait 20 years to find out this type of light exposure on a regular basis has turned my 30 year old hands into 90 year old hands. Solution? I put on black leather gloves with the fingertips cut off before my manicurist applies the gel polish. Since the gel cures/dries right away, I just remove the gloves when she’s finished. And while the jury is still out on the light damage caused by this treatment (and will be until these products have been on the market for many years), every manicurist should be requiring her clients to use either gloves or sunscreen.


Leona 7 January 2012 at 2:49 pm

I found the comment on the uv verus led light very helpful.Knowing that uv lamp will cure all gel and shellac polish and led lamp will cure only led formulated polish has helped me to decide what lights to have in the new tables for the nail salon. thank you


Melinda 1 April 2012 at 8:17 am

If you were purchasing a lamp to cure both OPI Gelcolor and CND Shellac, which type of lamp would you purchase? I know, too, there are lamps that cure both types faster than the two minutes mentioned in most directions. Please help as I do not want to purchase the wrong lamp, and I would prefer to have a faster one as opposed to the two minute curing.


Janine 1 April 2012 at 8:57 am

Hi Melinda,

To clarify, only LED-sensitive soak-off gel formulas can cure faster in an LED UV lamp. If you put Shellac in an LED UV lamp, it won’t cure.

So I’m sorry to tell you, you’ll need both types of lamps.

But good news: an LED-sensitive lamp will cure more than just OPI Gelcolor in 30 seconds per coat. It will also cure Gelish, Entity and Artistic Colour Gloss in 30 seconds per coat. They’re all similar to Shellac when it comes to finish and quick soak-off time, but with many, many more amazing colours and faster curing time.


Sian 13 May 2012 at 6:03 am

Hi I am a student at the moment and I have a gel soak off product called GelLux it can be curied under LED or standard UV can you tell me what wattage the LED needs to be to Cure the polish as there are lamps from 3W+


Ursula 1 June 2012 at 4:26 am

USE GLOVES!! I’m a regular user of soak off gel polish like shellac, I too never thought anything of the occasional light UV exposure (same as ten minutes in the sun etc..). The backs of my hands always felt a little strange afterwards but I dismissed it. It was not until my husband pointed out that my hands were noticably tanning that I decided to act. Fingerless gloves are the way to go. Don’t dismiss UV exposure, no matter what ‘industry expert’ tells you they’re safe and harmless.


Janine 1 June 2012 at 8:51 pm

Hi Ursula — how long had you been going for UV manicures before your husband pointed out your hands were noticeably tanned? Seems unlikely they’d be tanned from the nail lamps; the bulbs filter out UVB, which is what makes the skin darken.

Is any of the skin revealed by the fingerless gloves darker than the rest of the skin on your hands?


Sarah 17 June 2012 at 9:44 pm

Hi I was given the Mally nail gel set from QVC. The light claims that is it LED, but I’m wondering if it does give off any UV light. I have been using gelish polish because I prefer the colors and it works great with that light!

Thank you!


Janine 17 June 2012 at 11:06 pm

Hi Sarah,

Yes, those LED bulbs emit UV light, just like the fluorescent UV bulbs in standard nail-salon light boxes. Their output is a specific, smaller range of ultra-violet rays that speak to a specific ingredient in gel nail colours such as Gelish, Entity, Artistic Colour Gloss and OPI Gelcolor. That ingredient + LED UV light is what cures the colour so quickly — 30 seconds per layer instead of two minutes per layer.

I’m going to check on a couple of things before I answer the question below. I don’t know about “small tunnels” created by Shellac — doesn’t sound feasible because it’s a thin product that coats the nail just like regular polish and gel products. But I’ll check.

Nails don’t exactly breathe, but they are a little porous. I’ve had back-to-back soak-off gel manicures for about two years now, and my nails and nail beds underneath are as healthy-looking as they ever were. I usually go three to four weeks between manicures; there’s a fair amount of bare-nail regrowth by that point.

The biggest plus about going without polish for a few days every month is to ensure that there isn’t a fungal issue, which can happen if something gets trapped under your polish or gel colour. (It’s never happened to me; I go to a salon of experts who are super-skilled at soak-off colour application.)


Sarah 17 June 2012 at 9:48 pm

I was also wondering if you have heard anything about the breathability of nails underneath the polish. Supposedly Shelac creates small tunnels that allow cuticle oil to get down to the natural nail. Any thoughts on this vs gelish? Should there be a period where you go without any nail polish to let your nails rest?


Janine 25 June 2012 at 8:33 am

Doubtful re: Shellac. It blankets the nail the same way nail polish and liquid soak-off gel blankets the nail — it fills any ridges to create a smooth finish.

What everyone seems to forget is that nails continue to grow. You see regrowth within a couple of days of application; at the end of two or three weeks, the new, bare regrowth is obvious. It’s not like the entire fingertip has been shrink-wrapped in some suffocating substance.

As well, nail health and cuticle health are linked. My expert, Leeanne Colley, has been doing soak-off manicures including Gelish, OPI Axxium, Entity and Shellac pretty much since they all came out. She says to dab cuticles regularly with cuticle oil. As the oil conditions the cuticle, it will also penetrate the nail to keep it flexible and healthy.

If you’re seeing a good technician, you don’t need to take a break for nails to “rest.”


Tiffanie 19 June 2012 at 11:58 am

Do you know if an LED or UV lamp is REQUIRED to cure OPI GelColor, or does it just help the polish to cure faster? Meaning, would I be able to purchase just the GelColor polish and give myself my own gel manicure at home without the use of an LED or UV lamp? can i just let them dry real good in between coats, or will it not work at all without a lamp? Thanks!


Janine 19 June 2012 at 12:25 pm

Hi Tiffanie,

Excellent question! An LED UV lamp will cure the OPI GelColor base coat in 10 seconds and colour in 30 seconds per layer. But you’re right in thinking direct-sunlight exposure will also cure the gel. Go ahead and try it — just be sure to apply the colour away from direct sunlight. According to my go-to pro Leeanne Colley, if you use the brush close to a bright window, the brush will harden very quickly.

Please report back; would love to know how it turns out!


Janine 30 June 2013 at 2:27 am

Update: Tiffanie, a chat with industry expert Doug Schoon has made me re-think my answer to you. If a product is designed to be cured in a UV or LED lamp, you should use the UV or LED lamp to ensure the gel is properly cured. If you rely on natural UV, you can’t guarantee the product is completely cured even if it looks like it is. Proper curing is essential to avoid skin reactions that can occur with prolonged exposure to uncured gel (it’s toxic until cured).


share 23 June 2012 at 10:29 am

Okay, so what watt led light do i need to buy to cure my opi gel from Sephora? Can i buy a regular screw in led bulb from a “home” store and hold my hand under the light bulb for 30 seconds?


Janine 25 June 2012 at 1:06 am

Hi share –
For best results, you’d need a proper LED UV lamp, not just a random LED from your local hardware store. You’ve got to make sure the gel cures properly; uncured gel is toxic and can result in skin reactions.


Jessica 16 July 2012 at 2:38 pm

Hi, I have a question I hope someone here can answer or lead me to an expert.

I purchased an UV lamp for curing gels and removed the blue plastic covering on the inside plate (right after I installed the bulbs). I am not sure if this was bad and if I have ruined the lamp. I Can not find an answer and have searched for hours in the net until I found your site. The box of the lamp does not list contact information or manufacturer info. Thank you in advance for the information.


Janine 18 July 2012 at 8:31 am

Hi Jessica,

You have NOT ruined the lamp — that blue plastic is just a protective film that needs to be removed before use. Kind of like the plastic that comes on new lampshades, new-car dashboards and new appliances :-)


Jessica 20 August 2012 at 8:25 pm

Thank you, I could not find the answer to that question anywhere in the net!


Jaimee 12 August 2012 at 11:17 am

I read an article that did extensive studies on LED vs UV. They tested Shellac in the LED light and OPI gelcolor in a UV light. There was no difference in the results. What do you think of this? I just purchased the Sephora by OPI gelcolor LED light and now I’m worried that I can’t use Shellac in it.


Janine 12 August 2012 at 5:16 pm

Hi Jaimee,

I might need to see that article. That there was no difference in the results makes no sense to me. Either the soak-off formula contains LED UV-sensitive ingredients (“photoinitiators” that respond to specific light wavelengths in an LED UV lamp) or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, it won’t cure properly in an LED UV lamp at the recommended exposure — and you may not be able to tell just by looking whether or not it’s properly cured.

Why is proper curing important? Because curing makes the formula safer for wear. Improperly cured gel can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions that can be fairly severe (swollen, painful fingers, anyone?).

If it’s being sold with an LED UV lamp, Sephora by OPI Gelcolor contains LED UV-sensitive ingredients. Shellac does not. Also, Shellac is a professional product. It’s safer to let professionals use it as directed with the recommended lamp. Otherwise you could be taking your health into your own hands. Literally.


Kim Green 30 November 2012 at 11:24 pm

Hi Janine,

I have a question that I can’t find an answer to, and I stumbled onto your site – amazing by the way!

I’ve used shellac and Gelic polish for a few months now and love it, as no other polish stays on my nails for more than about 12 hours, no matter what it claims. The last few times I’ve done my nail I’ve been getting an allergic reaction on the skin around my nails – itchy, red, bumpy skin, which lasts about a week. The reactions have been getting worse each time, and now are becoming unbearable.

I researched to see if it was the rubbing alcohol, so tried vodka instead, which worked a treat on the nails, but the reaction still occurred. I was wondering if I’ve grown intolerant to the lamp? Or the nail polishes themselves? Help!

Thanks, Kim


Janine 1 December 2012 at 7:43 am

Hi Kim,

Thanks re: site… and ouch — that doesn’t sound like fun. Your poor fingers! What lamps are the technicians using to cure your manicure? A CND lamp for Shellac and a Gelish lamp for Gelish? If you’re having your nails cured under a different lamp — or a faulty lamp — could be the product isn’t curing properly, even if it looks as though it is.

Improperly cured gel or hybrid polish is toxic, and can result in allergic reactions that sound a lot like what you’re dealing with.

The lamp itself shouldn’t provoke that kind of skin reaction. The UV exposure is far less potent than sitting in the sun for 10 minutes.

I suspect you’ve become really sensitive to the polish. I’m still taking a guess, though, based on everything I’ve read and the experts I’ve spoken with. You might like to visit the Facebook page for Doug Schoon, a well-known expert and educator in the industry. He’s open to questions and may have more information. Good luck.


REGINA 5 December 2012 at 6:44 pm

I started using OPI gel with led light,I have bubbling in the polish after we complete all the steps, This is bad,then peeling starts.any suggestions?


Janine 23 January 2013 at 1:41 pm

Hi Regina,

I’m sorry, I missed your question. Did you find an answer? I’m assuming you’re using OPI Gelcolor with an OPI Gelcolor lamp. If yes, could be the application needs adjusting — practice. Thin coats.


Grace Chen 22 January 2013 at 3:21 am


So my question is, what is the appropriate strength or wattage of the LED UV to cure the LED appropriate gel polish? I am looking to get the starter set of Orly SmartGel in Australia which comes with a LED lamp, and curring time is something like 30 secs per coat. However I have heard that Gelish is a wonderful product and would like to use the Orly SmartGel lamp to cure Gelish. WOuld that work?



Janine 23 January 2013 at 1:38 pm

Nail guru Doug Schoon insists that each lamp is designed to work with the specific formula with which it is associated. However, some nail experts think that isn’t always true. Gelish, for instance, is manufactured by the same people who manufacture Artistic Colour Gloss (both pro lines), so you might be fine using Gelish with an Artistic Colour Gloss lamp. But there are no guarantees, and definitely no guarantees re: an Orly lamp with Gelish.

Schoon worries that a non-affiliated lamp may not cure the gel properly (even though it might LOOK properly cured), which could lead to skin reactions.


Dee Shore 25 January 2013 at 11:27 am

I used to get the UV gel finishes when I used to get permanent French Manicure done on my nails. This was in fact years & years prior to the UV gel manicure craze. I always wondered about the lighting. I always felt my face had a slight tan after I was done and my hands would feel dry. I can’t say I haven’t tried any of the at home UV Gel kits but I know my sister has and this is wonderful info to have. Beauty & Geeks? I think I found my nirvana lol


Janine 25 January 2013 at 11:40 am

Hah ha! Welcome :-)

Happily, UV lamps for nails filter out the UVB — those are the rays that cause immediately visible damage… aka tan. So even with gel-manicure appointments every two or three weeks, the skin on your hands won’t get any darker than the rest of you.


Jessica 1 February 2013 at 1:40 am

Hi I have been doing my own nails now for about 12 month. Range of polishes and led uv lamps. I have quite sensitive skin and I must say I have never yet had a reaction or any problems. I do find that the polish usually only lasts about a week when I work (I work as a nurse) however this in brilliant compared to the few hours I can get at most from a normal polish. :) have to say for those in doubt it is DEFINITELY work a try. :)


Mel 3 February 2013 at 6:10 am

I recently purchased a Bluesky Shellac 3W LED lamp and gel polish. However i was disappointed by the product as the polish peeled and chipped after a week and was difficult to remove. I want to make sure I purchase good quality gel polish. What gel polish could i use with this lamp ?IBD ?CND shellac. I don’t want to waste money and be disappointed again


Janine 25 March 2013 at 10:18 pm

Hi Mel,

Giving advice on what gel works with what LED lamp is very tricky — to be safe I can only recommend you use the gel that was designed to work with the lamp. When you play mix and match with lamps and gel brands, you run a risk of the lamp not setting another brand’s gel properly, which can lead to skin reactions.

Of course it’s up to you if you want to test a variety of gel brands with your lamp. :-)


jasna 6 February 2013 at 6:08 am

I purchased a Nail led lamp advanced technology 12 watt and Opi gelcolour. I want to make sure that I can use that gel colour with this lamp


Janine 25 March 2013 at 10:25 pm

Hi Jasna,

OPI GelColor is LED sensitive, so an LED lamp should work. But I can’t give you a more concrete answer than that; the whole issue of mixing UV lamps and gel brands is tricky. You might want to check with Doug Schoon, an industry expert. You can reach him via his Facebook page.


Fil 23 March 2013 at 11:32 pm

I just bought a Nailene UV lamp. Does anyone know if it is a good one and wich brands of gel polishes are good to be used with it. thanks.


Davina 28 March 2013 at 3:52 pm

Hi There, what a great page with lots of good advice. I have recently purchased CNC Shellac system, OPI GelColor polishes and another gel polish brand, with each set I use their own base and top coats. I have both a UV lamp and a LED UV lamp. I bought the latter as the reduced curing time and UV exposure appealed, however I do not seem to be getting good results when I use the LED lamp, the polish wipes away with the final alcohol step. I have tried curing at 30′s, 60′s and 90′s with the same result from each different time frame. Can you offer any advice? Thank you.


Victoria 19 July 2013 at 1:01 pm

Which UV lamp do you recommend for OPI Gelcolor?


renee 13 June 2013 at 1:22 am

I have had gel mani for years while using uv lights with no problems. My last mani, my manicurist used her new OPI led lamp which i was happy because i thought it was safer to use instead of the uv.
Two days later, i developed a terrible burn on the top part of all my fingers, top and underneath. The burn is exactly where they put the foil on my fingers with the acetone soaked cotton to loosen up the gel. Could maybe the acetone have soaked into my fingers, while using the led lamps (with 400 nm of uv light) and cause this burn with blisters? My dermatologist is perplexed by this since it wasnt strickly a uv lamp.
Im concerned now to be in the sun and get the same reaction. HelP


Janine 13 June 2013 at 8:26 pm

Hi Renee,

LED lamps ARE UV lamps; they just emit a specific range of lightwaves to which certain ingredients in LED-sensitive polish respond.

Did the salon use 100% pure acetone?

It seems unlikely that the UV caused the burn. Nail lamps rely on UVA rays, which don’t burn. UVB rays, which are responsible for burns, are almost completely filtered out in nail lamps. Plus, a delayed reaction of two days is puzzling.

You might like to ask Doug Schoon (he’s the top expert when it comes to gel manicures and the technology) via his Facebook page whether he’s ever come across a case like yours. He might have some input.


Sharon 9 July 2013 at 8:51 pm

I am looking to purchase an LED light to do my own gel nails at home. I am confused about the different watts offered on various models. Does a higher wattage give a better cure?


YouLookHotToday 10 July 2013 at 9:27 am

No. Different lamps with different wattage go with different polishes which have different ingredients which cure best at a specific wattage.

A line of polish created to cure in a 6-watt lamp may or may not cure properly in a different (higher or lower) wattage lamp. The length of time you leave it in the lamp will not matter. It’s the stuff that’s in the polish that matters when it comes to curing – it’s sensitive.. If you’re buying for home use, buy a kit. That way, you know your polish and lamp will give you a solid cure and will get you the 14-21 days of wear that gel polish is supposed to get you.

Some polishes do not cure in some lamps – just because it’s an LED and you have soak-off gel, that doesn’t mean your results will be good. Mostly, it’s trial and error to see what works in your lamp and what doesn’t.

Good luck and please use a steady hand – don’t get that stuff on your skin or cuticles. Always follow directions for application and removal.


Victoria 19 July 2013 at 12:55 pm

I’ve been searching on the internet for days trying to find out which UV or LED lamp to buy to use with my OPI GelColor Kit. I’m trying not to spend the $400 on the OPI LED Lamp (though tempted) and hoping to find an alternative for under $100. If anyone has any info or tips please let me know! Thanks!


Bethany 19 July 2013 at 5:01 pm

Hi Janine,

I wonder if you can help me please? I am new to doing my own nails at home with the kits. I recently bought the Haute Polish system from QVC. How do I find out what the Watt is on my LED lamp? It is not the pro light but it is powered by the mains. Their colours are great but not great for availability in the UK! So I have ordered some colours from Red Carpet Manicure (also LED polish) to give them a go and see if they work in my light, but I need to work out how long to cure them for. My LED lamp cures in 60 seconds.

I hope to hear from you soon.




YouLookHotToday 21 July 2013 at 7:48 am


When you mix and match your polish and lamp brand, you WILL run the risk of improper cure. The only people who know if a lamp works with certain polishes and how long the cure will be is the people who have bought that lamp and tried it with that polish.

Try it. Maybe do a thumb. Run it for the full 60 seconds on each coat of base, colour, colour, and top. Remove the goop residue and see if it’s a solid cure. That’s really the only way to see if your lamp works with your product. Just be sure to use thin coats – no lamps like gloopy, thick coats.

If it works and you don’t get wrinkling or lifting, go ahead and to the rest of your digits.

Be aware that an improper application yields an equally terrible result as an improper cure does, so do all the steps – remove cuticle growth that goes up the nail, buff nails, clean nails, dry nails, base – cap free edge, colour – cap free edge, colour – cap free edge, and top – cap free edge. Keep it off your cuticles, use a steady hand, and take your time.

If your lamp brand and colour brand actually end up working together, perhaps you can revisit BeautyGeeks and give an update so those with your same question can learn from your experience.

Good luck and happy gel-polishing!


Bethany 22 July 2013 at 1:42 am

Thank you very much for your informative response :) I have been looking at a lot of youtube videos and on one video someone has a Haute polish lamp and she tried her Red Carpet in it but she noted that it was dull, but she didnt use a top coat for the Seal and Shine! On another video someone had the Rwd Carpet and a LED lamp but it wasn’t a brand one. So fingers crossed it will work and I will et you know :) xx


Janine 22 July 2013 at 3:52 am

Well said, You Look Hot Today! Thank you!!


YouLookHotToday 22 July 2013 at 9:28 am

No top coat? I’m flabbergasted! That’s what makes the gel last for 2 weeks. That’s the layer that protects the hour of work you just did. That’s the layer that’s acetone-proof. That’s the golden layer. Who doesn’t use the top coat? Wow, colour me amazed.

I use an RCM pro lamp (the black one). I’ve used it with RCM, Quo by Orly Gels, FingerPaints Gel, and Gelish. It works perfectly with all of them. I use the RCM prep, base, and top with all those colour polishes sandwiched in between. I have also used Gelish pH bond, base and top with other brands of colour – that works too. I get a solid 10 days of wear before I’m forced to remove it because of growth. I never remove for chips. If I get a chip, it’s teeny and I just file it down to even it out. Yes, that breaks the seal at the free edge but that’s no big deal – you can re-do a single finger in less than 5 minutes if it starts to lift after that.

BUT, not all colours are created equal. Some formulas of some brands lift faster than others – sometimes it’s not the lamp/polish combination it’s just a crummy polish formula. Then, when you get to the removal, you’ll notice vast differences in the time it takes to remove one brand or one colour over another. Don’t fret – just take the extra time and soak for longer. Don’t get frustrated and don’t scrape away at your nails to get the stuff off. Some stuff just separates from the nail after the soak and other brands need a little gentle assistance. Patience is key. Time is key. From the time I sit down to to a full removal and nail/cuticle prep (approximately 1 hour) then replacement (approximately 1 hour), it’s two solid hours. That’s right – TWO HOURS. Every time.

Get comfy before you start and follow ALL the instructions – if you do it right, you’ll be there for a while.



Bethany 22 July 2013 at 1:24 pm

Thanks very much YLHT. Yes she didn’t do the top coat but I think thats because she got confused as Haute Polish is a one step system! You just need the colour, no base or top coat. X


Bethany 23 July 2013 at 3:19 pm

Hi again. Got my Red Carpet today and just had to try it straight away and it worked…so pleased! X


YouLookHotToday 23 July 2013 at 4:56 pm

Yay! I really love the RCM line. In my estimation, it’s pretty much on par with Gelish.

RCM does have a Facebook page so you can share your photos there for all the other RC fans to enjoy.

Thanks for the info re: lamp/polish combo – I’m sure others will find it useful.

Happy polishing!


Melissa 28 August 2013 at 9:18 am

I purchased the Sensationail kit from Nailene and used their products for about a year. I’ve experimented with a few other gel polishes, Gelish, and found I really like how it removed so much easier than the Sensationail. So, I took a step further this past month and purchased some of Sally’s gel polishes. And I also just purchased the CND Shellac top coat.

Two days ago, I used my Sensational base coat (30 seconds), Sally gel colour (60 seconds), Sally gel colour (60 seconds), and followed with Shellac (180 seconds). The cure seemed a little sticky after I used the alcohol to smooth the surfaces, but the sticky feeling went away and my nails are going great.

I don’t think I need to do the 180 seconds for Shellac. Next time maybe I’ll just do 60 seconds. I thought the LED light wouldn’t have enough power to cure the Shellac, but I’m hopeful it will. I certainly don’t want to buy a new lamp.


Janine 28 August 2013 at 10:03 am

Hi Melissa,

Shellac is not an LED-sensitive formula. It requires a specific amount of controlled UV exposure at a specific wavelength to cure thoroughly — incidental UV is unreliable.

Improperly cured gel is toxic, and can cause painful inflammation, skin irritation, or worse.

But of course whether you’d rather risk your skin or your wallet is your decision.


Melissa 28 August 2013 at 11:25 am

It wasn’t my wallet making the decision but the part of me that hates to be wasteful. Of course protecting my nails is a priority.

What is a good lamp to use if I want to start using the Shellac as a topper?


K Falcon 28 August 2013 at 12:11 pm

I think this is a case where someone has not quite understood that CND Shellac IS NOT the same as every other soak-off gel product.

CND Shellac has become the umbrella title for all things soak-off gel when in fact, this is an ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT assumption. CND Shellac is a polish/gel hybrid that requires a different cure from other, non-hybrid products.

Gelish Harmony, Artistic Colour Gloss, and Red Carpet Manicure are all non-hybrid pure soak-off gel products that require a cure that is different from the CND cure. CND product does NOT cure properly in an LED lamp BUT, conversely, you CAN cure all other soak-offs in a CND lamp but the exposure time must be longer. It absolutely MUST be longer in order to cure the right particles for the right length of time. There are (at this time) no exceptions – all soak-off gel polish that is not CND Shellac has to be cured for longer in a UV lamp.

Yes, you can use your CND lamp with those other brands but it requires a longer cure – the ingredients in the different gel polishes cure at different times, AND at different wavelengths so mixing and matching in not particularly recommended unless you know exactly what you’re doing.

Melissa, my suggestion to you if you love the Gelish products is to roll with a Gelish topcoat. If you use the CND Shellac topcoat, you’re in actuality taking a pure soak-off gel product and slapping on a 1/2 polish, 1/2 gel top coat. That can only destroy the integrity of the gel polish underneath and will more than likely result in an improper cure where you end up with either tacky nails, wrinkles, or short wear.

The Sally Hansen products that are on market right now are also hybrids (so is the Sensationail – that’s why it’s so much different to remove than the Gelish). You’ve probably noticed that neither of those products last as long as a 100% pure application of Gelish/ACG from base coat to top coat.

Sally Beauty Supply does carry a full line of Gelish Harmony Hand & Nail product – you can pick up a top coat the next time you go. You can also use the RCM top coat which is currently available only at PharmaPlus stores – it’s only about $13 as compared to the $18 or $20 for the Gelish.

I hope that helps!

ps. I’m a Gelish lover too – it really is the best and when properly applied and properly cured, it lasts me well over 10 days and right up to 21 before I can’t stand the regrowth and have to re-up.


Nicole 11 January 2014 at 2:22 pm

I’m out of the US and saw CND UV/LED base and top coats. It certainly looks legit, but I wasn’t aware that CND offered a product that could cure in both lamps. I’m wondering if this product is a very good fake. Is anyone aware of the CND UV/LED base and top coats?


Karen Mani-Geek 13 January 2014 at 1:17 am

Hiya Nicole!
I would suggest maybe asking this question on the CND Facebook page or possibly via Twitter. I wish I had that kind of information – it might open up a whole new world of colour for my DIY gel lamp…

Good luck & lemme know what they say!



Jane Bradley 4 April 2014 at 2:22 pm

Hi Janine,

Quick question. My girlfriend and I need a makeover as we, like so many women, are in a rut and do the same makeup routine every day. We are in our mid-fifties. Where do you recommend we go? We feel that MAC is too young for us (and often bolder) and they aren’t sensitive to older faces. Last time I was there they were pushing (em masse) fake eyelashes and the makeup was done to the artists taste, and not what worked on my face. With that said, what do you think?


Janine 4 April 2014 at 6:38 pm

I have answers for you, Jane — I’ll put them in a post because I don’t think you’re alone in your wariness of department-store makeup appointments. That post will be up in the next few days. Great question; thanks for asking it!


Eyleen 23 June 2014 at 8:21 pm

Hi, I am in school for nail technology and will be getting a CND UV lamp when I take their advanced course in October but in the meantime I want something else I can use while I’m waiting for that class. I was going to try a LED lamp since I’ll have a UV one later on but wasnt sure what wattage I need to look for. Also, I have notice LED/UV combo lamps and wasn’t sure if that’s a better idea. The individual wattage seems to be less on each but added together there is typically a total of 36watts. Can you give any advice on this? I feel like I should get a straight LED lamp since I’ll have a UV one later but then I wonder if it’s better to ge a combo lamp then I can use it on whatever polish I have but then I’m not sure if the wattage on the indivual rays would be strong enough…. HELP!


Janine 23 June 2014 at 8:40 pm

Hi Eyleen,

Okay here we go: an LED lamp IS a UV lamp; it emits UV via Light Emitting Diodes. A non-LED UV lamp emits UV via fluorescent bulbs.

LED UV lamps work on LED-sensitive formulas such as Entity, Gelish and Artistic Colour Gloss, which are, in our opinion, the best soak-off gel colour formulas on the market. Your best bet if you want to buy an LED lamp is to get one through one of those brands. That way you know you’ve got exactly the right lamp, without making your brain explode trying to sort through details you don’t need to worry about :-)

You could also visit Doug Schoon’s Facebook page — he’s the ULTIMATE in knowledge for this kind of technology.


Melissa K 17 July 2014 at 11:18 am

I purchased a second hand CND lamp and the owner before me did not remove the blue plastic now I am have trouble getting it off I guess cause has been used with it on is the any tricks that I can use to get it off or is it ok to leave it on, thank you, Melissa, from Tennessee


Karen Mani-Geek 17 July 2014 at 10:40 pm

Uh, you might want to ask CND – I’m sure they have a support link somewhere on their website. Good luck!


Alexis 5 August 2014 at 9:37 pm

For those who are concerned about the UV exposure with lamps, CND has a line called Vinylux and it cures in natural light. I do my own nails and the Vinylux topcoat is absolutely amazing! About 5 days into my manicure, I’ll add another coat of it to my nails and I am good to go for another week. I have a friend who gets Shellac manicures and comparing our nails together, there isn’t any difference in the finish or on how long our manicures last. It is definitely something to check out. I know that the original post is old but hopefully some of you ladies will see this and give it a try.


Kate 7 August 2014 at 11:48 pm

I don’t know why/where the shellac doesn’t cure in an LED-UV lamp came from…. Other than from the website directly…. Which is most likely a marketing ploy to get people to buy the shellac lamp.

I have done hundreds, if not thousands, of shellac manicures in an LED ONLY lamp….. Does anyone have halfway cured “toxic” nails, as you claim? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!! THEY CURE EXACTLY THE SAME!!!!!

The ONLY difference between shellac and other gels is the curing time, shellac will take about 3 minutes in the LED only light, and other polishes take up to 60 seconds max (most 30 seconds).

So I am sorry to say, that despite all the “rumors” about shellac, they are simply not true. There is no need for people to run out and grab a new light just for shellac, just adjust the curing time.


Janine 8 August 2014 at 7:29 am

Hi Kate,

Thanks for your comment, but the world’s leading expert on this technology disgrees with you. Scientist Doug Schoon has this to say on his FB site: ” LED nail lamps will harden any UV curing nail coating. I know of no exceptions. They won’t PROPERLY cure just any UV nail coating. UV curing nail coatings not specifically designed for the higher UV output of an LED-style nail can cause over-curing. As I’ve been telling people for several years now, you must use the correct nail lamps if you want proper curing.”

I can’t find the exact date he said this — a nail expert I know sent me a screen-cap I can’t seem to attach here. But please do ask Doug about this directly on his FB page to see what he says. He may be able to clarify further.



Janine 8 August 2014 at 2:42 pm

Hi again, Kate! Just found the link to the LED discussion Doug Schoon is having on his Facebook page. The bit I quoted earlier is somewhere in the comments, I think. It’s such an interesting read.

He says this at the end: “UV curing is FAR MORE complex than most seem to appreciate. Therefore, my next Education Update will focus on the “Complexity of UV Curing”. Hopefully, when nail techs realize how many different factors are involved to ensure proper cure, they will realize why it is so important to only use the nail lamp recommended by the manufacturer of the UV gel. And yes, that means if you have three different systems, you will need three different nail lamps. That’s how it works and if anyone tells you differently, they don’t understand all the facts.”

All his comments in this thread are fascinating; I’m going to have to spend time going through them myself.




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