UV Nail Dryer Lights: Which Is Best For Gel And CND Shellac Polish?
If you’ve ever tried a gel or Shellac manicure, you’ve likely been converted. Going to the spa for one of these long-lasting, hard-wearing manicures is a great treat, but you can also give yourself the same treat at home, which is much more affordable over the long run. Using the correct UV lamp nail dryer is essential to getting a salon quality result, but it can be confusing to choose the best one.
In this article I’ll review four of the best UV nail lights for Gel & CND Shellac polish and help you figure out which is right for you.
UV & LED Lamps, What’s The Difference?
A UV lamp uses fluorescent bulbs that must be periodically replaced. With an LED lamp, the bulb lasts for years - but when it quits, you must replace the entire unit. Both use UVA light to cure the polish, but with LED the exposure is much lower. UV lamps take longer than LED to cure the polish, but they will work for any gel-based polish system - unlike LED, which will work for most but not all.
Gel & Shellac: Should it be UV or LED Lights?
All gel-based polish systems can be cured with UV light, and many - but not all - can be cured with LED light as well. To decide which one you need, pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions on your polish. UV dryers differ from LED's in terms of the intensity of the light’s wavelength. Some brands, like CND Shellac, will not cure properly using an LED light. If you aren’t sure which products you’ll end up using, buy a UV dryer lamp, since it will cure all gel-based nail polish.
1. Best Dryer For Shellac Nail Polish: SUNUV SUN3
If you’re using CND Shellac nail polishes, they will cure with any quality UV dryer lamp - but your best bet is to invest in the one specifically designed to cure them.
CND used to have their own line of professional dryers but they don't manufacture any now - they're completely out of the nail drying business. Thankfully, there are a couple of manufacturers who have taken up the reins to create the very best UV nail dryer for Shellac nails and SUNUV is one of them.
The SUNUV SUN3 is a top salon-quality nail dryer featuring 48 watts of power and an interior fan for faster curing. This lamp is designed specifically to cure Shellac polish; it takes the guesswork out of a home manicure by offering four preset timers, a programmable timer memory, and a smart-sensor that automatically turns the unit on when you put your toes or nails into it and turns off the moment you remove them.
With 48watts of power, it uses no less than 36 individual bulbs and allows you to select either a low heat mode for curing builders and hard gels or a double-power mode to cure your nails in less than half the time of regular dryers.
The lamp is designed to cure one hand at a time, but can accommodate all five nails at once. It will also work for pedicures, and gets consistently great reviews. Yes, it’s a little more expensive than others; but it is still a money-saving option over repeated spa visits, and if you’re committed to using CND Shellac, you’re guaranteed a salon quality result when using a lamp from one of the designers who have taken over from them.
2. Thermal Spa UV Gel Nail Dryer: Enough Light To Cure Both Hands At Once:
The Thermal Spa 49135 is a great UV dryer for gel or Shellac nail polish. It is large enough to accommodate two hands or two feet at once, which is a great time-saver. If you are painting your own nails at home, you will likely be painting one hand at a time anyway, but you will be able to cure both feet at the same time, and it’s a handy feature when working on a friend’s nails. The Thermal Spa uses a very strong 45 watts and offers two timer settings - for two and three minutes - or it can be set to ‘on’ and you control the timing as you like.
If you want the room and light to be able to dry both hands or feet at once, the Thermal Spa UV Gel Nail Polish Dryer is the one!
3. Best LED: Uspicy 48w Nail Polish Dryer
The Uspicy 48w is a nice in-between: neither too big nor too small, neither too pricey nor too cheap - and mostly importantly, it works to cure your nails. It will fit one hand or foot at a time, and offers 3 timed settings - 30, 60, and 99 seconds - as well as auto-sensor operation without having to press any buttons.
As a nice bonus, this very powerful 30 lamp, 48 watt LED dryer comes with a removable, elongated base and foot pad as well as an "open-toe' design to allow good air flow across your nails as they dry.
Overall, the Uspicy will not disappoint and will properly cure your gel and Shellac polish.
4. NailStar 36W Nail UV Lamp: Best Valued Gel & Shellac Dryer
This UV gel nail dryer lamp by NailStar is likely the best value for your dollar you’ll find. At 36 watts, it holds its own next to the more expensive models. It is on the smaller side, which makes it easier to stash in the cupboard between uses. It will accommodate five fingers at a time, and it offers two preset timing options, one for two minutes and one for three minutes.
The NailStar UV gel nail polish dryer is the most basic style on the market and does not have a fan, but overall it does what it is supposed to do - and at a very affordable price.
A Beautiful Nail Poll
The Right Lamp for Your Needs, Choose and Enjoy
I hope this has been helpful in explaining the basics about UV light nail dryers. Whichever you choose, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the perfect gel or Shellac manicure at home - and the UV lamp will pay for itself in no time at all. I’d love to hear your thoughts on nail dryers... have you used one at home? Do you recognize any of these from your visits to the salon? Please share in the comments section below!
Sarah (author) from Canada on September 26, 2017:
Marcia - I hope you get this reply! Which lights have you tried - the model and brand?
I think my best advice, since I'm not right there with you, would be just to read the instructions very carefully on your polish and follow the drying/curing time exactly. If you have a good quality light, it should cure.
If you can let me know which lights you've tried, I'll try to help!
marcia on September 26, 2017:
I have purchased & returned 3 nail uv.led lights. I am usind CND & OPI products. None of them have dried/red my polish. In the salon it takes a minute, at home 7 or 8 minutes does not do it. What am I dong ng. What is the right combination of polish & light
Sarah (author) from Canada on October 14, 2015:
Elizabeth - also, if you click on my profile, there is another article I wrote about LED nail dryers, which would be very helpful for you to read as well. I do specific reviews of different dryers in that article. Hope that helps!
Sarah (author) from Canada on October 14, 2015:
Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for your comment.
The difference between Shellac and gel polish is simply that Shellac is a specific brand of gel nail polish, and 'gel polish' refers to gel nail polish as a general type. So Shellac is actually a gel polish, but clever branding has made it stand out from the crowd (in a similar way that people associate Kleenex with tissue, though there are many other makers of tissue and they are all basically the same thing - does that make sense?).
As for dryers, the Shellac manufacturer (CND) advises that their polish will only cure properly using the CND-made UV dryer. It's certainly true that their dryer is on the higher end and made with good quality. However, anecdotal evidence (aka, user reviews) asserts that using any UV dryer will cure Shellac, as it is a gel polish; so using a generic dryer like the Thermal Spa listed above will still cure the polish. But CND will not guarantee the results.
Personally I think the choice of dryer depends on your desired outcome. If you're doing nails in a salon using CND Shellac polish, I think it's best to invest in the CND dryer. But if you're using gel polish at home, you're probably ok to purchase a lower end (but still good quality) like the Thermal Spa.
Elizabeth on October 10, 2015:
What is the main diference between shellac and gel polish and which is the best lamp for each?