LED and UV lamps: what's the difference?

3 min to read

Led and UV lamps used for manicures have the same function: react with polishes to instantly dry and adhere the color to the nail. So what is the difference between the two? we are here to explain!

Manicures : What is UV light used for ?

If you have ever done a long lasting manicure using gels or acrylics then you have already seen UV lamps being used to cure and dry polishes. These lamps emit UV light that allows the gels, glues and polishes to catalyze, which means under the lamp the molecules in the polish formulas form a plastic film (called a polymer) which is very long-lasting, flexible and durable.

Today, there are many different types of drying lamps with different power levels, settings and functions that are more or less adapted to the different types of gels or polishes used.

So what is the difference between UV and LED?

Language Confusion

Let’s start with some definitions.

The term “LED” refers to a device made up of light-emitting diodes capable of emitting light. A LED lamp is therefore a lamp with several light-emitting diodes.

The term UV refers to a type of light emission in the ultraviolet range, invisible to the human eye with a wavelength between 100nm and 400nm. This means that thinking of “UV lamps” and “LED lamps” as two opposing things is not true. It is possible to have a lamp equipped with LED lights that emit UV rays.

Incandescence VS Electroluminescence

Artificial light radiation produced from electrical energy can be produced according to two principles: Incandescence and Electroluminescence.

Several types of UV-emitting lamps can therefore be used to dry gel, and their differences lie in the way that they work.

Incandescent lamps, classically known as “UV lamps”, use fluorescent tubes. They generally consume more energy, generate more heat and may require longer exposure times to dry the gel.

LED lamps are electroluminescent and co-called “cool” lamps. They generally consume less energy and give off less heat and generally require shorter exposure times.

What about Wavelengths?

The other parameter that differentiates drying lamps is the wavelength range which they emit light.

UV is generally emitted between 100 and 400nm, but not all gels catalyze at the same wavelength. Some gels polymerize around 350nm, while others, like Green Flash LED polish for example, will need a higher wavelength for optimal polymerization.

Manucurist lamps therefore between 370 and 400nm

Power and Exposure Time

Other notable differences between the various lamp types concern their power and exposure times that are required to dry gels properly. Depending on the composition, some gels require higher lamp wattages and longer exposure times to dry properly.

Are UV Rays Bad?

We have known for a long time that exposure to the sun’s rays presents risks, especially due to the UV rays that it emits. Frequent and prolonged exposure to UV, particularly UVA, can lead to sunburn, premature aging, allergies and in extreme causes, skin cancer. That is why we recommend applying sunscreen before exposure.

UV and LED lamps used for manicures also emit UVA rays, although they are different from the sun’s rays in the fact that they are emitted locally and for short amounts of time during a manicure session. The amount of exposure depends on the duration/rate of exposure and the power of the lamp.

In a recent press release the French Academy of Medicine makes a number of recommendations concerning UVA emitted by lamps used to dry gel nail polish and advises, pending further investigations, the implementation of precautionary principles in cases of very frequent exposure, and the application of sunscreen before the manicure session.

Rest assured, firstly because if you follow these recommendations and respect drying times, you can of course continue to use LED lamps safely for manicures.

Secondly, because at manucurist, lamp wattages do not exceed 36 watts and exposure times vary between 5 minutes ( for our 36 watt lamp) and 9 minutes (for our 24 watt lamp) per session, which is well below the doses and wattages used in laboratory experiments reported in the studies cited by the French Academy of Medicine. Lamp exposure rates are therefore very low in this contect.

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