At home gel manicures with your own LED or UV nail lamp are more affordable than you’d think. In order for gel polish to set into its rock-hard, impervious state, it has to cure under UV or LED light.

When comparing these lamps, it can be a barrage of meaningless letters and numbers like 16 beads and 10W might not give you a good sense of how good a lamp is (spoiler, that one wouldn’t be great). I’m going to break it all down so you understand how each type of lamp works, and which is the best fit for your home or salon.

This is about as professional as you can get. It’s sleek, from a trusted brand, and above all, it’s fast. Like curing some coats in five seconds fast. It’s only 34 watts, but as it’s strictly LED, those watts pack more punch.

There is plenty of room for one hand and with the light placement you won’t have to worry about your thumbs. It has three preset timers and an LED screen, both on the back of the unit which is good for a salon setting.

It beeps when a cycle is done in case you have your back turned or a client isn’t paying attention. The padded hand rest is a perfect spot to apply your polish and the lamp is acetone resistant to hold up to a salon environment. And for all that, it’s not a huge unit and wont take up your whole table.

The Deep Dream uses double light source bulbs so it works with all gel and shellac polishes. It’s large enough that you can easily fit your hand inside and the angling of the bulbs means you won’t have to contort your thumb for even curing.

It has 24 dual-light bulbs with a wattage of 48 which is good. Anything less than 24 watts isn’t going to give you a fast cure. These bulbs have a lifespan of 50,000 hours, so if I run this thing 24 hours a day, the bulbs would burn out five years from now.

The bottom plate slips off for cleaning and for easy pedicure use. The Deep Dream has four simple buttons and a large LED screen that shows the time you have left. Once you have chosen your time, a sensor detects when your hand is under the lights and starts your cycle.

If you don’t pick a time, it will run for it’s longest which is a 99 second cycle that starts with low heat and slowly increases in intensity.

It has salon-quality power in a design that’s simple enough for beginners to use and space for two hands at once.

I have had the first version of this lamp, the Sun 5, on this list before but now that they’ve come out with this redesign, I had to switch it out for the Sun 5 Pro. The new design is wider and deeper so you can easily fit both hands or both feet inside.

They’ve also cranked up the power to 72W. This boost in power means that curing times are faster than its predecessor. It has preset timer settings for standard cure times and the motion sensor turns the light on when your hand is inside the lamp and off when you remove your hand. The magnetic bottom plate comes off for cleaning and for pedicures. 

There’s a low heat mode for people sensitive to the burn of long cure times so you can reduce the power for products that need a long cure.

The Anself Pro is a professional model built to last. It comes with its own carrying handle which seems odd until you realize it weighs five pounds. So it’s not one you’d want to travel around with. The Anself Pro is that heavy because it’s made of a zinc alloy instead of the normal plastic. 

The metal absorbs heat, which means all that heat generated by the lights is drawn away from your client’s hand and away from the LED bulbs, extending their lifespan. It doesn’t have a bottom plate to need to fiddle with and digital readout faces the rear of the unit.

The motion sensor isn’t as quick as some of the others but with its power and durability it might be worth waiting the extra second or two.

If you don’t have a lot of time to spare and need a good nail lamp for home use, check out the Star2 by Abox.

The Star2 has cranked up the power to 72W so it will cure gel faster than the lower wattage lamps on this list. It has presents for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 60 seconds, and a 99-second low heat mode where the wattage starts out low and gently increases. 

It’s extremely easy to use and has all the perks you expect from a quality lamp including automatic sensors to turn the light on when you insert your hand, magnetic removable base for cleaning and pedicures, and easy to select presets. It has a handle for carrying around and is incredibly lightweight.

I got to try out a media sample of this lamp (with no promise that I’d write a review at all) and I’m really loving it. It’s fast, easy to use, and doesn’t get too hot on me. The lamp a nice medium size and I can fit my whole hand in to cure my thumb at the same time as the rest of my hand.

You can fit both your hands in at the same time in this UV nail lamp. Or both your feet. I’m not sure I need to say anything else, but I will.

It’s a UV only lamp which means it will cure all gels and shellacs but the curing times are longer than LED. The shortest preset on this is two minutes.

UV bulbs tend to run a little warmer than LED, but this one has an internal fan to keep everything a comfortable temperature. The fan also makes drying regular nail polish faster but the UV light doesn’t help with that.

And being UV, the bulbs have a shorter lifespan of about 1000 hours so at some point they’ll need replacing, but the bottom panel comes off for easy access.

The NailStar Professional LED Nail Dryer is a great small model for in home use. It’s the most gentle of the list at 12 watts so the curing times are closer to traditional UV nail lamps.

It’s one of the longest lasing on the list with 60,000 hour lifespan bulbs–that’s almost seven years of continuous light. It doesn’t use a sensor and relies on preset timers. There’s a neat 30 minute setting if you hate pressing buttons with tacky nails.

Just leave it on and stick your hands in when needed. Because of the lower power you might want to do your thumbs separately in this one. It is also worth noting the bottom piece isn’t removable on this model.

This is a fun way to put a smile on your face while you’re doing your nails. This adorable design from Pretty Diva looks like a smiley face with its mouth wide open for you to stick your fingers in to cure. The inside of the lamp is even painted pink to complete the look.

For a silly-looking lamp, it packs a punch with 54W of LED bulbs which makes for quick curing times. There are three preset timer options and the lamp is motion activated so it turns on when you stick your hand inside and off when you remove it.

It’s slightly smaller than most lamps so plan on doing your thumbs separately. That does make it a nice size to fit in your bag on the go. 

At 48 watts it’s powerful enough to deliver quick curing times and since the bulbs are UV/LED dual light, it works on all gel and shellac polish. Its 33 bulbs are positioned all over the dome so your whole hand and thumb have great coverage.

The bottom panel comes off for easy cleaning and pedicures. It comes with three interchangeable silicone hand rest pads (pink, purple, and white) that fit on top of the lamp and make a convenient place to apply your layers.

If you need a sleek travel dryer, this one fits the bill. It’s small, light, and simple. It’s USB powered so you can either plug it into the included wall adapter like any other nail lamp, or you can plug it into your computer or portable cell phone charger.

That’s about as travel-friendly as it gets. With UV/LED combo bulbs, this lamps works with all gels, but at 24 watts, expect the drying times on this one to be longer than on nail lamps that can’t fit in your purse.

With the simple arch design, it’s great for pedicures, but because the bulbs don’t go that far down the side, you’ll probably want to do your thumbs separately. The lights go on automatically when you put your hand under the arch, and it has two preset timers.

If you’re tight for space (like if your nail polish collection has slowly taken over your home) being able to easily store your nail supplies is at the top of your list. Bulky nail lamps take up space, but this lamp from MiroPure is as compact as a nail lamp can get.

It has a very different shape than most lamps being very thin and rectangular with two wide stands on either side. The legs fold down and the USB cord comes off and now you’ve got LED nail lamp that takes up about as much space as a tablet.

You are going to sacrifice some power here since the lamp is open enough to let some of that LED light from its 18 bulbs escape. It has a built-in timer of 30 seconds and 60 seconds, so that gives you an idea of what your curing times will look like. This is also great if you need a portable lamp since you can easily throw it in your bag.

These lamps used to be expensive and bulky, but now you can get a portable nail lamp for the price of a single manicure. Even professional, salon-grade models pay for themselves after only a couple of uses. If you're getting a $35 manicure every three weeks, that's $600 a year.

For years ultra violet light (UV) was the industry standard. What's great about UV is that it will work on any and all gel nails with cure times in the one to three minute range. The new LED lamps are significantly faster with curing times of 10 to 30 seconds.

LED bulbs have a longer lifespan and they are gentler on your skin. When LED first came on the scene the price made it only reasonable for professional salons to carry them, but the price of LED units has come way down recently making them very affordable.

One thing to note about LED is that it will only cure LED gels so you need to be sure you're buying LED polish. Luckily, a lot of brands are rolling out double light source bulbs, which combine the two for the best of both worlds.

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