LED Nail Lamps. Do They Really Work? Spoiler Alert … Holy crap, YES they do.

Get ready to spend your money on one of the rarest products in the world … one that DOES what it says it’s going to do! The at home LED Nail lamp actually works!

Overhead shot of an at home LED Nail lamp surrounded by polish, cotton balls and orange stick.

Skip right to the Quick tutorial.

At the end of my forearms I have been blessed with the delicate bone structure of a sparrow.  Two very elegant, ladylike wrists.

They’re the kind of wrists you might see in a faux diamond bracelet commercial or being spritzed with floral and candy notes in a Mariah Carey perfume ad.

Protruding from those wrists are two blobs of man hands.  The kind you might see splashing on Old Spice or breaking the neck of a Wildebeest.

Close up shot of hands clenched into fists, knuckles bleeding with abrasions.

They are the stubby, square palmed, short fingered hands of a doer. As long as that doing isn’t performing intricate surgery, hand modelling or competitive thumb wrestling.  (Although my nub thumb has great strength, it always loses in the finals due to its limited reach.)

I can deal with having man hands; they’ve served me well holding up to the daily DIY punishment I put them through.  What I can’t deal with is doing my nails only to have them look like a wreck a day later. Even THOUGH if my nails are grown and done my hands look one trillion times better.  They look almost … well, not like a woman’s hands but at least better than regular man hands.

Once I do my nails my hands are elevated from barbarian to  “B” level Drag Queen (“A” levels like Ru Paul would chop their hands off before they got on a stage with my stumpy digits.)

Bloodied knuckles on dirt covered hands.

So I do my nails.  Precisely 3 hours later my hands look as though I have indeed snapped the neck of a Wildebeest and then repeatedly filed the tops of my nails with its broken teeth.


What’s a man handed girl to do?  Sit around and wait for someone to give you an LED Nail lamp for Christmas. That’s what.

Because you don’t want to spend the money on this kind of thing without knowing whether it really works or whether it’s just some plastic piece of snake oil junk.

An LED Nail light is just a plastic box with a bunch of tiny UV LED lights inside and a reflector on the bottom. How could this possibly work?

Hand holding up an LED nail lamp so you can see the inside filled with tiny LED lights.


Guess what?

At home LED nail lamps work.

And they work really well.  I’m stunned.

My sister bought me one for Christmas this year along with the stuff you need to go with it.  (Shellac or Gel nail polish, Shellac remover and 99% Rubbing Alcohol)  I tried it on Boxing Day not expecting very much but …

After 2 weeks my nails still looked perfect!

Here’s how it works and what it costs.


1 LED/UV nail lamp —————————————– $27 US
Shellac or Gel polish for use with LED nail lamp
– Base coat —————————————————- $15 US
Colour (I used Black Pool) —————————— $15 US
Top coat —————————————————— $15 US
Shellac/Gel polish Remover —————————— $  5 US
Isopropyl Alcohol 99% (Rubbing Alcohol) ————- $ 4 US



  1. Gather everything you need.

Overhead shot of SUNone LED Nail lamp, polish, cottonballs set on a marble slab.

2. Apply Base Coat of Shellac/Gel polish to one hand.

Hand spread open, applying clear base coat polish to nails.

3. Cure polish under LED lamp for 60 seconds.

Overhead shot of hand curing nails in LED nail light.

4. Repeat on other hand.

5. Apply coat of colour to one hand, being careful not to touch the cuticle (this will impede the curing process)

Applying coat of black shellac polish to nails.

6. Cure polish for 60 seconds.  Repeat on other hand.

Putting hand with black polish into LED nail lamp.

7. Apply a second coat of colour and repeat curing process. (60 seconds each hand)

8. Apply top coat and repeat curing process. (60 seconds each hand)

9. When all coats are applied and cured, wipe each nail with a cotton ball soaked in 99% Isopropyl Alcohol. this remove the sticky finish that will be on your nails.

Rubbing fingernail with cotton ball soaked in 99% isopropyl alcohol.

10. Your nails are now done! Completely cured and dry ready for you to do anything.  No waiting for them to harden up, no worrying about “just having done your nails”.  Seriously go scrub some pots or tie your shoes.  Nothing’s gonna happen.

This is immediately after doing my nails with the LED lamp.  Yes. Dry hands. I know.

Close up shot of fingernails painted black. Hand is dry.

2 weeks later this is what my nails looked like.


Shot of hand with black polish 2 weeks after using LED nail lamp.

There’s a tiny bit of wear on the tips and of course they’ve grown out from the cuticle.

Quick Reference on how to use an LED nail lamp

  1. Lay out your materials: Light, base coat, colour, top coat, orange stick, cotton balls, 99% isopropyl alcohol
  2. Clean hands and nails well.
  3. Apply base coat, cure 60 seconds
  4. Apply 2 coats of colour, cure 60 seconds for each coat.
  5. Apply top coat, cure 60 seconds
  6. Wipe nails with cotton ball soaked in 99% isopropyl alcohol.


How do you know how much time to leave your hands under the LED light?  I tested this and found using just a 30 second cure, the polish peeled off after just a few days.  1 minute the polish lasted for 2 weeks before starting to chip and wear a bit. 2 minutes of curing didn’t seem to improve the results so 1 minute seems to be the optimal time.

Which LED Nail lamp should I buy? The lamp I use is the SUNone UV/LED Nail Lamp which can switch between 24 and 48 watts.  Any that are 48 watts should be fine and work.  DON’T spend a lot of money. My light sells for around $25 US on Amazon US or $35 Canadian on Amazon Canada.

Will an LED lamp work with regular nail polish? Yes and no.  You have to use a gel or shellac top coat. So apply your regular polish, waiting for it to air dry between coats and then apply a gel or shellac top coat and cure.  It won’t last as long as if you’re using all gel or shellac products but it’ll help extend a regular type of manicure.

How do you remove gel or shellac polish? It’s a bit of a thing. Rough up the top of your nails a  bit with an emory board to break up the top coat surface.  Then put a cotton ball that’s been soaked in the special gel remover.  THEN wrap each fingertip in tin foil and just let it all soak in for 10-15 minutes.  The polish will then be dissolved enough to come off either by rubbing with the cotton ball or by scraping it away from your nail with an orange stick.

I did NOT baby my fingernails.  In the course of those 2 weeks I did everything I normally do; painted a room, scrubbed pots and pans, fixed a broken chair and … snapped the neck of a Wildebeest.

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  1. Linda says:

    when are you in 48 watt mode – with the on/off button lit up or off?

    My gel polish didn’t last anywhere near two weeks so I may be in 24 watt mode.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda! If you push the button again you’ll see the lights go much brighter. You also have to be careful that your nails are really clean before applying any polish. Little things like that make a big difference. ~ karen!

  2. This is good to know. I was just thinking that the price I pay to get gel nails at the salon is starting to be a tad expensive. Granted, I can go 4-6 weeks before needing them done though, soooo that’s a plus. PLUS, I get gel on my toes – best decision ever. Went to Maui with gel nails and not a scratch on them through all that sand.

  3. Brenda says:

    I had my nails done for the past few months – when I finally stopped, my nails were so thin/brittle/spotted, they just looked/felt awful. It’s taken me months to get them back to “sort-a” normal; they still feel thin and a little rough. So, loved it while it lasted – didn’t love what it did to my nails.

  4. Darlene Oliveira says:

    Hi Karen
    You need to check out Gelmoment.com. “European-made 5-FREE Gel Polish is solvent-free, lead-free, latex-free, non-toxic, not tested on animals and does not contain animal by-products.”
    And there is no base or top coat needed!!! A real game changer ! Lasts almost two weeks as well AND they are a Canadian based company!

  5. Nicole says:

    So . . . I almost skipped this post because I don’t wear nail polish because it never lasts. Plus, I have “doer” hands that I try not to draw attention to at any time.

    I decided to read it even though I knew it wouldn’t apply to me because, honestly, Karen, you’re sarcastic and funny so I knew I’d enjoy it anyway.

    Now I need to buy the damn thing and do my nails. (sigh) Thanks, Karen! (kinda how we say “thanks, Obama!” in that sarcastic way when we attribute things to President Obama that he had absolutely no control over!)

    • Karen says:

      See? You can’t skip a post, lol. Cross my heart, you won’t regret buying it. Clearly. I mean, apparently we’re the same person. ~ karen!

  6. KarenToo says:

    I agree Karen.
    And now that everyone knows our secret they’ll get on it too or will be “gel-ish.”

  7. Victoria Dudeck says:

    That special gel remover is just acetone. So go buy a cheap bottle of acetone nail polish remover. It does the exact same job. I do my own gel nails all the time using this method.

  8. judy says:

    I was so excited when I saw this product but darn it won’t serve my purpose. Could you ask the manufacturer to make one that illuminates the grim grotesque toenails that develop on the feet of us ancient humans. I may be morphing into some kind of alien creature cause my toenails are truly weird but when I bend over to clip then with my handy dandy dog clipper-yep gotta use a dog clipper they are so knarly and tough . I can’t see them and very often blood and pain is involved. If I could see the darn things maybe I could keep them under control-that is before they start walking me instead of vice versa. maybe delete this-it’s yucky

    • PMMK says:

      The Dremel works really well on the knarly toenails but you do have to be able to bend and you still have to see what you are doing. Luckily, despite over six decades of rings, I can still do both pretty well. I resorted to the Dremel out of desperation/inspiration but suspected maybe it was unhealthy so went to a chiropodist and, guess what he used on my toenails. A Dremel!!! And, he charged me $80 to boot. So now I’m back to DIY. He did tell me that too-tight shoes were the cause of the ugly toenails. I think he might have been onto something because the knarly only appears where the shoes pinch or rub.

      And, I use plain, old Castor oil on my man hands and find it very soothing on dry, cracked skin. It’s considered a dry oil, meaning it will soak in without leaving a greasy slick. I even use it on my face on top of my regular moisturizer if my skin is really dry or if I’m going to be outdoors in very cold weather. You can add essential oils to it for achy joints too. A drop or two of frankincense essential oil added to the Castor oil is nice for both sore skin and sore joints.

      • judy says:

        thanks what do you use with the Dremel? a sander disk or something else?

      • PMMK says:

        I have a cylindrical stone that works well with the Dremel but the little sanding drums are good too. Disks or oddly shaped stones are NOT good. They gouge and cause more harm than good.

  9. Melinda says:

    I’m so sorry to tell you this so publicly, celebrating, as we all are, about the Good Nail News, but . . . . Idris Elba got engaged last weekend.

  10. Megan Bell says:

    I LOVE my UV lamp. It even works great on the toes. I also found a polish that can mix with your favorite regular nail polish to turn it into a gel – and it ACTUALLY WORKS!!!

  11. Elissa Burda says:

    Great job Karen!

    Epiphany of winter 2018: I have discovered some wonderful wonderful cream to heal your dry hands. I too, have horribly dry hands, and get those terrible cracks that hurt like crazy and take weeks to heal.

    I must have tried 50 different kinds of hand creams and healing creams and cracked skin creams and all that stuff. Recently, I finally found one that actually helps. Remember, you have to keep putting it on for these things to work! Fancy that. Anyways: drum roll: try Mother of all Creams by Puriya. Puriya.com or Amazon. A miracle in a jar as far as I’m concerned. I have this at work, at home upstairs and at home downstairs. It has truly changed my life. Well, the life of my hands anyways. End of drum roll!

  12. Courtney says:

    I have my ex Boyfriend back, i am now enjoying happy life,__dr_mack @yahoo. com gives a positive result for love related problem solutions
    Florida, USA

  13. Alena says:

    There was a time in the past (quite a few years ago) when I had a scorching desire for French manicure with the white tips. So off to the salon I went, and even though I tried to extend the interval between the subsequent visit, after a visit No.3 or 4 I decided that was enough. When I had the crap removed from my nails, they looked atrocious. Covered in strange spots and VERY damaged (and I have strong healthy nails). So I haven’t gone again, except to get my toes done (just a pedicure and nail polish, none of the gel stuff [therefore no dremel]). I don’t know if the polish removers the salon uses is Ultra Strength Commercial Grade but it wrecked my toe nails again. I am not very likely to go again. I have better use for the money and most people assume, when I do my nails, that I had them professionally done.
    But I would love to do the fish pedicure – if only we had something like that.

  14. Susan Claire says:

    I am also blessed with man hands. I also get them dirty and beat up on a regular basis. Nail polish is the very last thing on my mind. But that little gadget looks like a winner for the nail-conscious among us!

  15. Marilyn Meagher says:

    I too have man hands and I’m fine with it. I work hard and play hard and they see me through everything. But I love a manicure , it’s a real treat.

  16. Leah says:

    I love my at-home nail lamp, but I’ve not had 2-week results. The paint lasts far longer than a traditional manicure, but not as long as a salon gel manicure. I might get 1 full week with no chips from the at-home stuff, even though my polishes are the same as the salon ones. Clearly, I’m doing something wrong. Still, it’s better than normal paint or no paint. I also suffer from a severe case of man hands. A little color at the end of my fingers seems to disguise it.

    On the other hand, at-home gel toes last FOREVER.

  17. Monica says:

    Not to be a killjoy, but I do want to pass along the Skin Cancer Foundation’s recommendations. They suggest that since these lamps emit UVA radiation (the part of the spectrum that causes premature aging and cancer) it’s a good idea to use sunscreen 20 minutes before use. These lamps are not likely to cause cancer since the exposure is short and the UV emitted is low but especially if you’ve had a suspicious mole removed it’s a good idea.

    • traci says:

      This was my first thought. I would still worry, because even if you use sunsblock on your hands, your nailbeds would not be covered and you can get cancer there. Maybe it’s such a short time that it is fine. I don’t know. But the second I saw UV light, I was thinking nothing beauty related is worth increasing your cancer risk.

  18. Ella says:

    Please put sunscreen on your hands before you start this process. And be VERY careful removing the gel. It takes some of your nail cells with it when you scrape and your remaining nail will be thinner than normal.

  19. Cath says:

    Hey, how’d you get those pictures of my man hands?

  20. whitequeen96 says:

    You had me all the way until you said how much work it is to remove the polish. Yikes! And then to read about Jenna getting chemical burns – no, NO way!

  21. Ashley says:

    please DON’T be tempted to pick the polish off once it eventually starts coming off. It sticks so well that it also takes off a thin layer of your nail (well, it did on mine) and for weeks afterwards my nails were a mess. The nails that I left unpicked were fine.

  22. Kathleen Aberley says:

    Bleeding knuckles? What were you doing????
    (Can’t focus on the nails because of the knuckles!)

  23. Robert says:

    I’ve always wondered about the crafts possibilities of a gel manicure outside an actual hand, since is basically plastic after all

  24. Kelly ~ It took me 10 years to lose 10 pounds says:

    Your hands look beautiful! We should be suspicious of anyone without some wear and tear on their hands 🙂

    • Karen says:

      They don’t look beautiful. They. Do. Not. But that’s O.K., they are definitely an accurate extension and representation of me. 🙂 ~ karen!

  25. Mark says:

    Have you been punching hanging beef in a meat locker?

  26. Jenna says:

    This post could not come at a more perfect moment. My sister and I normally get gel manicures done every 2-3 weeks but we have a hard time scheduling time we can both go sit in a nail salon as I’m a wahm and she’s got a ft job. Well being flu season, it of course ravaged my house and rendered me captive against the germs that multipled faster than horny rabbits the entire month of January which left me w a grown out obnoxious Christmas manicure in January 20. So in my flu induced haze, I decided I hated my nails and they had to go. I took matters into my own hands and recruited my husband to help get the remaining gel off. So he wrapped my hands in aluminum foil laced w nail polish remover. (Remember I have the flu and feel like I’ve gotten run over a few times by a semi.) This was perhaps one of my worst ideas ever bc my hands legitimately started feeling as if they had been set on fire. I gave myself (or my husband gave me) chemical burns from leaving the remover on too long. And my subsequent diy gel mani looked like my three year old did it while blindfolded. Anywho… cut to this morning when my sister texts me saying she’s got a surprise for us so we can do diy spa nights at her house. She ordered one of these lights. I’m so scared! I was just looking for tutorials on how to take off my gel polish wo giving myself peeling chemical burns and do a great at home gel mani. I’ve beeb reading your site for years so I am psyched to have this turn up in my feed today rather than have to find some tutorial from someone else. Can you please write an extensive tutorial on how to remove gel nails without being an asshat and giving yourself peeling chemical burns in the process??

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jenna! I actually have the photos for removing and tried to find the time to add a tutorial to this post, but ran out of time, so in the next week or so I’ll do another post on exactly how to remove the polish including photos. ~ karen!

    • Tina says:

      Do you have a dremel? On the rare occasion I need to take my own off, I gently do it with the round sandpaper file on slow speed. Then all you have to do is touch up the edges with a manual board.

      • Nicole says:

        Seriously? Is there anything a Dremel can’t do?

      • Karen says:

        OMG no, lol! No, no. Just do what I say. Soak cotton balls in the special remover and let it sit for 10 minutes. It’ll scrape right off without a dremel. 🙂 `karen!

        • Tina says:

          Well, I must admit I have gel nails under my polish. I have a nasty medical condition with my natural nails. So even if I went a bit too far, it would only be into gel!

  27. Connie Volkman says:

    So…How about those summer sandal lookin toes?


  28. Kim says:

    I didn’t need this before reading this post. And I probably still don’t need it now. But there is pretty big chance I’ll be buying it. 😆

    • carswell says:

      LOL. I was just thinking the other day that I miss the days when I had the acrylic coating on my nails. I really like having polish on my nails and I went with the acrylic because the polish adheres to it so well (with the added bonus of making my nails rock hard) and the colour would last for a full two weeks without chipping.

      The only issue with it was the time suck. It is a time consuming process to apply and then continually touch up the acrylic as your nails grow. But I loved it.

      The idea of having hard polish on my nails in well under an hour and not having to wait on cure time is very attractive indeed…

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