LED Nail Lamps – Do They Work & Are They Safe?

You’re wondering if inexpensive at home LED Nail lamps work aren’t you? As I sit here trying to pick off the remnants of my month old gel nail polish I can tell you – YES they do.

Skip right to the Quick tutorial.

I was given an LED Nail lamp for Christmas years ago.  Through years of experience I can tell you it’s one of the rarest beauty products in the world … it’s one that actually DOES what it says it’s going to do. The at  home LED Nail lights actually work.  🤯

At the end of my forearms I have been blessed with the delicate bone structure of a sparrow. The kind of wrists you’d see 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.

They are the stubby, square palmed, short fingered hands of a doer. 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 I just used them to claw my way out of an underground prison.

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.

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. 

I am not the kind of woman who can maintain nice nails. 

So, what’s a man handed gal to do?  Get an LED nail lamp.  My sister Fish Pedicure (aptly named for the horror she endured while receiving a Fish Pedicure in Thailand) gave me one of these nail lamps a few years ago for Christmas and I was STUNNED when it actually worked.  I did my nails, cured them under the lamp and 2 weeks later they were still PERFECT.

An LED Nail light is just a plastic box with a bunch of tiny LED bulbs inside that emit UV light. There’s also a reflector on the bottom of the unit to help bounce the light around. At this point you’re afraid of UV light aren’t you? Good. You should be.  

But …

Which is safer: LED or UV Light

Gel nail lamps used to strictly use UV lights when they were first introduced in the early 2000’s. Those lamps delivered a much stronger source of UV light over a longer period of time. UV lamps take 8-10* minutes with your fingers under the to cure gel nail polish.

The newer LED lamps deliver a much smaller dose of UV and they do it more swiftly. Your nails only have to be under the LED nail lamp for 1 minute (or less) to cure the gel.*

This means that a nail curing light that uses LED bulbs is safer than one that uses UV bulbs.

  • This curing process has to take place for each coat of polish. For a typical manicure this means 3-4  coats: a base, 2 coats of colour and in some cases a top coat.  

All the options I’m going to show you, including the unit I use myself, use the safer LED bulbs.

How to protect your skin when using the light

  1. Apply a broad spectrum sun block to your hands (being careful not to get it on your nail beds.)
  2. Don’t overdo curing. Cure for the amount recommended for the nail gel and no more.
  3. If you have fingerless gloves wear them. Just check your drawer filled with 1983 memorabilia. They should be directly under your massive Madonna hair bow.

Not sure if you can trust me on this?  As far as the science goes, it’s still iffy, but most medical research concedes that the increased risk of skin cancer from using an LED curing light is minimal. You can read about it in this Harvard Medical article on LED nail lamps

What I can tell you is the at home units absolutely do work. There’s no debate about that. 

At home LED nail lamps work.

And they work really well.  I’m stunned.

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


(Prices on Amazon vary wildly so this type of kit could end up costing a more or less.)


  1. Gather everything you need and apply Base Coat of Shellac/Gel polish to one hand.
  1. Cure polish under LED lamp for 45 seconds.

4. Repeat on other hand.

5. Apply 1st coat of colour to one hand, being careful not to touch the cuticle (this will impede the curing process) and cure for 45 seconds.

6. Cure polish for 45 seconds.  Repeat on other hand.

7. Apply a second coat of colour and repeat curing process. (45 seconds each hand)

8. Apply top coat and repeat curing process. (45 seconds each hand)

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

The nails are 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.

These are my nails immediately after doing them and then 2 weeks later. Yes. Dry hands in the first photo. I know.

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

How to Use LED Nail Lamp

How to Use LED Nail Lamp

Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

A simple guide on how to use an LED Nail Lamp.


  • LED Nail Lamp
  • Shellac or Gel nail polish for curing
  • 99% isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Orange stick (optional for cleaning up edges of nails)


  1. Lay out your materials: UV light, base coat, colour, top coat, orange stick, cotton balls, 99% isopropyl alcohol
  2. Clean hands and nails well.
  3. Apply base coat, cure under LED lamp for 45 seconds
  4. Apply 2 coats of colour, cure for 45 seconds after each coat.
  5. Apply your final top coat, cure 45 seconds
  6. Wipe nails with cotton ball soaked in 99% isopropyl alcohol.
  7. Done! Your nails are now rock hard and ready to do anything.


Can you use this with regular nail polish? Yes and no. Regular nail polish won't cure under these lights. But, if you have regular nail polish on, you can apply a top coat of Shellac or Gel and cure it under the lamp to make your manicure last longer.

How do you remove Shellac or Gel? 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 (it's just acetone) on each nail.  Wrap nails in plastic and leave them for 10-15 minutes.  The polish will either wipe off with the cotton ball or it will be softened enough that you can scrape it off with an orange stick.

Which LED Nail lamp should I buy? I would get one that's 48 watts or more. Also the more UV lights it has inside the better coverage of light you'll get. ONE really handy thing would be to get one of the larger LED Nail Lamps. They cost a bit more, but you can cure both hands at the same time which cuts the time to do your nails in half.

Recommended Products

I'm an Amazon affiliate some I get a few cents when you buy something I've linked to.

How do you know how much time to leave your hands under the LED light?

The general recommended time is 30-45 seconds per coat of polish. But check your gel polish for instructions.

Which LED Nail lamp should I buy?

 This is the $30 LED nail light that I have.  But any 48 watt LED lamp would be just fine I’m sure.  

Will it 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.
1. Rough up the top of your nails a bit with an emory board to break up the top coat surface.
2. Dlap some petroleum jelly around your cuticles to protect them from the next step – acetone.
3. Soak a cotton ball in 100% acetone and place it on your nails. You’ll just need 1/4-1/2 of a cotton ball per nail. Only apply it to the nail not around the whole finger.
4. Wrap in plastic wrap tightly but don’t cut off your finger circulation! You can also use these little $4 nail clips made for this purpose. Let your nails soak with the cotton balls for 10-15 minutes.
5. Remove the plastic and wipe with the cotton ball. Technically, your nail should be clean now, but that doesn’t actually happen very often. It might take a bit more work.
6. If you have nail polish remaining, carefully use an orange stick to push the softened gel off.


I do NOT baby my fingernails.  I do everything I normally do with these gel or shellac nails; paint a room, scrub pots and pans, fixed a broken chair, snap the neck of a Wildebeest. 

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←

LED Nail Lamps -  Do They Work & Are They Safe?


  1. Edith says:

    Thanks for sharing this and giving me the confidence to try it. I’m ordering!

  2. Mark says:

    Have you been punching the wall?? Or wannabe muggers??

  3. Erin Furlong says:

    Thank you for the belly LOL. You crack me up. Happy weekend!

  4. Randy P says:

    Never have I felt better about my NOT being a wildebeest, though were we out for a nice cup of tea or coffee in your home town? I would at some point likely ask you “What’s Gnu? I’m just that kind of guy I reckon.

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