WE LOVE a good manicure. There's something about having gorgeous, shiny nails that makes us feel ready to handle anything, from a shrieking toddler to an intimidating job interview.
But in our increasingly busy lives, finding time to get our gel manicures done in the salon can be tricky and expensive.
With these top nail lamps, professional-looking manicures – that last – have never been easier to achieve at home, on your sofa, in your PJs. Here's what you need to know.
What is the difference between UV and LED nail lamps?
Gel manicures, which last two to three weeks, are fab since you can find virtually any colour you’re after in a gel nail polish shade.
The nail polish just needs to be painted on before its cured under a UV or LED nail lamp – LED lamps can cure gel polish in under 45 seconds, while UV lamps take two or three minutes.
UV lamps contain the same light you’ll find in the sun or a tanning bed, and have a bad rap as a result.
If you purchase a UV nail lamp to use at home, wearing fingerless gloves or high-protection SPF on your hands is recommended to minimise skin ageing or damage.
LED lamps also emit UV radiation, so it makes sense to protect your hands in the same way if you’re using one of them.
with one of these nail lamps and you can watch Netflix throughout the whole process. Bliss.
1. We tested: Mylee Pro Salon Series LED Lamp Convex
Pro Salon Series LED Lamp Convex, £45 from Amazon – buy here
One of the leading brands in nail care, the Mylee Pro is the home lamp you're likeliest to find in your local nail bar.
It's designed to cure nails super-quick – like 15-second quick – thanks to its Innovative Convex Technology, and it comes with a detachable tray which means it can handle at-home pedicures, too.
The LED bulbs are positioned to ensure even light distribution, and there are three timer pre-sets for 15, 30 and 60-second cures.
It's compatible with all your fave gel nail brands, like OPI, Essie, Gelish and CND Shellac, and it even comes with UK, US and EU plugs for easy travel portability – it's so good, even the pros love it.
We've reviewed the Mylee Pro, and found it delivers on it's salon-like promise.
The set up is simple with easy to understand instructions, and the kits include everything you need – so there's no need to buy extra products.
The lamp itself is wide enough for you to fit your whole hand (so you don't have to do it in time consuming stages), but is small enough to store easily, and easy to assemble – you simply attach the magnetic tray and plug it in.
Used with the Mylee varnishes, the lamp provides a shiny, bump free finish that lasts; a week in the manicure has lasted with no annoying peel or lift from the nail, and delivers a professional looking finish that would easily pass for salon results.
2. Le Mini Macaron Le Maxi Deluxe Gel Manicure Set
- Le Mini Macaron Le Maxi Deluxe Gel Manicure Set – USB Plug, £47.95 from FeelUnique – buy here
A nail lamp that looks as delectable as a rosey pink macaroon? Yes, please.
This adorable gel manicure set from Le Mini Macaron includes a travel-friendly LED lamp with USB and power adapter, Honey Ginger and Black Cherry mini gel polish, a mini glitter nail file, a cuticle stick as well as 20 remover pads to soak off your gel polish and a lovely satin drawstring carry bag.
According to one five-star fan: "I've been using this lovely gel mani set for the last month or so and I have to say I'm very happy with it! I have done 2 manicures and they last more than 2 weeks (I applied 3-4 layers)."
3. Unisun nail dryer
LED UV Nail Lamp, Unisun Nail Dryer Gel Nail Polish Dryer Machine, £9.99 from Amazon – buy here
This 24-watt LED UV lamp may be a budget buy but it's got tons of great features, like an auto-sensor that turns on automatically when you slide your hand in (and turns off when you take your hand out).
It also has 30, 60 and 90-second timers with an LCD time countdown display, a USB cable and a spacious design that allows you to get both hands in at the same time if necessary.
And if you like pedicures, it even works on toes.
4. Rio UV Lamp Gel Nail Extension System
- Rio UV Lamp Gel Nail Extension System, £39.99 from Argos – buy here
This cute and compact LED nail lamp can be used absolutely anywhere – at work, at home, on holiday – and is perfect if you're looking to elongate your claws.
The design can be used on both your hands and feet. Hello mani-pedi.
5. NailStar 36 Watt Professional UV Nail Lamp Nail Dryer
NailStar 36 Watt Professional UV Nail Lamp Nail Dryer for Gel, £26.99 at Amazon – buy here
This UV lamp is an Amazon bestseller and features two and three-minute built-in timers.
It's compatible with gel varnish brands like CND Shellac, OPI and Gellen and can also be used on your feet for gel pedis.
Reviewers say it's super easy to use even if you've never attempted gel nails before, and even pros swear by it: 'I have had a beauty salon for the past 14 years and usually purchased branded UV and LED lamps from my nail suppliers.
'These usually do not have a long shelf life and trying to complain about them is a nightmare!!
'For the past couple of years, we have been using the NailStar lamps and they are exactly the same quality and do a really good job!
'We are a busy salon and nails are a massive part of our business. Thoroughly recommend'.
6. Saint-Acior Gel Nail Starter Kit UV/LED Nail Lamp
- Saint-Acior Gel Nail Starter Kit, £24.59 at Amazon – buy here
This gel nail kit from Saint-Acior is amazing value for money.
You'll get ten gel nail polishes, top and base coats, a cuticle fork, pusher and oil, nail cutter, file and brush, separators, ten gel varnish remover pads, five nail cleaning pads and nail artist essentials like a dotting pen, nail stickers and jewelled rhinestones.
The kit also comes with a 36W LED UV nail dryer with three timer settings (60, 90 and 120 seconds) and a double source light.
All for under £30. Fans say it's 'amazing' and 'easy to use'.
7. Rio Professional UV & Gel Nail Polish Lamp
- Rio Professional UV & Gel Nail Polish Lamp, £39.99 at Argos – buy here
This well-reviewed all-rounder lamp for home or salon use can be used on hands or feet.
The 36 Watt UV lamp can cure gel polishes in just three minutes, thanks to four x9W bulbs (it also has a handy auto timer).
Fans say 'the design is sleek', it's 'fab and saves money' and it 'works a treat'.
8. Kiss Professional LED Gel Nail Lamp
- Kiss Professional LED Gel Nail Lamp, £7.50 from Superdrug – buy here
Cheap and cheerful: Kiss Professional's LED Gel Nail Lamp is just £7.50.
Equipped with a built-in time, this lamp cures your nails and even has a detachable adapter.
"Easy to use product straight forward glad I bought it," says one satisfied bargain hunter on Superdrug's site.
9. Rio Salon Pro UV & LED Lamp
- Rio Salon Pro UV & LED Lamp, £39.99 from LookFantastic – buy here
Rio is well-known in the nail lamp scene and their Salon Pro UV & LED Lamp will look so cool on display in your bedroom.
There's 15 long life LED light bulbs inside which equates to over 50,000 hours (a lot of manicures!), made to cure both UV gels and LED gel formulations.
The gadget even has a smart sensor which gives you the option of 30 or 60 seconds.
10. Nail Dryer LED Nail Lamp UV Lamp for Curing All Gel Nail Polish
- Nail Dryer LED Nail Lamp UV Lamp for Curing All Gel Nail Polish, from £7.46 from AliExpress – buy here
Is there anything that isn't sold on AliExpress? Obviously, their Nail Dryer LED Nail Lamp is ridiculously cheap at less than £8.
Choose between pink or white, then enjoy this 120watt light for curing your gel nail polish.
It even qualifies for free delivery. Ideal.
10. Sally Beauty S Professional LED Nail Lamp
- S Professional LED Nail Lamp, £119.99 from Sally Beauty – buy here
Looking to set up an at-home salon? You need to know about the S Professional LED Nail Lamp.
You can cure a whole hand of nails in seconds with this bad boy, creating a quick and easy treatment for your clients.
The sleek black design and blue LED lights look pretty nice too.
11. Mylee Professional UV Gel Nail Curing Lamp
- Mylee Professional UV Gel Nail Curing Lamp 36 Watt – White, £20 from FeelUnique – buy here
Another Mylee Professional gem, the UV Gel Nail Curing Lamp 36 Watt is one of the brand's cheaper ones, available for just £20.
Once you turn on the lamp, this can dry and cure your nails within 120 seconds.
As it's UV lights, make sure you do not leave your hand in the lamp for long period of time when using 'constant mode'.
Can you use an LED lamp with regular nail polish?
If you’re careful and very patient, you can.
LED lamps can't technically be used to dry normal nail polish. But, those who want to make their favourite nail varnish last longer can put a gel top coat over it.
Before applying your top coat, always make sure your nail varnish has dried completely.
If the solvents aren't fully dry, the topcoat could just slip right off.
Then you can use either an UV or LED drying lamp to cure the top coat.
This technique means you won't be limited to the colour selection of gels and it should also come off easily.
But do bear in mind that if you don't do it correctly (by applying the top coat too quickly), you won't get the benefits.
Are UV nail lamps safe?
When choosing whether to go for an LED drying lamp or a UV one, you should consider that the former has a faster drying time which gives your nails less exposure to the intense light.
Furthermore, UV radiation has been scientifically proven to lead to skin cancer and they can also cause other skin damage, leading to premature ageing.
Generally, though, UV nail lamps are classified as very low risk and they won't burn your nails, if you're using one that has been approved for use.
What wattage nail lamp is best?
The wattage of most nail lamps starts from around 32watts, which is enough to cure your gel nail polish.
Higher wattages are not necessarily going to be the best around, it all depends on the quality of the make.
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Now that you've picked your lamp, why not check out our round-up of the best gel nail polishes available on the market now.
We’re all about helping you find the best products at the best prices, so be sure to check out more of Sun Selects’ recommendations.
Enjoyed our roundup of the best nail lamps? Then be sure to visit our dedicated Sun Selects beauty page for more amazing product selections.
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