UV Nail Lamp: The Most Detailed Explanation

UV lamp gel polish manicure process

DIY manicure has never been so popular since COVID-19. If you are considering how to get a gel manicure with longer-lasting results. I suggest you choose a UV nail lamp to create a unique manicure.

In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about nail lamps.

Navigate this article:

  • What is UV Nail Lamp?
  • Why do Nail Salons Use UV Nail Lamp?
  • How Long Does Nail Polish Take to Dry?
  • What Type of UV Nail Lamp is Best?
  • Does Regular Nail Polish Need UV Nail Light?
  • Can UV Nail Lamp Damage Your Skin?
  • Why do Hands Get Tan After Using UV Nail Lamp?
  • 4 Ways to Protect Your Hands from UV Damage
  • Conclusion

What is UV Nail Lamp?

The UV nail lamp is an artificial UVA light source. Nail salons often use it to complete your nail design, and it can save a lot of time.

Why do Nail Salons Use UV Nail Lamp?

Because the nail salon applies nail polish on our nails, a "UV light-curing gel." This material reacts to UV light: it hardens and releases heat at the same time.

This is why you will feel hurt when shining the light - it's hot.

Also, if you don't use a UV nail lamp, your gel nails will take a very long time to set up.

How Long Does Nail Polish Take to Dry?

Different types of nail polish dry at different rates.

  • Regular nail polish - nail polish takes one to two hours to dry completely. This is especially true if you have used a base coat and top coat on your nails.
  • Gel nail polish under a UV nail lamp - base coat takes 10 seconds, then gel polish and top coat takes 2 minutes.
  • Gel nail polish under LED nail lamp - base coat takes 10 seconds, then gel polish and top coat take 1 minute.

What Type of UV Nail Lamp is Best?

There are two main types of nail lamp bulbs on the market: 

  • UV lamps with an output wavelength of 320 nm to 400 nm.
  • LED lamps with an output wavelength of 375 nm to 425 nm.

Both of them are just different technical means, the light they emit is mainly UVA, but LED nail lamps to have special requirements for nail polish material. This information will be stated on the nail polish.

Instead of discussing which light is better, you should spend less time shining the UV.

Does Regular Nail Polish Need UV Nail Light?

No, regular nail polish needs to be air dried, while gel polish contains a polymer that must be "cured" by UV or LED lights to harden. Regular nail polish does not dry faster, even under UV light.

Can UV Nail Lamp Damage Your Skin?

As mentioned before, this gel material hardens only when exposed to UV light.

Ultraviolet light is 100 nm to 400 nm and can be divided into three categories: UVC, UVB, and UVA.


AAD has published a study: After testing 2 UV nail lamps on the market, the experimenters found that the ability of the wavelength before 355nm to 385nm is 4.2 times that of sunlight.

Later, another researcher searched the market for 17 common products. The final result: if the nail lamp is illuminated for 8 minutes at a time, the average manicure will produce DNA damage 11.8 times.

UV spectral analysis

Of course, there is controversy in the academic community about the above study.

But there is no doubt about one thing: the UV rays from nail lamps can make your hands darken and even age.

Why do Hands Get Tan After Using UV Nail Lamp?

The UV rays in nail lamps are mainly UVA, which has an "immediate tanning reaction" (IPD).

When UVA hits the skin, the existing melanin will oxidize and darken rapidly; on the other hand, the melanin in the skin will be redistributed and concentrated more in the light area.

Therefore, the rapid darkening of our skin after exposure to light is not a result of dehydration caused by dry skin.

This tanning reaction will subside after 10-20 minutes of stopping the light, followed by a "persistent tanning reaction" (PPD), which is a dark brown discoloration after 2 hours of sun exposure and can last for 2 to 24 hours.

At the same time, UVA accelerates the formation of some melanin, and it takes at least 4 weeks for the newly synthesized melanin to be metabolized.

The most important thing is that "darkness" is only visible to the eye, but UVA can reach the dermis and produce more invisible damage.

4 Ways to Protect Your Hands from UV Damage

1. Apply sunscreen

Every time you get a manicure, you should apply sunscreen in advance. Choose a sunscreen with PA+++ and above to effectively block UVA.

apply sunscreen

2. Wear sunscreen gloves for nail care

No sunscreen can completely block UV rays, so it's best to add another layer of physical protection - sunscreen gloves for nails.

When buying gloves, pay attention to whether or not they are marked with a UV protection factor (UPF). Generally speaking, gloves with UPF 50+ can block most of the UV rays.

3. Reduce the time of light

Some people or nail salons will intentionally bake for a while to make the nail polish firm, but it is unnecessary.

Nowadays, all the nail lamps on the market have a higher power to dry quickly, but the power of the nail lamp has gone up, but the lighting time has not been reduced, and it is continuing the previous habit. This is equivalent to a single nail receiving an increased UV dose.

Reduce UV lamp exposure time

So, the next time you go to a nail salon, ask the clerk how soon you can dry, don't be foolish and wait for the light to go out on its own, try to take less time.

4. There are several types of people who are not suitable for a nail therapy

  • People who suffer from hand skin diseases or nail diseases, such as those with perineural skin eczema, ringworm, grey nails, nail fungus, and other diseases.
  • People who have recently had increased sensitivity to ultraviolet light, such as those taking antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, birth control pills, diuretics, and other photosensitive medications.
  • People who have recently had eye surgery.

In addition, do not apply skin care products containing vitamin A, fruit acids, and other ingredients to your hands before a manicure. They will make the skin more sensitive to UV rays.

Your turn

It's easy to do nail art at home with a UV nail lamp. Have fun with it. Get creative.

Want to use BTArtbox fake nails to help extend your nails? Start your DIY manicure today.

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