Gel manicures are great; they last longer than regular nail polish and have a beautiful, perfect look that really stands out. But did you know that it’s also possible to get that salon gel nail look at home? It’s easy — just grab your favorite gel polish and one of these UV lamps for nails to get started.

Whether you want to do a full gel nail manicure, create unique nail art designs, put on your own gel nail extensions, or just do fills and touch ups without an extra trip to the salon you’re not going to get anywhere without a UV drying light. Here’s why:

What Do UV Lamps for Nails Do?

A UV nail lamp uses ultraviolet light to cure gel nail polish. When you place gel nail polish under a UV light it causes a chemical reaction that hardens the polish, or “cures” it. Once cured, most gel nails don’t chip and they last longer than regular nail polish or acrylic nails.

Unless you purchase special gel nail polish that can air dry, most gel nails can only be cured using a UV lamp. 

Does a UV Nail Lamp Work on Regular Nail Polish?

No, the light from a UV lamp won’t dry regular nail polish. The main ingredient in most nail polish is nitrocellulose, which is a polymer that only air dries. If you’re hoping a UV lamp will speed up the drying process of regular nail polish or keep the varnish from chipping you’re out of luck.

Gel nail polish can be used to make regular polish last longer. Just apply a top coat of clear or shellac gel nail polish and dry it under a UV nail lamp.

What are the Best LED and UV Lamps for Gel Nails?

Editor’s Choice: SUNUV 48W UV LED Nail Dryer Light

Don’t let the small size of this UV nail lamp fool you, it really packs a punch. Filled with 33 UV LEDs for even drying, you’ll have perfectly set gel nail polish in 2 minutes or less.

Choose from four different timer options while you dry five fingers or toes at once. One feature I really like is the automatic sensor so the dryer only turns on while your nails are inside.

Something really cool about this nail light is that the top actually doubles as a cushion to rest your hand on while applying nail polish. Since it’s made of silica gel it actually moulds to your hand, which makes it so much easier to hold still. 

The biggest downside to the SUNUV Nail Dryer Light is that there aren’t any adjustable power settings (so you can’t change the temperature).

This lamp was chosen as the editor’s choice because it’s the one that I personally use to DIY my nails at home and I love it.


  • Powerful and dries nails evenly
  • Comfortable to use
  • Multiple timer options
  • Automatic start and shutoff sensor
  • Easy to clean
  • Great customer service and warranty


  • Only dries one hand at a time
  • Temperature is not adjustable
  • Default timer is set to 120 seconds and there is no way to change it

Kiara Sky Beyond Pro Mini Flash Cure LED Lamp

This little LED nail lamp is perfect for flash curing gel nail polish. Although it was made with Kiara Sky gel nail tips in mind, it works for most gel nail polish and extension brands too.

Keep in mind that this is just for flash curing; you’ll still need a UV lamp to get gel nail polish to completely set. Flash curing your nails helps keep your nail art or gel tips in place while you work on the next nail. 

This LED flash curing nail lamp is also super handy when you’re doing nail art and need to lightly dry the design between applications. 


  • Compact, yet tall enough that you won’t accidentally ruin your nails while drying
  • Automatically turns off after 60 seconds
  • Handy option if you want to flash cure single nails while you work


  • Does not turn on automatically and the switch is in an inconvenient place
  • Made for flash curing so you’ll still need a separate UV nail light to fully cure gel nails
  • Only does one nail at a time

SUNUV 2 Timer Nail Polish Curing Lamp

This is a smaller version of the earlier SUNUV UV LED nail drying lamp that’s great for beginners or hobbyists. It’s not the most powerful lamp on the market, but it still gets the job done if you want to cure gel nail polish at home.

There are only two timer settings; 30 and 60 seconds so depending on your gel nail polish you may need to cure your nails twice to get them to fully set. Thankfully using this UV lamp is super easy — you can just place your hand inside and the sensor will turn the lights on automatically for 60 seconds.

If you want an affordable UV nail lamp that still works great this one’s a solid choice. 


  • Very easy to use, just put your hand in and go
  • Works great and holds up to repeated use
  • One of the best inexpensive UV lamps for beginners to do gel nails 


  • Only two timer settings
  • You’ll need a flat work surface to place it on
  • Doesn’t have a base to reflect the light or protect your table

Sun X5 Max UV Nail Lamp by Liteland

Here’s another LED UV nail lamp with multiple timer functions and evenly distributed lights for even drying, but it has a few cool features that make it stand out. 

The biggest selling point here is the timer. Each setting corresponds to a different wattage and temperature so you can cure different gel nail polish brands properly. You set the timer in advance and it gets activated automatically when you put your hand in; there’s no messing around with buttons after you’ve painted your nails.

This is one of the few UV lamps that’s advertised as being large enough to dry nails on two hands at once, but it really depends on the size of your hands. I find that when drying to fit both hands in at once it’s kind of tight, which increases the chance of smudging your nails before they’re set.


  • Removable tray makes it easier to paint toe nails
  • Timer is great and even counts down with an LED display
  • Easy to use
  • Small and lightweight


  • Doesn’t comfortably fit two full hands as advertised; will fit two hands without the thumbs
  • Cord is short so you may need an extension


If you’re looking for professional grade UV lamps to do nails at home this one’s a great option. It’s made specifically for CND brand nail polish — one of the top brands; especially for shellac.

You’re in for a bigger investment than some of the other gel nail drying lamps out there, but the CND LED Lamp is well worth the cost if you want a professional quality product that will stand up to repeated use.

Super easy to use, this CND brand lamp pulls out all the stops when it comes to features. There’s a reflective bottom for even drying that can be removed for pedicures, pre-set controls for different CND nail polishes, and it’s super easy to clean with acetone.

If you mainly use CND brand products and want something guaranteed to set them well then this LED nail lamp is for you.


  • Easy to use and even has guides for hand placement
  • Comfortable ergonomic design
  • Works for manicures and pedicures
  • Cures nails evenly


  • Timers are tailored to CDN products
  • Buttons are on the back
  • No automatic sensor

Apres Rechargeable X-Lite 

The only cordless nail lamp on this list, the Apres X-Lite is my go to for flash curing Gel-X brand nail tips. Of course, it can also be used to flash cure any kind of gel nail polish to protect your designs or 3D charms while you work.

Compact and foldable, I really like how easy it is to move the X-Lite around. If you don’t have a dedicated manicure space in your home the wireless feature is a lifesaver; you can set it up anywhere!


  • Small and portable so you can flash cure your nails anywhere
  • Cures Gel-X nails perfectly, but can be used for other gel nail polish too
  • Big enough to cure more than one nail at a time


  • You will still need a stronger UV lamp to fully cure gel nails
  • If the battery dies while you’re using it the cord is very short
  • No base

Mini Portable UV LED Gel Nail Dryer

My favorite option when it comes to portable UV lamps for fully curing gel nails! It’s small enough to take with you on vacation or a work trip so you can fill or touch up a gel manicure anywhere. It would also make a great first lamp for beginners or teens.

Instead of a plug, this UV light is powered by a standard mini USB cable so you don’t have to worry about finding a place to plug it in while travelling. The legs also fold down completely flat for easy storage.

While it may be small, this little UV lamp definitely gets the job done at home or on the go.


  • Compact and portable
  • Great low cost UV lamp or for the occasional manicure
  • Travel-friendly


  • No base means you’ll need to find a suitable work surface
  • Doesn’t fit five fingers at once; you have to dry your fingers then your thumb
  • Drying time can be longer than more powerful lamps

Beetles Gel Nail Polish UV Light Kit

Last, but definitely not least, is this great gel nail polish UV light kit from Beetles. It’s a perfect starter set for someone new to doing gel manicures at home. Everything you need is included: six colors of nail polish, a foundation, two top coats, a variety of nail tools, and the UV lamp itself.

As for the UV lamp itself, it’s nothing special but it will get the job done to cure both Beetle and any popular brand of gel nail polish. After you choose one of the three timer settings the handy sensor will turn the lights on automatically after you insert your hand.

The only thing I don’t like is that there’s no base; it does make it lighter and more compact, but I find a base helps cure gel polish more evenly. 


  • Great starter kit that includes everything you need; would make a great gift
  • Easy to use
  • Does a good job of curing most gel nail polish brands but is made especially for Beetle nail polish


  • No base; a paper towel can be used to protect your work surface
  • Folks new to nail art and gel nail manicures may find there’s a learning curve to using this nail polish and UV light set comfortably

Are LED UV Nail Lamps Bad For Your Skin?

UV light will penetrate skin, just like a tanning bed, so it makes sense to be concerned about whether or not ultraviolet light is safe. Thankfully, doctors say that any risk a UV nail lamp might pose is “very, very small”. 

To minimize exposure to ultraviolet light while you dry your gel nails, set a timer and only keep your hands in the dryer as long as necessary for the polish to set. Some salons leave you in the dryer for up to ten minutes, but that’s usually way longer than it will actually take your gel nail polish to set — even at home.

If you’re concerned about UV light exposure while drying your nails you can also apply sunscreen to your hands before starting your manicure. 

Features to Consider When Choosing the Best Top UV Lamps for Nails

Now that you have a few great options to choose from, here’s what I looked at when deciding which UV lamps for drying gel nails were the best.

Drying Time

The time it takes your nails to dry and set will vary depending on your nail polish brand and how thick of a coat you apply, but there are differences in nail lamps that affect drying time too. It usually comes down to the wattage of the LED lights.

Adjustable Timers & Automatic Sensors

It’s important to expose your freshly painted gel nails to ultraviolet light long enough for the polish to harden. Having a timer on the lamp makes it easier to keep track of time, and most are pre-set to typical gel nail polish drying times.

Automatic sensors are also a convenient feature that you should look out for. Even if you have one hand free it’s still much easier when you can skip buttons or switches to activate a UV lamp. 

Quality and Price

Most budget nail lamps are great for beginners or people who want to do the occasional home manicure. These actually hold up quite well, but some may be less powerful or durable than what you’d get from a high end product.

Professional quality UV nail lamps, on the other hand, are a bit of an investment but will last longer and give results closer to salon quality.

When thinking about price, don’t forget to weigh it against the cost of paying for professional manicures or fills!

Other Questions to Ask Before Buying a Gel Nail Drying Lamp

  • How many fingers can you dry at once?
  • Does this UV drying lamp work on toe nails?
  • Are there adjustable power settings for different nail polish brands?
  • How many hours will the lights last?
  • Is it easy to clean in case you get nail polish inside the drying area?
  • How comfortable is this UV nail lamp to use?

Each of the UV lamps for nails on this list work great so you really can’t go wrong, especially if you’re a beginner. If you’re still not sure which to buy, choose a lamp with the features you like best.

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