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What Are The Best UV Nail Dryers: 4 Reviews Of Gel & CND Shellac Nail Polish Lamps

Updated on August 12, 2014

UV Nail Dryer Lights: Which Is Best For Gel And CND Shellac Polish?

If you’ve ever tried a gel or Shellac manicure, you’ve likely been converted. Going to the spa for one of these long-lasting, hard-wearing manicures is a great treat, but you can also give yourself the same treat at home, which is much more affordable over the long run. Using the correct UV lamp nail dryer is essential to getting a salon quality result, but it can be confusing to choose the best one.

In this article I’ll review four of the best UV nail lights for Gel & CND Shellac polish and help you figure out which is right for you.

UV & LED Lamps, What’s The Difference?

A UV lamp uses fluorescent bulbs that must be periodically replaced. With an LED lamp, the bulb lasts for years - but when it quits, you must replace the entire unit. Both use UVA light to cure the polish, but with LED the exposure is much lower. UV lamps take longer than LED to cure the polish, but they will work for any gel-based polish system - unlike LED, which will work for most but not all.

Drying Gel & CND Shellac Nail Polish: UV Or LED Lights?

All gel-based polish systems can be cured with UV light, and many - but not all - can be cured with LED light as well. To decide which one you need, pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions on your polish. UV dryers differ from LED's in terms of the intensity of the light’s wavelength. Some brands, like CND Shellac, will not cure properly using an LED light. If you aren’t sure which products you’ll end up using, buy a UV dryer lamp, since it will cure all gel-based nail polish.


Best Dryer For Shellac Nail Polish: Official CND Shellac UV Lamp

If you’re using CND Shellac nail polishes, they will cure with any quality UV dryer lamp - but your best bet is to invest in the one specifically developed to cure them. CND’s UV lamp is the top salon-quality nail dryer, and features an interior fan for faster curing. This lamp is designed specifically to cure Shellac polish; it takes the guesswork out of a home manicure by offering preset timers for your base coat, color coats, and top coat.

Although you can use other UV lamps to dry and cure your nail polish, the CND unit is the only one guaranteed to cure Shellac in the recommended amount of time. At 36w, it uses four powerful, individual nine-watt bulbs. The lamp is designed to cure one hand at a time, but can accommodate all five nails at once. It will also work for pedicures, and gets consistently great reviews. Yes, it’s more expensive than others; but it is still a money-saving option over repeated spa visits, and if you’re committed to using CND Shellac, you’re guaranteed a salon quality result when using the lamp they designed.

Thermal Spa UV Gel Nail Dryer

Thermal Spa UV Gel Nail Dryer: Enough Light To Cure Both Hands At Once:

The Thermal Spa 49135 is a great UV dryer for gel or Shellac nail polish. It is large enough to accommodate two hands or two feet at once, which is a great time-saver. If you are painting your own nails at home, you will likely be painting one hand at a time anyway, but you will be able to cure both feet at the same time, and it’s a handy feature when working on a friend’s nails. The Thermal Spa uses a very strong 45 watts and offers two timer settings - for two and three minutes - or it can be set to ‘on’ and you control the timing as you like.

If you want the room and light to be able to dry both hands or feet at once, the Thermal Spa UV Gel Nail Polish Dryer is the one!

Best UV LIght For Sensitive Skin: Uspicy Macaron Nail Polish Dryer

The Uspicy Macaron is a nice in-between: neither too big nor too small, neither too pricey nor too cheap - and mostly importantly, it works to cure your nails. The Macaron will fit one hand at a time, and offers two timed settings - two and three minutes - as well as manual operation. As a nice bonus, this UV lamp dryer includes a nail file and a pair of UV-protective gloves. Although the UV exposure in a nail drying light is not overly high, for those -like me - with sensitive skin, protective gloves can be a nice addition. Overall, the Macaron will not disappoint and will properly cure your gel and Shellac polish.

Salon Edge 36W Nail UV Lamp: Best Valued Gel & Shellac Dryer

This UV gel nail dryer lamp is likely the best value for your dollar you’ll find. At 36 watts, it holds its own next to the more expensive models. It is on the smaller side, which makes it easier to stash in the cupboard between uses. It will accommodate five fingers at a time, and it offers one timer option for two minutes; for less or more, you will have to manually time your cure.

This UV light, gel nail polish dryer is the most basic style on the market and does not have a fan, but overall it does what it is supposed to do - and at a very affordable price.

UV Light Nail Dryer Poll

What is most important to you in a nail dryer?

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UV Nail Dryer Lamps For Shellac & Gel: Choose And Enjoy

I hope this has been helpful in explaining the basics about UV light nail dryers. Whichever you choose, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the perfect gel or Shellac manicure at home - and the UV lamp will pay for itself in no time at all. I’d love to hear your thoughts on nail dryers... have you used one at home? Do you recognize any of these from your visits to the salon? Please share in the comments section below!


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    • manicuregirl profile imageAUTHOR


      12 months ago from Canada

      Marcia - I hope you get this reply! Which lights have you tried - the model and brand?

      I think my best advice, since I'm not right there with you, would be just to read the instructions very carefully on your polish and follow the drying/curing time exactly. If you have a good quality light, it should cure.

      If you can let me know which lights you've tried, I'll try to help!

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      I have purchased & returned 3 nail uv.led lights. I am usind CND & OPI products. None of them have dried/red my polish. In the salon it takes a minute, at home 7 or 8 minutes does not do it. What am I dong ng. What is the right combination of polish & light

    • manicuregirl profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Canada

      Elizabeth - also, if you click on my profile, there is another article I wrote about LED nail dryers, which would be very helpful for you to read as well. I do specific reviews of different dryers in that article. Hope that helps!

    • manicuregirl profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Canada

      Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for your comment.

      The difference between Shellac and gel polish is simply that Shellac is a specific brand of gel nail polish, and 'gel polish' refers to gel nail polish as a general type. So Shellac is actually a gel polish, but clever branding has made it stand out from the crowd (in a similar way that people associate Kleenex with tissue, though there are many other makers of tissue and they are all basically the same thing - does that make sense?).

      As for dryers, the Shellac manufacturer (CND) advises that their polish will only cure properly using the CND-made UV dryer. It's certainly true that their dryer is on the higher end and made with good quality. However, anecdotal evidence (aka, user reviews) asserts that using any UV dryer will cure Shellac, as it is a gel polish; so using a generic dryer like the Thermal Spa listed above will still cure the polish. But CND will not guarantee the results.

      Personally I think the choice of dryer depends on your desired outcome. If you're doing nails in a salon using CND Shellac polish, I think it's best to invest in the CND dryer. But if you're using gel polish at home, you're probably ok to purchase a lower end (but still good quality) like the Thermal Spa.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      What is the main diference between shellac and gel polish and which is the best lamp for each?


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