UV Light Cured Gels - CFL vs. LED November 09 2011, 0 Comments

By Ferretkingdom

Let me start out this post by saying I am NOT an expert in this.  Don't take what I say here as gospel please.  This is merely how I understand it, and hope it may make some sense to others and help them understand it as well.

As more and more gel polishes come out on the market, it seems more and more of them are also "LED curable".  This sparks much debate over what is better, LED lamps or traditional Compact Fluorescent (CFL) UV lamps?

So, here is how I understand this whole concept, and someone please let me know if I am totally wrong or can shed even more light on the subject.

UV stands for Ultraviolet light, which is a type of light in a wavelength that our naked eyes cannot see (about 100-400 nanometers (nm).  The reason UV lights look blue/purple is because that is the first wavelength of light our eyes CAN see.

ALL Gel-curing lamps emit UV light, but the bulb by which they do so differs, Thus....

There are two types of bulbs used in gel curing lamps that emit UV light - Compact Fluorescent and LED

  • Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs emit a broader wavelength range of light
    • The light is more diffused, thus longer cure times
    • CFL bulbs have been around a long time, are cheap and easy to come by, and a lot of research has been done on them.  
    • CFL UV curing lamps are much cheaper
  • LED bulbs emit a narrower wavelength range of light
    • Light is more concentrated and targeted, thus allowing for a faster cure time
    • LED bulbs are not cheap and possibly not as easy to come by for manufacturers, thus they are more expensive lamps
    • Not as much research has been done on LED curing lamps (as compared to CFL) because they are newer.

Gels that are sold as LED cure will also cure in CFL UV lamps, But all UV curable gels will not cure in LED lamp.  This goes back to the narrower wavelength of LED bulbs.

Just for an example, say the wavelength of a particular brand of LED bulbs is only 10 nm, the Gel Manufacturers that sell LED lamps have their lamps using bulbs that cover the wavelength of light that their photoinitiators (what makes the gel harden) cure at, and this isn't the same across all brands.

For example, say Gel Brand A cures at 325 nm, and Gel Brand B cures at 355 nm (and I'm making these numbers up as an example only, I don't ave brand names here that use those specific numbers)

The wavelength of light for Gel Brand A's lamp might be 320-330 nm, but that wouldn't cure Gel Brand B's gel product.

However, if a CFL UV lamp covers the range of say for example 320-375 nm, it would cure both brands.

When looking at the directions for any gel polish product, many of them that are LED curable will also give CFL UV cure times.  If they don't ask the manufacturer if they have UV cure times if you can.

Remember, both types are emitting UV light, so if the reason  you want an LED light is to avoid UV exposure, that just isn't the case.  The advantage LED lamps have is faster curing, so that might lessen UV exposure slightly.

If speed of curing is what makes you want an LED lamp, just remember that not all gel products are LED curable, so buy accordingly.  Also, because of the narrow LED wavelength, even all LED lamps may not cure all LED gels.  Granted, some LED lamps will have the same wavelength and cure another brand's product, it might not.

A good thing to remember - always do you research, and don't believe everything you read.  Always consider the source as well.  Plenty of generic lamps are popping up, and they all claim they will cure all gels, while the manufacturers maintain that only their lamp should be used.  On both sides is it a scheme to make more money?  Maybe.  But the manufacturers have tested their product with their lamps.  Do you think that seller that is selling the lamp has really tested all those products?  I doubt it, but who knows, as I did my own test with my LED lamp.

That's not to say one shouldn't try it, just remember you are doing so at your own risk.  I use a generic 36 watt CFL UV tunnel lamp.  So far I've had no issues with wear time or issues with it obviously not curing.  I also have used a Better LED lamp.  I liked it briefly, then found I was having issues with curing, especially on the tips.  I don't want to risk allergies due to over exposure to an under cured product, so I chose not to use it.  Many others use it and have no problem.