I would say that among the top three questions, we get asked as gel nail specialists are, “What curing unit do you recommend?” And I get it; there are so many options, especially if you do a simple online search or even jump on a site like Amazon. More often than not, you’re probably going to make your purchasing decision on price, am I right?
In this blog article, I hope to equip you with the information you should consider before buying the most important player in the success of your gel note applications: the nail curing lamp. Let’s get started.
Understanding the Polymerization Process
The formulation of each gel determines which wavelengths are required to achieve a perfect cure and the correct exposure time and intensity of light. UV gels are created with photo-initiators, the catalysts in curing, called polymerization. However, a chemist does not use the same type of photo-initiators in every formulation. Each range of gels uses different combinations of photo-initiators at different concentrations, which cure at different wavelengths. It’s this complicated polymerization process that transforms your liquid or cream gel into its solid state. Therefore, you need the curing unit that matches what your chosen gels were formulated to cure in. This is the most correct way to select your curing unit to avoid curing issues.
What Does “Properly Cure” Even Mean?
Three Types Of Cure
Under-cure means the gel has not been cured enough and can lead to uncured gel sitting on your nail plate.
- Proper Cure
Proper cure means the gel has been cured to around 90%, providing longevity and safety for your gel products.
Nail over-cure, also known as over-curing, occurs when a gel or acrylic nail enhancement is exposed to too much UV light or curing time. This causes the product to harden excessively, which can lead to a number of problems. Over-cured nails can become brittle, break easily, or even lift from the natural nail bed. They can also become discolored, yellowed, or damaged, which can be unsightly and difficult to repair. In addition, over-curing can lead to discomfort or pain for the client during or after the nail enhancement application.
We incorrectly assume that solidifying means properly cured. That just isn’t true. Surprisingly, gels will harden when they polymerize at more than 50%, but that can leave a lot of uncured gel on your nail plate. To get the best out of your gels and to avoid causing skin sensitivities, these coatings should be cured to around 90%. Let’s break down the secret recipe to cure it correctly.
Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Nail Lamp
Wattage is often believed to be the UV strength of the lamp. However, wattage is actually the amount of power needed to operate the CFL or LED bulbs. Therefore, wattage is not a measurement of UV output. Different nail lamps with identical wattage will likely cure the same gel product to different degrees, which may result in under-curing. Remember that.
As in UVA, intensity is significant to proper curing. Intensity determines how much UVA is available for curing. LED-style nail lamps have higher intensities of UVA wavelengths. This is also why you should replace your curing units after one to three years, depending on how often you use them. If you’re a full-time nail technician, it will be a yearly expense, even with high-quality Japanese nail curing lamps, and it’s not something you can see with your eyes, but it’s essential to trust the years of research behind this information.
3. Curting Times
Timing is something we are usually first made aware of when experimenting with gels. 30 seconds, 60 seconds, 90 seconds – it all depends on what you are using. Every manufacturer has implemented their own unique specifications in their gel products so that every brand can have very different timing requirements. This is, however, just one element in achieving an actual cure.
4. Lamp Design
We don’t usually think about the electronics inside the lamp; however, the electronic components drive the bulb to produce UV so different lamps will have different components. So, if the exact same bulbs are used in two different brands of the lamp, the bulbs can emit widely different UV intensities because of how the inside of the lamp is made.
Sometimes you will notice that the inside of the lamp is metallic, so that will reflect light, but if you see a white interior, that’s also really good because white deflects the light.
Nail dryer lamp design is more important than we first realized, but with this knowledge, we can make educated decisions on what curing unit to purchase. Should we have any issues, we can also refer back to the manufacturer and have their support. The best solution is to avoid guesswork and use the brand’s manufacturer’s recommended curing unit. It’s only through this that you can ensure a proper cure that will provide longevity and safety for yourself and anyone else who uses your gel products.
Choosing the best curing lamp is crucial for the success of your gel nail applications. Considering the power wattage, intensity, curing times, and lamp design, you can ensure a proper cure that will provide longevity and safety for yourself and anyone else to uses your gel products. Remember that under-curing and over-curing can cause skin sensitivities, so following the manufacturer’s recommended curing unit is essential. Understanding the complicated polymerization process allows you to decide what curing unit to purchase and avoid curing issues.
- How often should I replace my curing unit?
It’s recommended to replace your curing unit every one to three years, depending on how often you use it.
- Can I use any curing lamp for any gel product?
No, each range of gels uses different combinations of photo-initiators at different concentrations, which cure at different wavelengths. Therefore, you need the curing unit that matches what your chosen gels were formulated to cure in.
- Is wattage a measurement of UV output?
No, wattage is actually the amount of power needed to operate the CFL or LED bulbs. Therefore, wattage is not a measurement of UV output.
- Can I use a professional nail lamp to cure regular nail polish?
No, a nail lamp is designed to cure gel nail polish only.
- How often should I replace the bulbs in my nail lamp?
The Nails Park recommends replacing the bulbs every 6-12 months, depending on the frequency of use. Over time, the bulbs ca n weaken and may not effectively cure your nails. Following the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacing the bulbs is essential to ensure your nail lamp is working correctly.