Most manufacturers say their LED bulbs are good for 30,000 hours. If true, a nail lamp that was on constantly for 40 hours a week would last 14 years. This is NOT a realistic claim considering how nail pros are using them. So, when should we replace our LED nail lamps?
It is a major advantage of UV LEDs that they degrade more slowly when compared to fluorescent-type UV bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs begin to degrade after 1-3 months, depending on usage. Some low quality bulbs lose most of their UV output after a single month of continued use. This is one reason why you should never buy inexpensive generic UV bulbs from the Internet. Only use replacements bulbs that the UV gel manufacturer specifically recommends. I’ve talked to several experts in the field who assured me that the UV LEDs will likely emit a consistent amount of UV for at least 3 years, which is pretty good. That’s about 12 times longer than what we can expect from even a high quality fluorescent-style bulbs under constant use.
Even so, considering the real-world use of nail lamps, you’ll likely have to replace your LED-style UV nail lamp every three years anyway. Some nail lamps will last longer and some will need replacing more often depending on:-
A) usage time
B) the quality of the nail lamp, and
C) how the nail lamp is treated in the salon.
It is misguided to give the lifetime of the UV diodes (bulbs) inside LED-style UV nail lamps. Manufacturers should be talking about the lifetime of the “nail lamp” as a whole since the diodes can’t be replaced. Even so, that’s not what will determine how often you’ll need to replace the nail lamp.
“Diodes” are the UV emitting bulbs in LED nail lamps. These may become contaminated with UV gel if a client touches them with their uncured nails. Once this occurs, the diode will not emit nearly as much UV. This happens with fluorescent bulbs as well, but they can be turned over and the other side of the bulb used, or they are easily replaced. Also, the lamp cord will likely wear out long before 14 years. These lamps aren’t like toasters or microwaves. People don’t put their toasters away in a drawer after use or wrap their cords around them every day, as nail professionals do with their nail lamps – especially those with small nail tables. Mobile nail techs do this even more often.
The cord isn’t what often breaks. Breaks usually occur at the connector where the cord goes into the lamp unit. In fact, my experience tells me that the electrical cords are good, on average, for three to four years. By then, the outer housing of the lamp will begin to look pretty shabby or possibly become cracked. The electrical components inside that drive the LEDs can stop delivering enough power or stop working altogether. When this occurs, the nail lamp won’t properly cure the UV gel. The electronic part of the lamp is built to last a long time, but cycling on/off for many years without failure is not very likely for most nail lamps. To my way of thinking, the industry marketers are better off under-promising and over-delivering, not the other way around.
When I was in Europe recently, many nail professionals told me they’ve heavily used their UV nail lamps for two years and have already needed to replace them. I really doubt the average user will need to replace their lamps every two years, but I don’t think you can expect your lamp to last more than five years, either. Unless it sits on the shelf much of the time!
Even so, even if you replace the nail lamp every three years, LEDs are still less expensive than fluorescent-style UV nail lamps. Those who use fluorescent-style nail lamps usually need to replace their bulbs about three times a year. Nail lamps generally contain four bulbs, which end up being twelve bulbs per year or thirty-six bulbs in three years. At $14/bulb that would be $500 just in bulbs. LED bulbs do provide a steadier output of UV than fluorescent bulbs, and will do this for a much longer period. Even if you have to replace the LED nail lamp every three years, you’re still saving money.
Please, do not take my estimates wrong. I am not telling you to start using LED-style UV nail lamps because they are superior; they are only superior when used with a UV gel specifically designed for use with LED-style UV nail lamps. They should NOT be used with UV gels designed for use only with fluorescent-style UV nail lamps.
Use only the nail lamp specified by the manufacturers of the UV gel. Never use an LED nail lamp unless the UV gel manufacturer directs you to do so.