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Will an LED table lamp affect LED-cured gels?

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Question: The area of my school in which I perform services is not as well-lit as I need. I want to purchase a table lamp, but I realized that some of the lamps are LED.  Will an LED table lamp affect LED-cured gels? What type of close lighting would you suggest?

Answer: I agree that you need good lighting, and it sounds like the school should consider making an improvement in their lighting conditions because poor lighting can be a safety hazard and create unnecessary risk.  However, I need to explain that LED means “light-emitting diode”, which makes it a type of light bulb and NOT a type of light. It’s a big myth that LED is the type of light coming out of the “bulb”, but it’s not! LEDs are just the bulb and many different colors can be emitted by LEDs. In fact, they can be made to emit every color of the rainbow, from red to violet. To clarify, I’m using the word “bulb” in the everyday sense, meaning something that actually emits light when enough electrical power is supplied, as in an incandescent light bulb.  Some refer to these as lamps or globes.  For our purposes, we’ll consider these to be the same as bulbs. 

The mistake that some make is to assume a new kind of light is emitted and it is called “LED”, and this LED stuff cures UV gels so you don’t need to use UV. Wrong! This is a BIG mistake that many are making, including some doctors who are putting this misinformation on the Internet or misleading reporters when they are interviewed. The facts are the vast majority of LED’s sold couldn’t cure a single nail product. It’s overly simplistic to assume that all LEDs emit UV. Most of them do NOT.

Yes, a few types of LEDs, like those used in UV nail lamps, are specially designed so that they emit UV, but these are unique and special applications within the wider world of LEDs. Even so, your question is a good one because many types of light bulbs also emit low levels of UV, including halogen lamps. You should be careful about what you use in the salon, if you use UV gels. If you aren’t curing UV gels, then any type of table lamp that you chose would likely be fine.

For instance, even fluorescent office lighting emits low levels of UV, but these won’t affect UV gel products, since the amount emitted is too low, and the source is too far away from the nails.  So your question becomes: Is there enough UV coming from a table lamp to affect UV gels and cause them to pre-maturely begin to cure the product? After all, these lamps are much closer than overhead lighting, so this becomes more likely. In some cases, the answer is yes, certain table lamps emit more UV than others. The most likely culprits are those which use so-called “true color” or “full-spectrum” lamps/bulbs. These mimic natural sunlight and can be found either as fluorescent bulbs or as LED-style bulbs. These can emit significant amounts of UV, enough to begin to thicken your UV gel while it sits in the container. These types of lamps should be avoided in order to prevent a “pre-mature cure”.

Fortunately, it is pretty easy to determine which table lamps will pre-maturely cure the UV gels, and which ones will not. To test a table lamp, all you need to do is coat a nail tip with the UV gel that you use in the salon and set it directly under your table lamp about 6 inches or 15 centimeters and leave it there for 15 minutes. If the UV gel appears to be unaffected, then the amount of UV coming from the table lamp is too low to cause an issue and the lamp is acceptable.

Repeat this same test with a true color or full-spectrum lamp and the UV gel will very noticeably thicken or completely harden within the same span of time. That’s because UV gels will harden once they reach the point where they are 50% cured. Even so, the UV gel doesn’t need to be fully cured to indicate a potential problem with the table lamp. This is probably the best test you can perform to ensure your table lamp is not prematurely curing the product.  Be sure to keep UV gel containers covered when not in use. Keep them away from the front side of your nail lamp, where UV exposure can occur.  This is a common way that nail professionals prematurely cure their nail products, so beware of your product placement on the table.  Premature curing can result in a product that is difficult to apply and may quickly lift or develop other signs of service breakdown, e.g. discoloration.  Keep these products away from sunlit windows to prevent premature curing on the brush, as well as in the container. Most of all remember, LED doesn’t cure UV gels… only UV cures UV gels, including UV gel manicure products.

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