Here’s the Correct Way to File Your Nails, According to Experts

“It’s so critical that you use the right grit file,” says Miss Pop, a nail artist based in New York City. “Using the wrong grit isn’t going to solve your problem—it’s going to create a new one.” While pros will use those rougher grits while shaping acrylics and extensions (these are often sold at drugstores), it’s best to stick to grits on the lower end of the spectrum for DIY manicures.

Hermès Les Mains Hermès Nail Files are double-sided (the orange side is the finer grit; the beige side is coarser) and come in a box of 12, which makes the $57 price tag sting a little less.


Hermès Les Mains Nail File Set


ForPro 100/180 Grit Nail Files

3. File rough edges and re-shape.

Using the coarser side of your file, ​​Kandalec says to always work in small strokes from the outside corners to the center. (She’s uses a 180 grit.) File slowly using gentle pressure until you’ve reached your desired length and shape, as course-grit files can do a lot in just a few strokes. “You’re not trying to saw down your nail,” adds Miss Pop.

Shapes with sharp corners, like squares and squovals, are more forgiving, but according to New York City-based nail artist Rita Remark, working from the outside corners inward is especially helpful for sculpting rounded shapes like almond nails—without over-filing.

4. Refine with a fine or glass file.

After neutralizing sharp edges, Kandalec says to use a finer file (400 to 600 grit) to perfect and smooth nail tips and tops. “A glass nail file smooths all those little [imperfections],” she says. That goes for the entire nail surface. Kandalec will often buff the tops of the nails in short, gentle strokes, which can make polish—especially metallic lacquers—have a more seamless application.

Her go-to Germanikure Glass Nail File comes in a chic suede case, and we’re partial to Tweezerman’s Best of Beauty Award-winning three-piece set.


Tweezerman Glass Nailcare Set

5. Seal the free edges.

“Sometimes, when we file a lot, little bits of the nail gets stuck under the tip,” explains Remark. Removing these stubborn hangers-on will prevent snagging and fraying. Kandalec recommends using the Maryton Nail Buffer on the undersides of the nail upward to achieve this and remove any “scraggly bits” leftover from filing. Kandalec notes that while her go-to buffer is technically classified as 240 grit, it feels much finer, making it ideal for finishing touches.

Keep your nails looking polished.

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