filing nails guide and shapes

How to file nails

Whether you are in search of long pointy nails, almond nails, oval nails, square nails or simply short and neat nails, you will need to take some time to keep them looking presentable.

Keeping your nails filed properly will help them to maintain whatever shape you prefer, as well as allowing them to grow evenly, stopping one from being longer than the others.

We have all seen girls filing their nails on TV, dragging the file back and forth across the nail rapidly.

But is this actually the best way to file your nails?!

Types of nail files

You might think of a nail file as the thin little thing you would see your mum use, but nowadays, there are a great many materials, shapes and grits available, so it is important to choose the right tool for the job.

Grit numbers on a nail file

When you see a number on a nail file, it refers to the grit.

Two identical numbers mean it has the same grit on both sides, whilst different numbers means the sides vary.

As a general rule of thumb, higher numbers mean that the file grit is soft, whilst lower numbers mean it is coarser.

These coarser grits (around 80) are usually used for removing product from your nails so you should never use them on your natural nail.1

Grits of around 100 are used to reduce the length of the nails and to shape the side walls. As you get up towards numbers such as 180 grit, you can begin to think about contouring the whole nail.

The shape of the file makes very little difference to your nails, so just make sure you choose the one that you are most comfortable holding.

Emery boards and glass nail files

Most of us are familiar with a good old emery board, which usually has two different grits. These are versatile, easy to find and do a basic job for you.

If you are looking for a wooden nail file, you should be aware that these generally have a coarser grit and are intended for pedicures.

Glass nail files have a longer life span than many others and can also be santised.

They are gentle on natural nails so they can prevent and chipping or breakage.

Is there a right way to go about filing nails?

Filing your nails does not sound like rocket science but it is important to use the right technique to avoid damaging your nails.

The most important thing to remember is to only file in one direction.

Sawing backwards and forwards can cause the nails to splinter, so take your time, starting at the side and filing towards the centre, sweeping the file over the tip of the nail.

When filing, make sure you hold the file flat against the nail tip to avoid thinning it and do not file too far into the sides of the nails, as it will create a stress point that will lead to breakages.

Which finger nail shapes should I choose?

There are lots of different nail shapes to choose from which will suit your hands and your lifestyle.

Almond nails

One of the most common nail shapes is almond nails. These nails are great for all seasons and are an elegant way to sport a longer nail.

They are filed along the sides and nail wall is tapered to end in a round peak.2

Oval nails

Oval nails are similar to this but tend to be shorter, and therefore more manageable. It is a classic style that lends itself to any age.

Square nails

Square nails are less popular now than they used to be but involve a flat free edge with sharp corners. This not the most practical of nail styles as those corners are very easy to catch.

Squoval nails

Squoval might sound like a made up word, but it is actually the name of one of the most flattering nail shapes on offer.

It is delicate and suits both long and short nails and is a softer alternative to the square nail.

To create the look, cut the nails straight across at the desired length and file around the corners to remove the sharpness.

Rounded nails

Rounded nails are exactly what you would expect. This mirrors the contour of the nail with a circular edge and it can help to elongate the fingers by making them appear narrower.

Coffin nails

Coffin nails are a more extreme nail shape that are tapered at the sides and has a straight edge on the tip.

Stiletto nails

Stiletto nails are named after everybody’s favourite heel and take pointy nails to the max. These are long and filed to a sharp point, which looks chic and glamorous.

When you file your nails, make sure you are gentle and choose a style that suits you and your nails.

And don’t forget, you will need to replace your file periodically, so have a few to hand.

Shop Natural Beauty

Expertly reviewed by:

Last updated: 4 December 2020

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Nail HealthNatural Beauty

Manisha Taggar,
Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: May 2019

BSc Hons in Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Science

Manisha started her career at a Cosmetics distributor as a Regulatory Technologist followed by a Regulatory Affairs Officer, ensuring the regulatory compliance of cosmetic products from colour cosmetics to skincare.

After 3 and half years in this role, Manisha joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.

Manisha specialises in Cosmetic products, both own-label and branded lines, ensuring that these products and all relating marketing material comply to the EU Cosmetics Regulation.