Like cuticle care, filing never used to be high up in my list of priorities or even featured that heavily in my manicure routine. Yet over time, as I got into nail care and became a major polish addict, I experimented more with shapes of my nails and how I filed them. But first and foremost, I realised there is definitely more than a knack to filing your nails in the first place.

Filing your nails incorrectly can ruin your manicure, encourage flaking nails, chipping of polish and damage to nails. So getting it right is key, especially if you have troublesome nails to begin with.

With a bit of practice, I have got the hang of filing and feel comfortable enough with my routine to share a few basic tips with you. Hopefully after reading this post you to can get the overall shape, length and smoothness you desire.


In my formative years, I would enter Sally’s beauty supplies trying to pick up a few beauty essentials and end up lost in confusion. Especially when it came to nail files, so many grits to choose from for different purposes, I was like a lost sheep, I didn’t know which way to turn!


In case you ever wanted to buy a professional file for whatever purpose here is a quick list of grits and their suitable purposes.

Coarse files (80-100 grit) are best for acrylic nail extensions.
Medium files (180 grit) are best to shape extensions of medium thickness, like most tips and wraps, and to shape the free edge of toenails.
Fine files (240-600 grit) are best for removing small bumps, ridges or discolorations and for shaping the free edge of natural nails.
Ultra fine files (between 600 – 2400 grit) are used for buffing and shining all types of nails.
Files come in a variety of materials including padded cushion files, glass, mylar and ceramic.

Avoid metal files as they are harsh and can even split nails.

Basically, the higher the grit number, the smoother the file. For filing natural nails use a soft cushion file between 240 – 600 grit and this will prevent tearing of the nail.

A 240 grit file is a good grit to begin with if you are purchasing a professional grade file. Most multi block files and nail files from pharmacies and drugstores will be within this grit range, unless otherwise stated (i.e. not for natural nails).

Alternatively use a crystal nail file if you have one, a perfect longer term item to have in your nail stash.


The next step is to file nails in one direction only.

Avoid filing in a back-and-forth sawing motion. This is extremely damaging to the nail!

File in a side-to-centre motion, sweeping the file over the tip of the nail in one direction, and then shape the nail accordingly depending on your chosen nail shape.

Whilst filing, hold the file flat to the nail tip. If you don’t hold the file flat you will create an angle whilst you file, and the tip of your nail will thin. Thinning the nail tip will create more opportunities for your nails to break and weaken the overall nail.

If your nails are dry, brittle and tend to break easily, avoid soaking nails prior to filing and shaping. Also try to file nails first in your manicure routine.

imageKeep your nails in a shape you can get on with, this will help avoid breakage if you are prone to this ailment.

I find personally square with rounded corners, squoval or oval shaped nails the easiest shape to maintain.


Finding you right shape helps to avoid catching and breakage and in turn keep your nails strong.  So try some different shapes and find out what works for you!


If you did want to try some of the other shaped nails, go for it and experiment with shape!


If your hands are feminine and dainty and your nails are long, I envy you! You should try all of these styles! With good nail length and a longer nail bed – you can get away with it and it can look amazing!

If your hands are petite with smaller nail beds, I would personally choose to keep to more rounder styles. Round, oval, almond or squoval shaped nails would be perfect for those nail beds. I find the more squarer styles can look odd if you have very small nail beds.

But overall if you are unsure what style shape to go for, look at the shape of your cuticle, look for symmetry and go from there!

After filing and shaping, you need to buff your nail to seal the nail, this would be the next step in this process. You will go even higher up in the grit to acheive this, using either a professional file or alternatively use a buffer file that is designed for this purpose.


Filed your nails too short? Don’t panic, your nails will soon grow back! Polish nails with a lovely deep neutral colour especially if they are very short. Alternatively go for a nude toned shade which will add to the illusion of nail length until they grow. A perfect opportunity to try these New Noir shades or even a Mannequin Hand Manicure!

Anyhow, I hope you find these nail filing tips helpful! I am not an nail expert, I discovered these tips myself through trial and error and helpful manicurists and beauticians who helped me maintain my manicures at home.

If you want to see more about my manicure routine see this post here for more information about what products and tools I use.

What are your top nail filing tips? What is your nail filing ritual? Any favourite nail files or buffers?

Let me know in the comments.

FYI – I am not a nail technician but I am a nail enthusiast. If you do not agree with my methods in this post, my apologies. These methods worked for me and I hope they work for you! Please see my disclaimer for more information.