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How Do I Choose the Best Nail File?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

Choosing the best nail file is simple once you determine the type of file you prefer and how you primarily intend to use it. While some nail files are flat and offer only two filing surfaces, others are three-dimensional and offer multiple surfaces for many functions, including buffing and shining. In addition to varying thicknesses, files also vary by design, length and texture. No matter the style, the best nail file to use may be one that is the easiest to operate and hold on to, such as an over-sized file.

The best nail file for everyday use is often a common emery board file. It features a rougher, more abrasive filing surface on one side for fast shaping. The other side has a finer grit surface for smoothing and finishing touches. Ceramic stone nail files are gentle on weak nails and are typically the best nail file if you want a long-lasting device.

A metal cuticle pusher.
A metal cuticle pusher.

Metal files are often durable and geared toward use on toe nails as well as fingernails. In addition to a filing surface, metal files often have additional features. Many metal nail files have a cuticle pusher on one end and a nail cleaner on the other end. Metal nail files are available in straight, bar styles and foldable, pocket styles, and selecting the best nail file will depend on your personal preferences.

A steel nail file may be more suitable than an emery board for filing toenails after clipping.
A steel nail file may be more suitable than an emery board for filing toenails after clipping.

Crystal glass styles of nail files are also available. The benefit of glass is that it does not tend to tear the nail as it is filed; instead it glides and smooths the nail. Glass nail files are available clear, colored and even embellished with crystals. The best nail file for gift giving may be a custom creation featuring hand-painted symbols, such as angels, cats or flowers.

For natural, shining nails without polish, the best nail file choice may be a multi-use tool. In addition to a filing surface, multi-use nail files feature surfaces for buffing and polishing. The multi-use tool is typically the best nail file when using one tool is preferable to using several different tools. Multi-use manicure tools also include nail clippers that feature a fold-out nail file. The file may even feature a nail cleaner on one end, and some pocket knives also feature retractable or foldable blades that are nail files.

Some types of nail files are designed to last a lifetime. These lifetime files typically are made of a durable material, such as ceramic or glass crystals. The only maintenance they usually require is occasional cleaning with soap and water.

Discussion Comments


@turquoise-- Yes, I've used them. I think there are two different types of nail files- crystal ones and glass ones. They're not the one and the same.

The glass ones are made completely from glass, whereas the crystal ones are usually made from stainless steal and covered with crystal.

I really like my crystal nail file. It doesn't damage the nail while filing at all and leaves a really smooth finish. I would recommend one of these to you. Basically, they're all washable so you shouldn't have a problem with hygiene.

It's also a good idea to use a buffer cube in between files and manicures. These have different types of materials on each side. So you can file, shape, buffer, even out and shine your nails with just one tool. These are also great to take along with you while traveling.


@turkay1-- I've been using an emery board one too, but I really want a nicer nail file. I've been working hard to grow my nails. I was a nail biter for years and I've finally given up the horrible habit. I'm getting to enjoy long nails for the first time and I want a file that will be gentle but will give a nice shape without too much effort.

I definitely don't want a file that makes me feel like I'm scraping a blackboard with my nails. And hygiene is important too, so I should be able to wash it.

Does anyone have any recommendations? Has anyone tried the crystal glass files? What do you think about those?


I use a regular emery board file. I haven't used crystal glass files, but have tried all other kinds and I like the emery board files the best. These give shape to the nail fast and don't damage it. I can use the rougher part to shorten nails and then the finer side to smooth the nail out. It's easy to clean too. I wash it with soapy warm water and it dries very quickly. The one I'm using now I've had for four years already.

I dislike metal nail files and don't recommend them because they're too hard on the nails. Particularly the ones that are attached to nail clippers. They're way too rough, don't provide any precision and they damage and chip the ends of nails while filing.

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    • A metal cuticle pusher.
      By: Maksim Kostenko
      A metal cuticle pusher.
    • A steel nail file may be more suitable than an emery board for filing toenails after clipping.
      By: terex
      A steel nail file may be more suitable than an emery board for filing toenails after clipping.