A nail buffer is a cosmetic tool designed to give fingernails and toenails a high gloss shine, achieved primarily through friction and sanding on the nail surface. People sometimes buff their nails as an alternative to polishing them with lacquer or clear gloss, and the results can be somewhat similar. Buffing tools are usually available in both manual and electric formats, though the latter are more commonly seen in professional salons since they’re more expensive both to buy and to maintain. Some experts say that buffing can stimulate blood circulation to the hands and feet, and this might promote growth of naturally healthy nails as a consequence.
How it Works
The main idea behind nail buffing is to shine the outer surface of the nail by applying constant and even pressure. Most tools have gradations of grit or roughness that the user must pull against the nail surface, almost as if he or she were sanding the nail. This smoothes out grooves and usually leads to a certain amount of shine that can then be polished by the tool’s softer or less abrasive side.
People who wish to buff their nails at home or on the go often choose a manual-style tool, which is very portable and can easily fit into a purse or briefcase. This style of nail buffer often looks like cross between a thick nail file and a Styrofoam block and can be purchased from many beauty supply stores. The various buffers are often labeled with numbers or letters to help distinguish them from each other, and are often graded based on size and roughness. For instance, a buffer marked “1A” will often be smaller and smoother than one labeled “2D” or simply “C.” Even the smoothest tools usually have a progressively gritty surface, though, that usually goes from smooth to abrasive. Just how abrasive it gets is usually the biggest difference. Depending on the tool, the various sides might also be labeled in the order they're meant to be used, for instance "1" for the roughest side, going up to "3" or "4" for the smoother portions.
Using a manual buffer is usually pretty straightforward. The user should generally start with the roughest side of the tool to smooth away all surface scratches. He or she should buff with the medium grit in the center of the tool to further shape the nail, then use the finest part of the buffer for shining and smoothing. People who want a bit of extra shine on the buffed nails can apply a bit of beeswax or cuticle oil with a soft chamois cloth.
Electric nail buffers are more expensive than their manual counterparts, but they provide a more professional look. These types of tools tend to be bigger, and are often sold in only one size or style since each usually has the capacity to adapt to many different user-inputted settings. Technicians can usually tell the tool to perform at a variety of abrasiveness on small or large surfaces, and the instrument often comes with detachable buffing pads of various grits.
Buffers in this category tend to be faster and the shine is more evenly distributed than it is when using a manual tool. They do tend to be more expensive to maintain, though. The pads will need to be replaced on a regular basis, for instance, since they are similar to the grit of a manual buffer and will eventually wear down, and depending on how often the tool is used it may also need to be serviced rather frequently to keep it in top working order. This can include lubricating its moving parts and replacing its gears and rotating pads as needed.
General Benefits and Tips
Many people prefer buffing their nails to getting them polished since the results tend to last longer. Buffed nails can't chip or show other obvious signs of wear, which makes this type of manicure fairly low maintenance. The nails also lose many of their jagged ridges and edges during buffing, and so long as it's not done too often, the practice may improve natural nail strength and blood circulation as well.
Generally, nail buffing is safe to do once per month since doing so more often can wear away the surface of the nail. Users should remember to always buff in one direction and to use a gentle touch. In addition to damaging the surface of the nail, vigorous use can be rather painful.
Popularity and Main Uses
In a growing number of places buffers are popular with both women and men. Many cultures and societies do not consider it appropriate for a man to wear actual nail polish, but buffing provides a clean and well groomed looked that is very natural. It also lasts longer than a manicure with traditional polish, which makes it appealing to those who don't have the time to bother with beauty treatments that require complicated upkeep.