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What is a Nail Drill?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 21, 2024
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A nail drill is an electric tool that is used to shape fingernails and toenails. These sorts of drills are most commonly used in spas and beauty parlors and are rarely purchased for personal use in homes. In fact, for safety purposes, it is best if these kinds of drills are only operated by trained nail technicians. The main purpose of a nail drill is to file down the fingernail or toenail to a workable or aesthetically pleasing length and width. They are used with traditional manual files are not sufficient.

Most drills look like thick pens with an eraser where the nib should be. They are designed to fit easily in the hand. The eraser-like nib at the end is actually a round file. When the drill is turned on, the file rotates at a rapid speed. A nail drill works much like a sander does, just for a very small area of the body. When the drill is turned on and the nib is rubbed along a fingernail or toenail, layers of the nail are quickly sloughed off.

For people with incredibly thick fingernails or toenails. a nail drill can help to thin and reshape the nails. Very thick nails often take too long to file with a hand file because they are so durable and have so many layers. An electric nail drill can get the job done in much less time and in a much more efficient manner.

It is common for a nail drill to be used in spa treatments that include the application of artificial nails. Whether acrylic, glass, or silk wrap artificial nails are being applied, a nail drill can be a useful tool. The reason for this is that, prior to applying the acrylic, glass, or silk, the tops of the fingernails must be filed down. This creates a rough surface that to which the artificial nail can more easily bond. Prior to this kind of filing, the top of the fingernail is often to smooth to easily connect with the artificial nail material.

When acrylic nails are being applied, the nail drill is also used to shape the material once it has dried on top of the natural nail. The hardened layer of acrylic often needs to be thinned in order for the artificial nails to be uniform in thickness. Also, applying the drill to the top of the acrylic nail helps to prepare it for polish and the finishing touches of the manicure.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By chivebasil — On Jul 20, 2011

I go to a Korean nail studio and those ladies are incredible with a nail drill. They are so fast but they never catch my skin. It like watching someone juggle or do the hand jive their hands move so fast. I've been to other studios where they are not so skilled with their tools. Thanks God I found the one that I did.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jul 20, 2011

I love to get my toenails done but I have a fungus which makes them thick and craggy. Basically it would not be possible for me to paint my nails if there were no nail drills. Every pedicure begins with a lot of work by the technician and her nail drill.

I am embarrassed to admit this but I know I am not the only one out there with this problem. There are at least a handful of women in my small salon that have this same problem. Its unsightly but at least there is a solution. My mom had the same problem and she spent years being ashamed and keeping her toes covered up.

By whiteplane — On Jul 19, 2011

I went to different nail salons to get my nails done for years. It got to the pint that I couldn't stand the look of my nails without them being done up.

A few months ago I lost a lot of money an as hard as I tried I couldn't afford to keep going to the salon. But it was a hard time and I still wanted to feel like I looked good.

I saw a used nail drill online and bought it for 20 bucks. A friend of mine does nails and she showed me how to use it. It took a while to get the hang of because it looks different to do it for yourself than to have it done to you. I won't lie that I nicked myself more than a few times.

But eventually I got the hang of it and now I do all my own nail work. Its probably not for everyone but it works for me.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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