Need Help Shaping Nails
February 20, 2013 5:50 PM   Subscribe

What's the secret to trimming & filing your fingernails? I can't seem to do it right.

When I get a manicure at a nail salon, they file my nails into a squarish sort of shape that makes them pretty and strong. I can never seem to replicate this at home. When I try to file, all I get is nail dust and uneven nail layers. This could also be due to my trimming my nails incorrectly- I tend to clip them very short, starting on one side and then sliding over to the other, with the break in the middle. I should probably stop that, right? Please offer advice, easy-to-follow nail shaping tutorials, recommendations on any particular brand of nail file I should use, etc.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
I've been told to file in one direction. Not back and forth. Counter to what your hand wants to do! I have also found that rounder is stronger.

As for the trimming... if you file every few days, you shouldn't need to cut with clippers ever, removing that problem.
posted by taff at 5:54 PM on February 20, 2013

Also, I find that metal files are no good, as are the sandpapery emery board types. I prefer the black type or the slightly padded types.
posted by taff at 5:56 PM on February 20, 2013

Put the scissors away. You won't be using them anymore.
It's all file all the time now.
Get one of the black puffy files or one of the foam blocks with different files on each side.
New black files are too coarse on the rougher side. You should only use that for your toenails until it wears down a little.
You should use the finer side of the black file for your nails.

Go in one direction and start with the highest part of your nail (not the side). This will square it out.
Then if you want, gently slope the sides so the transition to nail tip is not as angled. Don't file the sides of your nail though; those are what give your nails strength.

If your nail is flaking or splitting, file down past that point. We only want good nails here, and those layers will continue to separate and then you'll prob pick them and your nail will be weak even lower down than it is now.

One thing you will find after filing down a significant amount is that there is leftover nail junk under your nail. Once you've shaped the nail how you want it, put the file under your nail and scrape outward to free that bit.

At the end of your filing session, very very lightly file from the top of the tip of your nail down and away to seal in the edge you just created.

If your file is too coarse, you will notice that you have to keep filing and filing to get an even shape, because it's taking off too much or leaving you jagged. Get a finer file.
If it's taking you half an hour to go through one nail, your file is too fine. Get a coarser one to do the job of taking down the nail to shape faster. Always finish with the finer file though.

Godspeed, my friend.
posted by rmless at 6:31 PM on February 20, 2013 [23 favorites]

Loodieloodieloodie is the best source of nail care information I know. She has a few tutorials on filing and shaping.

I like my glass file: it's got a very fine grit and it's easy to wash the nail dust off. Sephora has good ones, and most beauty supply stores should carry them.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:33 PM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

For the square-ish thing, try to focus on the tips' shape rather than the "moon" of the nail. Don't be agressive! Go with the rough side for shape, mellow what you've done with the smooth side. Never really attack from the sides (I mean the sides where the hangnails come from), just smooth things out. I was taught to stroke from sides toward apex (the free edge, the "point" -- even if square-shaped), then smooth that out after.
My mother swore by her "diamond" metal file ... I use the cheapest emery boards from the dollar store (a bazillion in different styles for a buck!)
Carry one around with you in your wallet or whatever for quickie clean-up too.
It helped me a ton to have a manicure or two and pay attention to technique.
Cleaning up the cuticles also matters for good grooming, and makes a huge difference in appearance, but is a whole 'nother AskMe (and I have not yet figured those out as much)
posted by bebrave! at 6:33 PM on February 20, 2013

I know I'm supposed to file in one direction but I never do. I I use this nail file because it takes care of the sides of my nails really well which helps get the clean, squared-off look that I like too. I don't like the black sandpaper boards either. I do each side of a nail perfectly horizontal with the direction of my fingers, then the front edge entirely flat (perpendicular to the sides), then round off each of the two corners. I usually just use the fine side unless I'm trying to clean up a broken nail., but I always finish with the fine side. And to compensate for filing in both directions I use a clear nail thickener/protector. Every couple of weeks I use a four-part buffer thingy as well. That keeps things smooth for the next filing. Agree with rmless about filing up to remove the leftover bits from filing the front.
posted by mireille at 6:37 PM on February 20, 2013

I spent 30+ years of my life with ragged, brittle nails, and started filing and shaping them for the first time ever last year. Reading a bunch of nail art blogs and buying a crystal nail file changed everything. I now never trim my nails with scissors; I only file. I use a large crystal nail file and file back and forth along the nail's free edge to create a square shape, then finish by running the file along the top and bottom of the free edge to seal it.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:18 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, I totally trim with clippers. If I didn't trim my nails would be freakishly long. Even filing daily I sometimes look down at my hands and my nails are very, very long. When that happens it clipper time.

Getting a nice shape requires that you look at the shape of your finger and nail. If you look at the end of your fingertip you can see how arched your nail is. (Manicurists call this the C Curve). I don't have much of a C Curve and my nails with grow out sort of flat and wide. I have to file the sides to get an attractive shape with a reasonable taper. Otherwise they look weird and blocky. If your nails is more arched you won't need to file the sides.

The best way to figure it out is to get a good manicure and really watch how she files. A good manicurist is shaping based on how you want the tip and what arch/curve you have.
posted by 26.2 at 9:52 PM on February 20, 2013

I use the crystal (glass) nail files from here (the colorful ones about 3/4 of the way down the page), and I do trim with clippers, but only when my nails are slightly neglected and too long to be filed down. I usually go over the edges with a buffing block to smooth them out, but not too aggressively. Also, I think squarish nails work better if you have a flatter nail bed (or flatter C curve as per 26.2).

Hugely seconding loodieloodieloodie - she demonstrates tons of nail techniques and also explains why they work. I use her recipe for nail polish remover, which is a lot easier on my nails than the store-bought stuff.
posted by timetoevolve at 6:30 AM on February 21, 2013

This may be obvious but, a nice sharp set of clippers so you don't shred the tip and a small clip at a time.
posted by florencetnoa at 7:36 AM on February 21, 2013

« Older Advance planning for a move to San Francisco...   |   Should I call the person that interviewed me? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.