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There's more to achieving a salon-quality manicure at home than choosing the perfect polish. In fact, the color is only part of the equation: The finished product reflects how you prep and prime your tips, and that includes steps like buffing your cuticles and filing your nails. And similarly to how you might have your favorite nail polish brand, people also have strong opinions regarding nail tools, specifically which nail files are the best nail files.
According to licensed nail professional Patricia Reign, the owner and founder of Traveling Aura mobile spa, having the proper tools to achieve the perfect manicure is key. That includes choosing the right nail file, of which there are many kinds like wooden files, crystal, and glass nail files. There are also metal and electric models, and chunky buffing blocks.
Which kind of nail file you buy will depend on how you intend to use it. For example, glass files are mainly used on natural nails because their natural smoothness "can help prevent splitting, chipping and breaking," Reign explained, while a 100/180 grit nail file is specifically designed for nail extensions and enhancements. Once you know the look you're going for, then you can shop for the right tool. We've listed a few nail artists preferences below to help narrow down your options.
The Valentino nail file is ideal for shaping enhancements.
Reign told Insider she religiously uses Valentino's nail files as they are great to achieve the perfect stiletto, square, or coffin-shaped enhancements. "Their functioning is super easy," she said, adding that the file also doesn't hurt clients out of the box," which tends to happen a lot when using newer files."
Medicool's electric nail file is a professional tool that requires practice to use.
Medicool's e-files are an investment, but for seasoned artists with proper training, Reign said this professional tool is at the top of its class for enhancements like acrylics, gels, and fiberglass. "If you're looking to create the perfect smooth surface for your nail enhancements, Medicool is a great way to achieve this so you can have the perfect surface to apply your nail enamel," she explained.
Tammy Taylor's Peel N Stick nail file is one of the easiest to use.
A nail technician of 15 years, Jenna Bean (aka Nail Trapper) said the Tammy Taylor Disposable 3-in-1 File Cuticle Pusher-Shaper-Smoother is a "game-changer" because its unique shape and size make it incredibly easy to use. "[The file] offers to push back cuticles, shape the nail and also smooth your nails for the finishing look," Bean told Insider, unlike ordinary nail files that just shape your nails.
ORLY's double-duty nail file is great on natural nails and extensions.
Celebrity nail artist Queenie Nguyen told Insider she uses ORLY's nail files every day. "They're the perfect grid to use on natural nails as well as extensions," Nguyen said, noting their dual-sided design with a file on one side and buffer on the other makes them an awesome travel tool. Plus, she added, "the unique shape of the files makes it easy to reach all areas around the nails to file."
This nail file is also a favorite among artists for gel manicures, as Brittney Boyce, celebrity nail artist and founder of NAILS OF LA tells Insider they can be used to "gently file their gel down before soaking it in acetone or acetone-based nail polish remover."
KISS nail files are widely available and reliable.
Celebrity Manicurist and Smith & Cult brand ambassador Jessica Tong told Insider this file from Kiss Nails is her go-to drugstore pick. "You can find it anywhere and it will always get the job done," she said.
CND files are salon-quality and work for all different nail types.
For DIY home manicures, Tong recommended CND's range of files. With 100/180 grit, they're great for "shaping, buffing or shining," she explained, and can shorten the length of enhancements and acrylics. Plus, they're gentle on natural nails.
Deborah Lippmann's Smooth Operator Buffer file is incredibly gentle on natural nails.
For healthy, natural nails, lead nail technician at Chillhouse Molly Romah told Insider Deborah Lippmann's Smooth Operator Buffer Nail File is one of the best. It's made with an extra-gentle custom material to prevent breakage, and the fabric of the buffer smooths the surface of nails plus adds a nice, healthy shine to the finished product.
Germanikure's glass nail file is good for your nails and easy on the environment.
To avoid micro-tears on the nail's free edge, NYC-based celebrity manicurist, Julie Kandalec told Insider a glass file, like this option from Germanikure, actually seals it to prevent peeling. Kandalec also loves this file because it's disinfectable and "never wears down like traditional nail files, so it's not only better for you and for your nails, it's better for the earth too."
This diamond nail file is a great pick for precise shaping.
Erica's ATA Diamond Hand File is another favorite of Kandalec because "they outlast 500 paper files and are disinfectable and sterilizable." They are also made from 100% real diamond, and are thinner than regular nail files, which, she said, allows you to "file with precision, especially under tight corners."
Made from tempered glass that smooths tips and seals in keratin, the Cirque Colors Crystal Nail File is as sturdy on nails as it is stunning on your vanity.
"Ever since switching to a glass nail file I've tried quite a few of them and found that this Cirque Colors one is one of the best," Brooklyn-based nail artist Mia Petlyak tells Insider, noting the high-quality file is "gentle on the nail" and "makes filing a breeze!" Petlyak also appreciates the fact that glass files don't wear, and with proper care can "last a lifetime."
ManiMe's glass file is not your average shaping tool. That's evident on sight, as traditional files are long and skinny, but ManiMe's version is shaped like a teardrop cut in half.
"It's one of the gentlest nail files I've used," nail artist Rebecca Ludwig tells Insider. "It's meant for frictionless filing whether you're wearing ManiMe Gels or using it on your natural nails to create clean shapes. The Glassy File helps seal the keratin into the edge of the nail — meaning fewer chipping accidents or unwanted tears."
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