How To File Nails on Your Own the Right Way

How To File Nails on Your Own the Right Way

You manage to give your clients effortlessly beautiful and healthy nail looks day-in and day-out, but is that always the case when you are working on your own? Whether you are worried about your own nails or thinking about your clients, it is supremely important for any nail tech to be able to file nails correctly, painlessly, and consistently. 

There are more factors than many of us would have imagined that we need to consider before just diving in to give those nails a good shaping and shortening. Luckily, we at V Beauty Pure are here to help, so read on to find out more about our top tips for filing your and your clients’ nails the right way. 

Nail Health 101 

Our fingernails are made up of keratin, laminated layers of protein that help to build up strong and smooth structures. Nails should be uniform in color and healthy-looking and should be free of dents, grooves, discoloration, unusual shapes (like growing curled over the fingertip), or any brittle sensation. 

Before you file nails, you want to make sure they are healthy and strong, so make sure to first consider some key “dos” and “don’ts.” 

Fingernail Dos: 

  • Have solid nail hygiene: Going the extra mile to regularly maintain nail length and health by clipping or cutting them will ensure their strength and ease for future filing.
  • Try to keep nails clean and dry: This can help to prevent harmful bacteria from growing underneath. Excessive moisture exposure has the potential to weaken the area and lead to split nails. 
  • Embrace a protective layer: Applying trustworthy products like your favorite base coat, hardener, or growth treatment will help to create an extra coat of strength and durability to help nails sustain any good filing session. 

Fingernail Don’t: 

  • Abuse your nails: Be kind to nails and the surrounding skin! This means not biting and picking at nails or cuticles, and refraining from yanking off hangnails, so matter how tempting it may seem to do so. You wouldn’t want your clients to do this, after all, so be sure to treat yourself with the same level of care and respect! 
  • Use harsh products: Be selective with the products you use on your and your clients’ nails. Try to have sufficient knowledge of a product’s ingredients and general safety before using it, and refrain from excessive use of harsh or chemical-heavy nail polish removers. 
  • Ignore the problem: You may be a pro, but that doesn’t mean that you have to figure every potential nail problem out on your own or that you have to be embarrassed to ask for help. Since you know your stuff, you should be able to spot if something doesn’t look right with your or your clients’ nails, so if it seems serious enough, waste no time in reaching out to a doctor or dermatologist. 

Find the Right File 

One of the most underrated yet important parts of nail filing is to choose the right file. You care about your and your clients’ nails, so there is no reason to skimp on buying the best. 

Since a nail file can really make or break (sometimes quite literally) the work you do, try to go for something simple, stress-free, and durable. Glass files are wonderful choices, because they are easy to clean, gentle on the fingernails, and last a long time. 

Try to avoid the overly coarse files, as they tend to both be too harsh on the nail and also brush up extra debris that can block or mess up the filing process. 

Settle on a Shape 

If you file your client’s or your own nails to perfection, settling on a shape is very important. The shape of the nail can help dictate its fortitude, longevity, maintenance level, and general style or vibe. 

Make sure to consider your options and get a shape and plan in place before hacking away at the fingernails willy-nilly. This will be to the benefit of both your nails’ appearance and your own sanity. 


To get the perfect almond shape, file down the sides of the nail to create a tapered look that finishes in a rounded, almond-like shape. 

Pro tip: The almond shape can sometimes be hard for natural nails to be strong enough to hold on their own, so you may want to think about offering your client some acrylic nails if they have their heart set on this shape. 


While this shape of nail can sound spooky to some, the coffin nail is actually a glamorous and eye-catching shape that has become popular enough in recent years to be regularly sported by celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Blac Chyna, and Rihanna. 

This shape tapers from the sides of the nail to end in a narrower tip that is flat on top, creating an optical illusion to make the nails seem wider than they actually are. 

Often done with acrylics to achieve the necessary nail length needed to create this style, coffin nails will make your clients’ nails look long and slender, giving them that ultimate coffin or ballerina slipper-like appearance. The added length also makes this a delicate shape, so clients should handle these nails with care in order to keep them beautiful, healthy, and strong for as long as possible. 


If your client prefers the ease and effortlessness of shorter nails, then you may want to hook them up with a round shape. This is a natural and simple look with straight sides that curve at the edges as they follow the shape of your client’s fingertips to create a clean shape that looks great on anyone. 


Like round nails, square-shaped nails have straight sides, but rather than curving naturally following the shape of the finger, square nails give your clients an extra taste of boldness and personality by flattening the top of the nails. 

The square shape is finished with sharp straight lines and corners to give off the look of wider nails, making this a nice option for clients with short nails and narrower nail beds. 


For clients who may have some trouble deciding whether or not they want to commit to the bold lines of square nails or whether they would just like to play it a little safer by sticking with round, natural-looking nails, squoval may be the perfect shape. 

Squoval nails combine the square shape’s straight, neat lines with the oval or round shape’s slightly softer, rounded edges, creating a perfect fusion of the two looks. This is a flattering shape that can take on just about any look or design, and are relatively easy to create and maintain.


The stiletto shape is just as glamorously pointy and luxe-looking as the name would suggest. 

This shape takes coffin nails to the next level by tapering long nails to a sharp, thin point (seriously, we don’t think that anyone will want to mess with your client once they see these ferocious and fierce fingernails). Stiletto nails are absolute show-stoppers in their own right, so they won’t even need much extra color, art, or manicuring on your end. 

Pro tip: Before your client gets these nails, make sure that what they already have is long, and that if it isn’t, you add some length with acrylics. The length is key to the classic stiletto shape, or else the nails will just end up looking like short, scary claws. 

Filing Tips and Tricks 

Stop the Sawing

Filing nails should not be painful (there is a limit to the saying that “beauty is pain,” okay?)! Now that you have selected a proper file, do be sure to use it with care and a light hand. This means refraining from sawing across the nail like a lumberjack. 

Instead, file in just one consistent direction to avoid causing tear or breakage (which is what that back-and-forth sawing motion will ultimately do). It is also recommended that you start inside towards the middle before then working out from there.

Above all, remember to take the time to smooth out rough edges and ease into your desired shape rather than overdoing it and grounding down or harming the nail. 

Take Your Time 

Life is busy, and we all have places to go and people to see. No commitment, however, is worth rushing filing your nails for. Making a mistake could mean anything from wrecking what would have been a lovely nail job or accidentally hurting yourself or your client, so let yourself relax and take it easy as you file away. 

Not only will this result in nicer nails and the look you want (since this helps to prevent overfiling), but it can also end up making the process a therapeutic and pleasant break from the grind and stresses of daily life and regular commitments. 

Finish With a Flick 

So, you have selected the finest file, filed gently and slowly inwards-out in one direction (absolutely no sawing allowed!), and ultimately molded the nail to your desired shape and length, that’s it, right? 

Not quite!

To finish your look off, make sure to clean up the whole look by putting the round edge of the file underneath the tip of the nail and then flicking outwards to completely rid the filed nail of any loose savings, skin, or debris. 

This finishing touch is just what you need to take any work of filing from good to great. And, if you’re really feeling yourself, top it all off with a light coat of cuticle oil to leave the nail hydrated and strong. 


  1. Fingernails: Do's and don'ts for healthy nails | Mayo Clinic
  2. The 6 Best Tips to File Nails Like a Pro | Byrdie
  3. Squoval Nail Shape And How To File Them | Glamour