Everybody has their own opinion over what you should and should not do when it comes to nail filing. After spending hours (literally) researching this, here is the basics.
Choosing a file
Obviously choosing the right file is important. For more information on types of files, check out Nail Art Supplies. I would avoid metal files as they just seem to tear your nails, create peeling and cause more damage than they fix. Booo! Glass files are best if you're willing to splash the cash for them, but they're not a must-have. Nail files are categorized by their grit, or how rough the file is. Lower numbers are rougher grits, the higher the number the softer the grit. Go for something between 220 and 300 for natural nails. If you have thin or weak nails, go higher.
How to File Your Nails
Make sure your nails are clean, and more importantly...dry! Start by applying a bit of moisturizer and hold your file at a 45 degree angle to the nail. This protects the hard protective surface of the nail. Always file from the outside in, not in a "sawing" motion. Filing should mainly be for shaping, if you want to remove length (ie: More than 1cm) you should be clipping first. File with polish on so you get a clear look at the shape you're making and protect your nail from ripping if you get a bit too enthusiastic.
There is five basic shapes of nail. Some people think you should mirror the shape of your nail bed because it's more symmetrical and pleasing to the eye. Some people prefer to experiment with different shapes...it's up to you!
They are, from left to right: Round, Squoval (squared off oval), Square, Oval and Pointed. Squoval is probably the most popular but thanks to Lady GaGa, pointy nails are making a comeback.
After you're done shaping your nail, you may notice it's not nice and smooth, that it feels a bit rough. It's good practise to seal the nail plate as the cherry on top of your filing experience! This video by loodieloodieloodie (who is a nail care genius, btw, and taught me everything I know) is really helpful.
Enjoy your filing adventures, and if you have any questions please email me or feel free to ask in the comments box below. Have fun with your new nail filing skills!
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