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Expert Shopper Beauty & Personal Care

Best nail file

A well-made nail file

If you enjoy doing manicures at home, you’ve probably accumulated a trove of polish and manicure tools. You likely use a nail file quite often, so it’s worth investing in one that is top quality. A well-made nail file with the correct grit can make or break a manicure, literally speaking. In fact, you can damage cuticles or shred nails if you’re not using the right one. 

If you’re wondering what to look for in a quality nail file, take a look at this buying guide. We’re also sharing a few file recommendations at the end. Our top choice, Classy Lady Professional Crystal Nail File, is a popular pick for on-the-go manicures or touch-ups. 

What to know before you buy a nail file

Salon vs. home manicures

Salon manicures can be stunning, especially those with fine detail and intricate artwork. Many consumers find manicures relaxing, especially when accompanied by a hand massage or paraffin wax. However, salon manicures are pricey if you get them done regularly.

Home manicures are affordable and easy to work into your schedule. Since you’re working at your own pace, home manicures can be relaxing as well. Doing your nails at home means you forgo the talent of an experienced nail artist— so you’ll need to brush up on your technique. 

Types of nail files

It only takes a glance at the nail care aisle to know there’s a multitude of nail file types. To keep things simple, we’ve grouped them into categories based on their material. 

Emery board: These affordable nail files are typically made of cardboard, so it comes as no surprise that they’re disposable. While they’re a solid choice if you’re on a budget, keep in mind they’re generally low quality and may damage nails. 

Glass/crystal: Glass and crystal nail files feature fine grit that shapes nails without shredding them. They’re durable enough to last through years of use, so they’re one of the more expensive options.

Ceramic: Individuals with sensitive or mature skin benefit from using ceramic nail files. They’re extra-gentle and less likely to damage weak or brittle nails. These are more affordable than glass or crystal files, but they’re nowhere as durable. 

Metal: Metal nail files are typically made with stainless steel. They’re undoubtedly durable, but they’re a bit harsh on nails and may cause the nail’s upper layers to peel or split. 

Electric: Electric nail files, which resemble mini drills, are often used by professional manicurists. You can buy your own electric filer, though keep in mind it takes practice to avoid doing more harm than good.

What to look for in a quality nail file

Types of abrasive material

There are several types of abrasive materials for nail files. These include silicon carbide, aluminum oxide and garnet. 

Silicon carbide is dense, durable and efficient, but it’s known to create a lot of dust. Some files combine silicon carbide with zinc stearate to cut down on dust. Aluminum oxide is less abrasive and is often preferred for natural nails. Garnet is both durable and affordable. 

Nail file grit

Nail files are available in different grit levels, which determine how coarse or fine they are. Grit 80 and 100 are the coarsest, so they’re reserved for artificial nails. Grit 180 and 240 are best for natural nails, while grit 500 is the finest. 

Nail file core

While outer materials matter the most when selecting a quality nail file, make sure to examine the nail file’s core to determine how durable or flexible it is. Wood core files aren’t very flexible and can be harsh on nails. Plastic is more flexible but may bend too much to control. There are also foam core files, which require additional pressure for effective filing. 

How much you can expect to spend on nail files

Disposable nail files typically cost $5 or less, whereas crystal, ceramic and metal files run between $5-$30. Electric nail files have a broad range that starts at $20 and peaks at $250.

Nail file FAQ

Does my nail file need a sleeve?

A. It’s not necessary, but placing a nail file in a sleeve may contribute to its lifespan. As gritty as a nail file is, it can still sustain damage if it knocks against other items. Fortunately, many mid-to-high-priced nail files come with sleeves.

Does it matter what color my nail file is?

A. According to some home manicurists, selecting a nail file in a bold color makes it easier to see what you’re doing. It’s common to see glass and crystal files in bright colors like blue, purple or green. 

What’s the best nail file to buy?

Top nail file

Classy Lady Professional Crystal Nail File

What you need to know: With fine craftsmanship and a protective case, this nail file is a favorite among commuters and travelers.

What you’ll love: Pointed tip is effective at navigating cuticles and contouring nails. Double-sided design offers two coarseness levels. Fortified in a hardening process so it won’t wear out any time soon. 

What you should consider: A few consumers weren’t fans of the file’s texture.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top nail file for the money

Simax Crystal Glass Nail File Set

What you need to know: This affordable three-piece set includes files of different sizes for manicures and pedicures. 

What you’ll love: Files work on natural and artificial nails. Gentle on sensitive and delicate skin. Grit levels are etched on glass for easy reference.

What you should consider: There’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using the largest file.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

AIRSEE Portable Electric Nail Drill

What you need to know: For professional results at home, many people turn to this portable drill file. 

What you’ll love: Comes with a variety of attachments that handle all nail types. Motor is powerful enough for quick and efficient filing. Has an extra-long cord that won’t inhibit use.

What you should consider: Mixed reviews on how effective the device is at filing acrylics.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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