How to File & Shape Natural Nails?

Hey there! Want to know how to file and shape your own natural nails like a pro? Well believe it or not there is a little bit of “science” to it.

I know sometimes you’re just sitting there looking at your nails, and think… Geez where is my file? And in fact that is exactly what I want you to reach for, a file, rather than a nail clipper. You see, our natural nails, no matter if you think you have strong natural  nails or not, are actually quite delicate pieces of Keratin… and yes that was plural.

They say our natural nails are about 3-7 layers or so of keratin.

Wondering what Keratin is? Keratin is a protein most commonly found in our nails and hair. And relatively speaking, Keratin is quite strong, and it does appreciate a little TLC. Just think of how much you spend on your hair and nails with beauty visits. That being said if you leave it alone it also does well; and even when you abuse this protein (think about bleached hair and acetone soak-offs) this protein is also quite resilient.

So when figuring out how to file your own natural nails. The first thing you should be cautious of, is a good quality gentle nail file. And, frankly, if you can make it to your local pharmacy store, what they sell in their aisles is actually perfectly gentle for natural nails. (Nail pros on the other hand may not find the coarse grits they need for artificial nails.)

If you want a specific number of grit for your natural nail file, that would be either a 240 or 180 grit. Oftentimes it is even labeled as an emery board… And an emery board is just a thin board file with the perfect grit for your natural nails. So if you cannot find the grit number on your file then just look for the words “emery board”. Again, that will most likely have the perfect grit for natural nails.

So now that you have your gentle file… How do you shape those natural nails?

Believe it or not… some people just want the most natural look. Their not necessarily sure they are into a square or round shape. They literally just want a “natural” shape.

If you’re a DIY’er you’re probably like I’ll just invent that for myself, but if you’re a PRO, how do you determine that for your clients?

This is actually easier than you think… 

Just follow the smile line of the natural nail. 

What is the smile line of the natural nail? It is the opaque line that forms at the end of the last bit of nail plate connected to the nail bed; that then goes off into being the nail tip, or free edge.

Look at your naturals right now, what are they already naturally doing? Is the smile line of your nail very deep? more straight? 

If you want the most natural nail look and feel to your nails… just shape your nail according to the nail smile line. Unless, you want a square or an almond nail, don’t force the shape of the nail here. Just file it naturally to what it’s already doing.

Oh! And when you file, don’t take your day’s stress out on your nails, ok… promise. I really want you to imagine yourself playing a tiny violin at the tip of the finger. But rather than playing the violin you’re really just gently shaping in one direction with your hand file. Why one direction? Sawing back and forth will surely shorten your nails, but will actually cause those nail layers to split. Filing in one direction actually blends those layers and promotes nail growth.

Now, in my case my nails tend to fan out just a little. What I mean by that is that I don’t have the same width from the cuticle area to the free edge. The free edge is slightly wider than the cuticle area part of my natural nail. If your natural nails fan out too, you’re probably not a fan. (Well that sounded kind of funny.) Hey, neither am I! So you know I’m going to be filing those fanned out free-edges in.

So what you want to do is use the width of your cuticle area as reference point. Ideally you want to file in just enough to match that width. You will be tempted to file in even more, or you may accidentally do it. So go back to playing that tiny violin on your natural nails. Little by little, in one direction. First set the file straight on the sidewalls, and then angle in just a bit from smile to free edge to taper those sides in just a bit.

Remember, and I am being redundant here. When filing natural nails do not saw back and forth, or dig your file into the side wall areas of the nail.

And also remember that this is a completely optional step. If your natural nails free edge does not fan out or fan out enough for you to want to take the ectra time to file it in then don’t. Simply worry about making that nail edge (the tip of the free edge) the desired shape. As a side not, filing in one direction will take a little longer but your natural nails will thank you. They’ll do so by growing long and strong!

Those natural nails will grow long and strong when you use a clipper only when you want to take down length quick, and use an emery board or gentle natural nail file to do so.

Now, I’m sure you’ve wondered when filing your natural nails… ok what nails should be what length? They cannot possibly all be the same length?

Ok here is how that goes…

Most people’s nails typically have the same growing patterns. Like everything else there are exceptions.

So, typically the pointer (index) finger will grow the fastest. The thumb will grow the slowest.

Typically also, your thumb and middle finger will be the wider nails. So because these nails are a bit wider, do consider leaving them a bit longer than the rest of your fingernails. But seriously, just a tad.

With the thumb and middle being taken care of you now have the index and ring finger to file. These 2 should match in length (but remember, slightly shorter than the thumb and middle). However! Because the index/pointer finger typically grows the fastest you or your client may actually want it shorter…. I know, I know. So what is the point of all of these filing rules if we’re going to end up breaking them, right? Well, these are just those little big executive decisions, you’re going to have to make my friend. 

And lastly your pinky finger, This one should be the shortest of them all, but just a tad shorter than your index and ring finger. I would not recommend you leave it as long as any of the 3 middle finger nails. It will look freakishly weird.

Whoof… I know that may have been a little stressful, but if you follow these guidelines, I promise that when you photograph your nails you’ll see all of the “ science” that went into filing your nails.

Ok. If you’ve been following along you probably have nails that with rough edges. We need to marry this look.

Which means if you want corners to the shape that you chose. Keep them, and if you don’t violin-them out… In other words smooth them out, blended into the shape you want.

Lastly after all of that filing you most likely have accumulated debri underneath your fingernails. Grab a cuticle pusher and with the opposite end of the pusher tool scrape out those frills. Alternatively, you can grab a manicuring nail brush to scrub the underneath of them with alcohol.

Alright, you’ve really put some intensity into filing those natural nails, wipe them down with a little bit of alcohol and a lint-free towelette, and nourish them back with a nourishing cuticle oil.

Congrats! You’re done.

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