Nail File and Buffers

 It is easier to file a nail in good shape when it is at its hardest, that is before it is put into water or soaked with oils. This is because an overhydrated nail will have a tendency to bend and it will be difficult to achieve a smooth and even edge. Also the moisture may disturb the natural bonds between the nail plate layers and filing could cause the layers to separate.

For all natural nails, a very fine file must be used. (240 grit or higher) The edge of the nail is easily damaged by causing trauma to the layers and a harsh abrasive will splinter the layers and cause them to part.

Buffing is a useful procedure for several reasons:

  • The stimulation of the nail plate increases blood circulation in the area.

  • It can remove superficial staining caused by polish.

  • It produces a healthy looking shine that will last for several weeks.

  • Polish bonds better and is therefore less prone to chipping,

  • When used on the free edge, it will help to seal the layers and make the edge smooth and rounded.

Care must be taken not to over-buff as this can thin the nail, particularly over ridges.  

Toenails are constructed in the same way as fingernails but they do have some minor differences. The big toenails is usually much bigger and often thicker than any other nail. It protects a very important part of the foot and the big toe is essential for balance. If nails need to be shortened, cutting with a sharp pair of scissors or clippers followed by filing with an emery board is safe. When using clippers on the big toe do not cut the whole width of the nail in one cut as this could cause the nail to split and also puts pressure on the side of the nails. Make small cuts all along the nail from one side to the other. For minor length reduction, a file is all that is needed.

Files and Buffers

There are many file and buffers available. In some cases their use is specific and in other cases, personal choice is relevant. In general a file is used to shape natural and artificial nails, remove length from a natural or artificial nail and remove and shape product on an artificial overlay. A buffer is used to refine, smooth and polish artificial nails. Files are usually long and flat with an abrasive on both sides and buffers are usually chunkier, cushioned and can be either long and thin or in a block form. 

It is important to understand their abrasive qualities. An abrasive is able to grind down by rubbing and it is measured by the amount of grit that makes the abrasive, on an area of 1 square inch. Therefore, low numbers describe an abrasive that has fewer, larger pieces of grit per square inch. This makes it harsher. The higher numbers have more, smaller pieces of grit, so the abrasive is finer.

These are the most common grit sizes used in the nail industry:

  • 80 Grit- Very course. Only used for hard, old-fashioned powder/liquid overlays. Unnecessarily hash for any modern artificial products. 

  • 100 Grit - Course. Can be used to remove old and bulky overlays.

  • 180 Grit - Medium. Can be used for shaping or removing overlays and length of artificial nails. 

  • 240 Grit - Fine. This is the lowest grit that should be used on the natural nail, either the free edge or the nail plate. Any lower number grit size will cause damage that is easily avoidable.

  • 360 Grit - Very Fine. Used as a natural nail file for delicate nails but excellent as a general file for manicure treatments.

  • 400-900 Grit - This is usually the grit used in block buffers that are designed to refine the shape and smooth the surface of artificial mails prior to shining. Can be used gently on a ridged big toe before buffing. 

  • 900-12,000 Grit -  Usually used on a three-way buffer where the roughest side is used first to smooth, then the next to refine and remove any scratches followed by the smooth side to bring surface to a high shine.

When choosing a file there are several things to take into account. Can it be washed? Can it be immersed in water? How long will it last? What is the price? As with most tools the longer lasting files are usually more expensive. 

There are 3 parts to a file: the core, the backing and the abrasive, all of which can be made from a number of different materials.

The Core 

  •  Wood - the old traditional method of making a file. It is inexpensive but cannot even be washed. It is also very brittle and prone to breaking. 

  • Plastic - usually a polystyrene that is slightly flexible. This type of core reduces the vibration felt during filing. A good plastic core has a balance of rigidity and flexibility so pressure can be exerted without snapping or bending.

  • Foam - cushions the file and increases its efficiency. The foam could be an open-celled foam that is soft but porous so cannot be put into water or a closed-cell foam that is waterproof.

Many files have a combination of a plastic core for strength covered by foam for efficiency.

The Backing 

This is the material that the abrasive is put onto,

  • Paper - has a short life and cannot be made wet.

  • Waterproof Paper - has an oil based resin coating that lengthens its life and allows it to be immersed and is durable.

  • Mylar - a trade name for a specific polyester material. It is washable, can be immersed and is durable. 

  • Cloth - usually cotton, this has a cost implication but is long lasting.

  • Foam - quite expensive but durable and immersible. The abrasive is sprayed directly onto the foam.

The Abrasive

  • Garnet - a common gemstone that is inexpensive and long lasting. The old, traditional files, still available today, are made from wood, paper and garnet but very harsh and should not be used on a natural nails.

  • Silicon Carbide - the black grit is commonly used today. It is a synthetic crystal composition. It is very hard and very jagged. It also has the characteristic of losing little bits that leave behind a fresh jagged edge. This is annoying for the user but does prolong its life and efficiency. 

  • Silicon Carbide with Zinc Stearate Coating - the coating acts as a lubricant to make filing smoother and quicker. It also prevents dust from building up between the particles and blunting the file.

  • Aluminium Oxide - this abrasive can be coloured. It is less jagged so therefore less ahrsh.