I love the look of a square, slightly tapered nail. Unfortunately I have been blessed with hands that are stubby rather than elegant, but I do what I can with what I have :)
The steps I will be showing you here are to create the shape I prefer, which is a square-ish nail with slightly rounded corners. I love a proper sharp nail, but end up cutting myself on my nails. Not terribly cute. “Hey, did your cat scratch you?” “No, I cut myself. On my nails”.
So by now my nails are looking somewhat better. The cuticles are in better shape and the nails have stopped peeling so much. They have also grown a bit. It is definitely time to take care of the shape!
So this is where I’m at at the moment, ready to shape them:
About nail files:
My favourite file is the blue one at the bottom of the picture. It’s a bog standard nail file with a fine and a slightly coarser side. Files are expressed in grit strength, with a higher number meaning a finer file. I don’t know the specific grit for this particular file, but the fine side is about equal to a glass file.
The file in the middle is a glass file, and I know a lot of people love them. I do like them, but don’t particularly find them superior to a nice “paper” file. The benefit of them is that they are very fine and thus gentle, and that they don’t wear out. On the other hand they do break if you aren’t careful to store or carry them properly.
Whichever file you choose it’s important to pick one that suits your nails. If you have damaged, weak, peeling or soft nails I would recommend a higher grit (or glass), as they are a bit gentler. Whatever you do stay away from files for acrylic nails. They are designed to quickly eat through plastic, and are not suitable for a natural nail. They make for kickass foot files though ;)
In the top of the picture there is a 3-way nail buffer. I only use this in the way I will show in the step-by-step, and not as a buffer since even the most gentle buffing makes my nails peel. If your nails can stand it, a little bit of buffing is a nice way to gently smooth peeling or remove some staining.
Shaping the side:
I like my nails to have a slight taper in the free nail edge. I want them ever so slightly narrower at the top than the start of the free edge.
For this step I hold the file at a 45° angle, with the file slightly under the nail. I drag the file from top to bottom (sort of UNDER the nail), rather than left to right.
DO NOT hold the file like I’m showing below:
You can seriously damage the nail if you dig in to the sensitive cuticle and nail at the sides. ALWAYS only file the free edge of the nail.
Shaping the top:
To shape the top of the nail in a square (flat) shape, I hold my finger as shown, and position the file at a 90° angle from the top of the nail. It’s important to take into consideration the angle of the file both in relation to the top of the nail (“profile”), and the width of the nail (“en face”). So basically, if you are holding your finger side on in front of you, your file should show 90° relative to the nail, and you should only see the short end of the file. Holding one eye closed can help to get it right.
This method works for me, but of course you can also just file the nail across when looking at it from the top rather than the side.
Evening it out:
When I’m happy with the basic shape from the step above I turn my finger so I view it from the top, and file up and down on the nail to get it perfectly even. In other words I’m not filing from side to side, but rather dragging the file towards and against myself. This makes the flatness of the file work for me, rather than having to adjust my tilt when filing. I use a very gentle hand when I do this, as well as a high grit.
Softening the corners:
When the nail is nice and square I will soften the edges slightly. I just run the file over the corners to blunt them a little.
Sealing the nail:
Here I have switched to the buffer.
I use the super fine grit of the buffer to seal the edges of the nail to prevent fuzziness and peeling. I run my nail along the buffer. This will usually get rid of most of the “burrs” you get from filing.
Then I will gently make a curve with the buffer from the top and downwards. And that’s it. Done!
Here is a little reminder of where I started a few days ago:
And here is how they look after my third step: