Healthy, well cared-for nails are a small, but significant boost to your appearance. Clean, trimmed, and filed nails show that you care about the way you look, and make an effort to take good care of yourself. There are an abundance of clippers, trimmers, files, and emery boards out there, but not all of them are created equal. There is also a definite technique to follow when it comes to properly trimming and filing nails.
To properly trim and file nails, you will need certain tools. The first is a sink, tub, or basin that can hold enough warm water to cover hands or feet.
Before trimming or filing nails, it’s very important that all tools should be either sterilized or limited to a single person. Sharing nail tools that aren’t properly sterilized can transmit harmful bacteria or fungus between users. Trimmers should also be sharp– dull nail trimmers won’t cut properly, and will cause nails to crack or split instead. Lastly, you will need a selection of files or emery boards with different degrees of coarseness. The coarsest should feel like sandpaper, while the finest should feel smooth. These are to shape, file, and buff nails after they have been shortened with trimmers. Emery boards lose their roughness quickly, so they should be replaced regularly. Cuticle remover and cuticle cutters or pushers can also be used to help groom nails, but aren’t necessary for trimming or filing.
First, nails should be soaked before they are worked on. This helps soften them. If they are not, then dry nails may crack, split, or peel when they are trimmed. Soft nails are safer and easier to work with. To soak nails, place hands or feet in a tub of warm water for three to five minutes. If you like, you can add a small amount of bath oil to the water to help soften nails and skin.
Cuticle remover can be also applied at this point, to help remove unsightly excess cuticle around the base of nail beds. Apply a small amount to the tops of nails, massage in, and return hands or feet to the soaking bath for another few minutes. After that, cuticles should be soft enough to be safely removed using a cuticle pusher or cutter. Take care not to push too hard or too far– it’s important not to damage the skin around the base of nails. After soaking, nails can be trimmed. Use a good, sharp trimmer or clipper for this. Do not trim nails into a point– this shape creates a weak nail tip that is likely to crack or split. Trim nails either straight across, or in a gently rounded shape. Remember, trimming nails is only to shorten them. Any shaping should be done afterward, when nails are being filed.
After nails have been trimmed to the desired length, they can be filed. Always start with the coarsest file or emery board first, and work your way down to the finest. With the coarsest file or emery board, begin filing from the middle of the nail toward the edge. At the edge, gently round the corners of nails. Rounded corners are smooth corners; they help keep fingernails from snagging on hair or clothing, and prevent toenails from becoming painfully ingrown.
Next, take the next coarsest file or emery board and repeat the process following the same path. Follow this up with finer and finer grades of emery board, until you have used the finest one at your disposal. This helps keep the edges of nails smooth, which can prevent snagging, splitting, or peeling. Fine emery boards can also be used to buff the tops of nails. This helps remove unsightly vertical ridges, pits, or other blemishes across the surface. Do not buff nails too much– doing so will thin and weaken them, making them soft and prone to tearing.
Once nails have been trimmed and filed properly, you can continue to manicure or pedicure them however you’d like. A simple coating of clear nail lacquer can help give nails added strength, shine, and hardness without covering up their natural beauty, while colored lacquers can help hide imperfections or turn nails into a fashion statement.