The 4 most common mistakes people make when filing their nails.

Image: Supplied

It’s one of the most basic grooming habits, but apparently half of our office has been doing it wrong all this time.

Yes, there is a ‘right’ way to be filing your nails.

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While it may seem trivial, not doing it properly can actually do more harm than good, weakening and increasing the risk of breakage and hang nails. Here are the four most common mistakes people make when filing their nails – and how to fix them.

1. Sawing back and forth

While it might make you feel like you're doing a thorough job, sawing vigorously back and forth as you file your nails can actually seriously damage them, especially if you suffer from weak or thin nails.

Doing this too fast risks weakening and also shredding your nails. The best technique is to file from the outside of the nail to the centre with short strokes, then one long stroke to finish it off.

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"Filing in one direction forces you to slow down, which isn't a bad thing — you should always treat your nails gently and with kindness," explains Erin Margrethe of Blonde Tiger Nail Salon.

2. Not filing enough

The most common mistake Margrethe sees is people not filing their nails at all.

"There's nothing wrong with clipping your nails if you keep them short, but if you have any length at all, filing is the best way to maintain your shape and keep your nails from getting too long and breaking," she says.

How often you file depends on how fast your nails grow and the shape you want them. If you like short nails, once a week or so should suffice, while longer nails may require a quick shape-up a couple of times a week. (Post continues after gallery.)

3. Filing too much

Research indicates filing your nails too much can also cause its own set of problems.

In a study published in the journal of Physical Biology last year, scientists examined the physics of nail growth and found the way the nail is cut or filed can actually cause a more permanent change in shape of the nail, which in time can lead to more serious conditions.

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"Looking at our results, we suggest that nail beauty fanatics who trim their nails on a daily basis opt for straight or parabolic edges, as otherwise they may amplify the imbalance of stresses which could lead to a number of serious conditions," says lead author Cyril Rauch.


According to Margrethe, the most popular shape she gets asked for is the 'squoval' - a square nail with slight rounded corners.

Image via iStock.

4. Using an old file

Choosing the right 'grit' of your nail file is also extremely important. Files come in grits like sandpaper — the lower the grit, the rougher the file.

"Those scary-looking metal nail files and old-school orange emery boards are usually very low grit, like 80/100, which are the sort of grit nail techs now use for acrylics, but they don't have any business near your natural nail," Margrethe explains.

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The best file for a healthy natural nail is a 180/240, while a softer grit for a weak or thin nail would be 240/320.

"For very thin or weak nails, many people swear by crystal files as they are very gentle and last forever. However, they are only suitable for shaping, not shortening," she says.

How often do you file your nails?