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How much attention have you paid to your nail file? If you’re anything like us, probably not much. It’s just a basic necessity, something stashed in your bathroom cabinet or purse (or, that you can never seem to find when you break a nail). But it may be worth investing at least a little bit more time into finding your nail file of choice. Not all are created equal, and each type has its own pros and cons. There are classic emery boards, which are inexpensive and easy to stock up on when you just need to get the job done. If you feel like you want to make more of an investment, glass and crystal options are washable and reusable, not to mention tend to be gentler, particularly if your nails are peeling or splitting. And if you’re rocking a gel or acrylic mani, you’ll, of course, need an entirely different file. Confused? Don’t be.
We rounded up the best nail files for every purpose below. Dare we say that these have nailed it?
Best Multi-Purpose: Deborah Lippmann Smooth Operator - Buffer Nail File
This four-sided file has four different grits to do it all—shape, smooth, buff, and shine. (All four sides are made from a microfiber material that’s gentle on your tips.) Consider it a one-stop-shop nail tool that makes DIY manis easier than ever. Pro tip: If you’re going to paint your nails, skip the shine step.
Best for Damaged Nails: Diamancel Flexible Nail File
Turns out that diamonds are both a girl’s and a nail’s best friend. Made with real diamonds, this file also has a fiberglass edge for easy handling. It’s specially made for brittle nails that are prone to breaking or splitting, so you don’t need to worry about causing more damage when you file. Bonus: It’s easily washable with just soap and water.
Best Budget: ASP Zebra Angle Board Nail File 180/180
If you like a classic, inexpensive nail file, this is your guy. The grit doesn’t get worn down, and with a diamond shape that has two different shaped ends, it’s easy to file any shape nail and even reach the sides. And hey if you lose it, it won't matter all that much at this price point. To that end, it’s worth picking one up to keep at work, one in the car...you get the picture.
Best Electric: Kiss Powerfile to Go Nail File
Make filing easier than ever with an electric file, like this one. Six interchangeable attachments offer varying degrees of coarseness (and there’s also a cuticle pusher). There are also variable speed settings, so this set works equally well on hands or feet.
Best Emery Board: Makartt Professional Nail File
An Amazon top pick, these have both a 100 and 180 grit, making them great for both shaping and taking down length (and using on toes, too). They come in a pack of 10—for a total steal, we should add—though if you want to reuse them, they are washable. Just be sure to only file nails in one direction to minimize the potential for peeling or splitting.
Best Glass: Révérence de Bastien The Glass Nail File
Sure, it may be a bit more than you’d usually spend on a file, but consider this a one-time investment that will keep your nails long and strong. The lightweight glass smooths nails without any snags or tears, can be reused, and comes with a convenient carrying case, too.
Best for Acrylics: Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Coarse Nail Board
With a super coarse grit, this file is best reserved for gels or acrylics; it can be too much for natural nails. Still, to shape or take down the length on artificial tips, this earns top marks.
Best Pointed Tip: Revlon Compact Emeryl Nail File
With its compact size and easy-grip handle, this is easy to hold and use. The unique Emeryl surface is strong enough for gels or acrylics, though gentle enough for natural nails at the same time. Bonus points for the pointed tip, ideal for cleaning out all the gunk that gets lodged under your nails (hey, we all have it).
Best for Travel: Nail Tek Crystal Nail File With Case Mini
Repeat after us: Thou shalt always pack a nail file when traveling. This one has earned a permanent home in our toiletry bag. Made of high-quality glass, it’s gentle on nails and comes in a mini size that doesn’t take up precious real estate. The fact that it comes in a cute pink case is just an extra bonus.
Best Colorful: Tweezerman Neon Hot Files 3 Pack
If you want to keep it basic, you can’t go wrong with this three-pack of files. The dual-grit surfaces mean they work on both natural and acrylic nails, and the neon hues make it easy to dig them out of any crowded bathroom drawer or makeup bag.
Best for Cuticles: ZEVA Austrian Crystal Nail File
A combo of ceramic, porcelain, and, yep, Austrian crystal make up this file while shapes and smooths nails to perfection. Unique here though are the rounded ends, designed to pull double duty and push back cuticles effectively, yet gently.