Crystal Nail Files Might Be the (Gorgeous) Answer to Brittle Nails

Comparing crystal nail files to classic emery boards

Updated 10/22/19
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It's that time of month again. No, not your period—just your nails begging for a little extra TLC. When you notice that your tips are looking snagged, your first move is to reach for a nail file—but there are actually different filing options that each produce a different result. While emery boards have been a classic since you were swiping your mom's as a teen, there have been some developments when it comes to filing.

Enter: Crystal nail files. Ahead, we'll explain exactly what a crystal nail file is and how it compares to tried-and-true emery boards.

What Is a Crystal Nail File?

You may have noticed that crystal nail files are making the rounds on social media lately. The glass designs are known for their chic appeal, often shown in fun colors and eye-catching ombrés. But, looks aside, what sets them apart?

Most notably, glass files are renowned for their ultra-fine grit that's said to not disrupt nail keratin. In layman's terms, these files are known for their gentle, but still effective nature. While it's always great to do as little damage as possible, we can't help but wonder...

How Do Crystal Files Compare to Emery Boards?

“Crystal nail files tend to be a bit more gentle and work well for brittle, weak nails, but in most cases a good 'ol emery board should be your file of choice,” says Mary Lennon, the president and founder of Côte.

Sarah Gibson Tuttle, the CEO & founder of Olive & June, agrees. “Crystal files can be a great option for anyone who needs a softer file, but they often wear out quickly and lack the type of grit most people generally need,” she explains. “Our favorite file is a paper file (AKA emery board) with a thin layer of foam in between with two different [emery paper] grits: one for everyday mani use and one for pedis and/or breaking up the top layer of gel for removal.

"We use these files in our salons and swear by them. Paper files (like the one included in Olive & June’s The K.I.T. Kit, $26) have the right amount of impact—you want your files to do the last 10 percent of the shaping work after you cut your nails 90 percent of the way—and they last [a long time].”

Switching Out Your Nail Files

Whether you choose a crystal or emery board nail file, one rule remains the same: you should swap them out every few months. We're taking the time to point this out because some nail files tout themselves as "forever files" which simply isn't hygienic.

To play it safe, most nail techs will tell you to toss your file every three months if you use it daily. If, however, you're more of a once-a-week maintenance kind of gal, you can hold onto it for up to six months.

Crystal or classic, Lennon wants you to remember this: "File in one direction as opposed to sawing back and forth.” This is key, as filing back and forth can cause you to accidentally buff off too much of your tip, not to mention thin out the keratin.

Our Favorite Nail Files to Date

Looking to spruce up your nail care routine with an effective emery board? This cute one from Chillhouse will help enhance not only your nail shape, but your vanity, too.

Three purple ombre crystal nail files on a white background.
Mont Bleu Crystal Nail Files (3-Pack) $10
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This trio of crystal nail files has earned a resounding 5-star review with over 1,600 shoppers weighing in. They're renowned for their ultra-fine grit and velvet carrying cases that prevent them from shattering on the go.

Neon nail files on a white background.
Tweezerman Neon Filemates (3-Pack) $9
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Neon is having a major moment this year, so why not let your emery boards follow suit? This trio of hot files feature a 100/180 grit that's great for everyday filing and gel removal alike.

Teal blue crystal nail file on a white background.
Bona Fide Beauty Professional Crystal Nail File $9
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Over 1,900 glowing reviews has earned this ombre crystal nail file an "Amazon Choice" badge. Shoppers applaud it for its hard carrying case, medium grit, and beautiful filing results.

Pink and blue nail file and gray and white nail file on a white background.
Iridesi 4-Way Nail File and Buffer (12-Pack) $13
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Want to really turn up the heat on your nail routine? These four-sided emery board nail files work to remove polish, file, buff, and shine nails. Best of all, they're made with high-quality adhesive so that the emery paper doesn't peel away from the foam board the way some other files do.

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