How to File Squoval Nails for Your Most Flattering Mani Yet

Close up of a woman's squoval nails

Dee Mills / Byrdie

If you’re one of those people who easily falls down the Instagram rabbit hole that is nail art, hi, nice to meet you, and you’re not alone. Like us, when scrolling, you might ogle over the perfect blue nail polish or the most intricate floral designs, but what really grabs your attention is the way these manicurists can create such perfectly shaped nails. And no, not just any shape, but the infamous squoval. 

“Much like the little black dress, the squoval is a classic nail shape that works with any polish," says dermatologist Dr. Dana Stern. "It’s also super easy to achieve.” Of course, it won't be simple until you've put in the practice. According to founder and CEO of Olive & June Sarah Gibson Tuttle, it's all about the 90:10 rule: 90 percent of the shaping work is done with your nail clipper and 10 percent is done with the file. “This way, you are defining your nail shape with your clippers and just finesse into the final perfect shape with your file,” she explains.

While that pro tip alone gives you insight into how to rethink your nail routine, we want to ensure that there’s no confusion whatsoever when it comes to nailing the squoval shape. To help you master the technique, ahead you’ll find an easy-to-follow step-by-step process by nail expert Lauren Dunne.

How to File Squoval Nails for Your Most Flattering Mani Yet

Byrdie | Design by Zackary Angeline

Meet the Expert

  • Dana Stern, MD, is a New York City-based dermatologist and one of the only dermatologists in the country who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and surgery of the nail.
  • Sarah Gibson Tuttle is the founder and CEO of Olive & June nail salon in Los Angeles.
  • Lauren Dunne is the cofounder of Varnish Lane, a Washington, D.C.-based nail salon with outposts in Atlanta, Charleston, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Keep reading to learn how to get perfect squoval nails every single time.

What Are Squoval Nails?

A squoval nail shape is exactly what it sounds like: part square and part oval. It combines the practicality and ease of straight tips with the added softness of curved edges. Basically, it's the best of both worlds.

The Benefits of a Squoval Nail Shape

There's a lot to love about squoval nails. For one, they're easy enough to DIY at home (more on that below), making them great for beginners. And unlike super long lipstick nails which are prone to breaking, squoval nails are easy to maintain while still giving you the illusion of having longer fingers. Finally, nail trends come and go, but this hybrid shape is a classic since it looks good on pretty much everybody, including those with wider nail beds and fingers.

Does a Squoval Nail Shape Work for Long and Short Nails?

Squoval nails are a popular nail shape because they are universally flattering. They can be worn on both long and short nails, depending on your preference. If you're looking to elongate your fingers, you might want to go for longer squoval nails. On the other hand, shorter squoval nails will enforce strength and are less likely to break.

How to File Nails Into the Squoval Shape

01 of 04

Trim Your Nails

Woman clips her nails.

Dee Mills / Byrdie

To get started, you'll need a nail trimmer (if you want to cut length off your nails) and a 240-grit nail file. “If your nails are currently long and you’d like to trim off some length, start the process by cutting your nails into a square shape,” says Dunne. “Do this by using the clippers to cut straight across your nails. If your nails are already short, skip this step and go straight to filing.”

02 of 04

File Your Nail Straight Across and Do a Length Check

Woman files her nails straight across

Dee Mills / Byrdie

“Once you have your nails at [your] desired length, you can begin to shape the nail,” Dunne says. We suggest a dual-sided file like the Kiss Grit 100 And 240 Green Tea Nail File ($3). You want to use 240 grit for shaping natural nails as it won't be so coarse that it takes off significant length. “File the top edge of the nail into a straight line," says Dunne. If your nails are short, make sure that you don’t let the file touch the skin under your nail, as it can irritate and cause you to file too close to the quick.

After you've filed all your nails across, it's time to do a length check. “Hold up your hand to align with your face (palm towards you),” Dunne instructs. “Check your nails to ensure the free edge is straight and your nails are the length you’d like.” If you’d like them to be shorter, either trim a bit more or continue to file straight across.

03 of 04

Round the Corners

Woman rounds out her squoval nails

Dee Mills / Byrdie

“Hold the nail file at a 45-degree angle at the nail’s corner to begin rounding the corner of the free edge,” says Dunne. “Use a smooth rounding motion to pull the file over the corner of the nail to make a rounded shape.” Don’t be afraid to pause a beat between filing. Dunne says it’s a good idea to continuously check the corner of the nail after each stroke to ensure you aren’t over-filing.

04 of 04

Repeat on All Fingers

Woman's hand with squoval-shaped nails

Dee Mills / Byrdie

After you’ve nailed the rounding squoval technique, repeat step four on the remaining nail corners until you have a full set of beautiful squoval nails.

If at the end of the day you find that squoval nails don’t look quite how you'd hoped, don’t fret. According to Stern, often the most flattering nail shape is not necessarily that which is trending, but the one that mirrors your nail bed. If your nail beds aren’t on the longer side, you might want to consider a different shape: square or round for shorter nails; ballerina/coffin or stiletto for longer tips.

Related Stories