How to File Your Nails Into a Squoval Shape

manicured hand

@THEVICSTYLES / Design by Camden Dechert

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 me, 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 are able to 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 and nail specialist Dr. Dana Stern. "it’s also super easy to achieve.” Of course, it won't be simple until you've put in the practice. After all, you know how the saying goes.

There’s no doubt about it, shaping nails evenly and consistently is tricky. According to Sarah Gibson Tuttle, CEO & Founder of Olive & June, it's all about the 90:10 rule: 90% of the shaping work is done with your nail clipper and 10% is done with the file. “This way, you are defining your nail shape with your clippers—we strongly prefer the flat-edge clippers we created for our Studio Boxes that can create literally any shape—and just finesse into the final perfect shape with your file,” Gibson Tuttle 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. (See what we did there?) To help you master the technique, ahead you’ll find an easy-to-follow step-by-step process by Varnish Lane co-founder Lauren Dunne. Keep reading to learn how to get perfect squoval nails every single time.

Trim Your Nails

Person cutting another person's fingernails with a nail clipper.

To get started, you'll need 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.”

File Your Nail Straight Across

Person filing another person's fingernails straight across with a white emory board with black lettering.

“Once you have your nails at [your] desired length, you can begin to shape the nail,” Dunne says. “File the top edge of the nail into a straight line." If your nails are short, Dunne says to make sure that you don’t let the file touch the skin under your nail, as it can A. irritate the skin, and B. cause you to file too close to the quick.

Examine Nail Length

Person holding their hand up with palm facing them to indicate nail length.

“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.

Round the Corners

Person filing another person's nails into rounded corners.

“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 stoke to ensure you aren’t over-filing.

Repeat On All Fingers

Person holding up their squoval nail shape.

After you’ve nailed the rounding squoval technique, repeat step four on the remaining 19 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 one that mirrors your own 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.

Next up: Learn everything you need to know about getting a gel manicure.

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