Why a glass nail file is the secret to stronger, less brittle nails
Before taking shelter in place, it was rare that my nails were ever seen bare (without varnish). My manicurist frequently displayed dramatic line art, 3D stickers and rhinestones, or a rainbow of alternating colors. But while having to fend for myself when nail salons closed, I really got down to prioritizing health of my nails. I started wearing less colored polish to minimize the discolored yellowish tint and more importantly started filing my nails more regularly. But rather than using the standard emery board, I swapped for a glass nail file – and my nails have never looked better (or smelled).
For the uninitiated, there are two main filing options for your nails: glass or emery. A glass nail file (also known as a crystal nail file) is thermally toughened, chemically etched glass that polishes your nails. “Made with fine glass particles that damage natural nails less, this file” seals “ nails [meaning the smooth edge has no cracks] as he files, ”says Syreeta Aaron, LeChat Nails educator. “It’s best on natural nails and for keeping the keratin intact in our natural nail.”
Suzanne Shade, founder of home nail kit company Bare Hands, adds that the fine texture of these files gently abrades the edge of the nail, which means less trauma to your nails. Its file can also be used to polish the nail bed to create a high gloss finish without any polish.
“When our nails peel or break, not only can it be very painful, it can potentially damage the structure under the nail,” says Dr. Orit Markowitz, a certified dermatologist in New York. “If there is enough repeated trauma affecting the actual nail bed, on which the nail grows, it can be irreversible. So it’s important that when our nails are groomed or manicured, we use tools (like glass nail files) that are less likely to damage the nail bed.
If you are someone struggling with chronically weak and brittle nails, this simple swap could be the easiest first step to repairing that damage. However, the benefits don’t end there.
Glass vs emery nail file
The most obvious difference between a glass and emery nail file is the material itself. An emery board (the nail files you usually see in a nail salon) is a paper file with a thin layer of foam between the two grains (the sandpaper). But while these options are generally cheaper and more common, they aren’t exactly the safest choice for your nails. “These larger, grainy files can damage the pores and structure of the nail, making the nail more prone to developing nail fungus,” says Dr. Markowitz.
The two also differ in how you can use them. “A glass nail file can be used in multiple directions, while an emery board can cause breakage if used in multiple directions, leaving nails more likely to split and break,” said Aaron at TZR. And because glass nail files have a finer abrasion, they work better (and softer) on natural nails. A 180 grit nail file (typical of glass nail files) is what you should look for when shopping. For gels or acrylics, where the nails are a bit thicker, Shade suggests opting for an emery board for a coarser filing.
What are the additional benefits?
Even though the texture of glass nail files is finer, they are extremely effective for shaping. “The glass will serve to seal the free edge of the nail,” Shade explains. “When you create a rough shape, you can use the file back and forth over the edge. But when finishing, use it in one direction only to keep the keratin “mesh” on the nail from unraveling. “
Although glass files tend to be the more expensive option, they have the added benefit of outlining a lot longer than an emery board. “Glass nail files last longer because of the material, durability and the fact that they can be sterilized, disinfected and reused over and over again,” Shade explains.
How to maintain a glass nail file
Depending on how often you use it and how you take care of it, crystal nail files can last up to six months before needing to be replaced. “When the nail file is not in use, it’s always best to put it in its protective case to prevent breakage,” Aaron told TZR. To clean the nail file, place it under running water with a little soap to remove debris and gently sweep the surface with a brush or sponge. Then pat dry to avoid trapping dust on the file.
Unlike emery boards, where paper can peel off the edges, glass nail files do not absorb anything, so there is no need to sterilize them further or after use. But if you share the file or want to thoroughly clean it, Aaron suggests using alcohol or antiseptic spray on a regular basis.
Ready to invest in a glass nail file and get your healthiest nails yet? Coming soon, six options approved by the publisher.
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