This easy nail-filing technique might be just the fix you need.

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Nothing quite compares to those perfectly shaped, expertly painted nails that can only be the result of a professional manicure. While some are able to keep up with the bi-weekly habit, for many of us, this little luxury is a special occasion treat. When a wedding, birthday, or anniversary isn’t on the calendar, we’re left to our own filing, trimming, and painting. But even after the polish wears off, oftentimes there’s still a noticeable difference in the appearance of our nails in a professional versus at-home manicure. It’s more than just the trimmed cuticles and rounded square nail beds, the overall health of our nails is apparent oftentimes far after an in-salon nail sesh. So, what’s the deal? Turns out, it’s all in the filing.

If you’ve noticed peeling or cracking nails, the culprit might be your filing technique. For those who have retired their nail clippers in favor of filing, you might need to relearn how to file your nails with a new strategy that causes less stress to the nail. It involves a partial trim, partial filing process.

A good rule of thumb (no pun intended), is to trim nails to just a smidge longer than desired. Follow up with a fresh nail file to shape. You’ll find that this technique both saves time and results in stronger nail beds—thus, less chipping and peeling. We gathered a few quick tips below to help you achieve your best at-home mani.

How to Use a Nail File

Starting with a nail file that’s in good shape is key. Once your file starts to dull, go ahead and toss it. Buy files in multiples so you’re less likely to keep using a dud for lack of backups. Be sure to hold the file flat against the tip of the nail to avoid thinning the nail.

How to File Nails

Whatever you do, don’t file back and forth. You’ll, once again, be increasing your chances of nail damage. Instead, only file in one direction, pulling the file from the outward in. It’s tempting to saw away at your nails, but the extra effort of one-way filing will make a difference.  

How to File Nails Square

A better description for the popular nail shape is “squared” rather than “square.” They’re characterized by flat tops and slightly rounded edges. File the top of the nail by holding the file flat against the tip. When you’re satisfied with the length, soften the corners just a bit by lightly filing at a slight angle. You might only need to pass the file over the edges a few times to reach the desired shape.  

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Building strong nail beds starts with healthy cuticles. As much as a good nail filing and clipping strategy can deter your dreams of perfectly manicured nails, so too can dry and cracked cuticles. Get in the habit of applying cuticle oil (like this one) daily and you’ll be rewarded with nails that look like they came straight from the salon—minus the $40 tab.

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