Glass Nail Files: Should I Be Using One Right Now?

I mean, sure, if you want REALLY GOOD NAILS.

John Francis

Out of the many beauty products I’m not against spending some ~serious~ cash on (see: fancy-schmancy serums, next-level hair dryers, and ultra-creamy moisturizers), nail files are definitely not one of them. I mean, the fact that I’ve been using the same drugstore nail file for the better half of 2019 says a lot about my at-home manicure tendencies, right? But when a friend mentioned her obsession with glass nail files—aka crystal nail files—I was automatically intrigued. Could this be the relatively exciting alternative to boring (and, ahem, flimsy) emery boards? Ahead, I found out everything you’d possibly want to know about glass/crystal files.

WTF are glass nail files?

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Are glass nail files better?

If you’ve ever used an emery nail file, you know they be a little rough on your nails. That’s because the super-gritty texture of the cardboard or plastic can shred, rip, and tear the edges of your nails—even if they seem smooth—leaving them susceptible to flakes and cracks later on.

While glass files still have grit, they tend to be much gentler than emery boards, thanks to the fact that they’re—again—firm but smooth versus gritty and flimsy. Basically, the grit on glass files is super finely sanded down, so you’re able to create a clean, smooth, “sealed” edge on your nails rather than a jagged, torn edge, which means less peeling and chipping for your manicure.

How do you use a glass nail file?

Great question with an even better answer: If you know how to use a classic nail file, you already know how to use a glass one. The only real difference in technique is that glass nail files can be used in any direction, whereas emery files are supposed to be moved in only one direction (sawing back and forth can lead to that dreaded breaking and peeling). For a quick refresher on how to file your nails like a pro, check out this easy-to-follow tutorial, below:

What is the best glass nail file?

When it comes to picking out a glass nail file, there isn’t too much criteria to consider. You’ll want to choose a file that feels lightweight and comfortable in your hands—i.e., you should be able to maneuver it fairly easily. Also, looking for a file that’s aesthetically pleasing doesn’t hurt, either, since (spoiler) you’re going to have it for the long haul. These four top-rated crystal nail files are a great place to start:

How long do glass nail files last?

Unlike emery boards—which peel and bend the more you use them—crystal nail files can last up to one year if taken care of properly. That means quickly washing your glass file with soap and water after each use, letting it dry fully, then storing it in its case when it’s time to put it away. Pro tip: If you’re letting a friend borrow your crystal nail file, just spritz it with a disinfectant before and after you lend it (which, fun fact, is why glass files are a hygienic alternative to the single-use files and buffers you typically find in salons).

So, should I start using a glass nail file?

At the end of the day, whether you use an emery or a glass file is totally up to you and your nail preferences. That said, if you’re worried about your nail health, you want your manicure to last longer, or you’re looking for a more sustainable option, crystal nail files are definitely the move.

The only caveat? It might take you a hot sec to get used to the sound, which, although it doesn’t quite bother me, has been described by friends as “similar to nails on a chalkboard.” Do with that information what you will.

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