You’ve Probably Been Filing Your Nails Wrong Since Forever

Lauren Caruso


At a recent appointment at tenoverten, an insanely tranquil salon in Soho, I was going about my business of trying not to fall asleep while the nail technician filed my nails—something I find singularly relaxing—when she paused to ask me who did them last. “I did,” I told her in a voice that went from proud to sheepish as quickly as I looked up and saw her brows furrowed while she stared at my pointer finger. She proceeded to tell me that, even though I thought I’d been doing myself a favor by keeping my nails perfectly manicured in a rounded shape, I’d kinda been screwing them up all along—and she could tell.

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“The way you file your nails … it’s not good.” Oh.

Turns out, there is more than one way to file a nail, and I was doing it the wrong way, an infraction that can incite damage like peeling and rough edges, even if I buffed, she told me. I was used to grabbing an emery board and going to town, filing back and forth until I was satisfied with the shape. Instead, she said, you should start at the outer edge of the nail and file toward the center at a 45-degree angle—never back and forth unless you want to turn your nail into shreds. My nails were often peeling and weak, but I figured it’s because I didn’t eat enough protein or something.

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Nadine Abramcyk, cofounder of tenoverten, confirmed what I feared: I’d probably been wrecking my nails with my technique—or lack thereof. She recommended I swap out my low-grit emery board for a glass file, and had a couple other pointers for making weak nails stronger, too. “Keep them well hydrated,” she says. “You can do that from within by drinking loads of water, which is beneficial on the whole, and also by regularly applying cuticle oil to your nails. This will keep the skin around your nails healthy looking and provide for a better backdrop to your manicure.”

One last piece of advice only an honest salon owner would say: “And remember to give your nails a breather every so often from polish.” Duly noted.

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