Nailing your filing technique

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Written for Scratch Magazine

Nailing your filing technique

Salon owner, educator, former Scratch columnist and award-winning nail stylist, Katie Barnes, shares her nail tales and tips… 

While filing may be considered one of the simplest skills a nail tech learns, it plays a crucial role in the preparation and finishing of the nails.

Katie Barnes selection_of_filesNailing the grit

There are so many types of nail file, so how do you know which one to use?

All files are coated in a material similar to sand paper, which creates a grit-like coarse surface. Like sandpaper, nail files are graded according to how much grit they contain per square inch.

The higher the grit, the smoother the file and the lower the grit, the coarser the file. The quality of grit is also important for longevity of your file.For natural nails, a fine-grit file (180 – 240-grit) is gentle yet effective. Coarse files (80-100 grit) are best for de-bulking acrylic enhancements.

Medium files (150 – 180 grit) are best to shape extensions of medium thickness and to shape the free edge of toenails, which are thicker than fingernails. Fine files (240-600 grit) are best for refining. Ultra fine files (600-2400 grit) are used for buffing the nail to a shine.

Filing techniques

Each nail tech will have their own filing routine but consistency is key to ensure a symmetrical and even nail. When filing the enhancement you should work uniformly in sections and keep your file flush onto the product, rather than keep lifting off and filing odd sections here and there.

Top 10 filing tips

1. When working on the natural nail,remove shine from the nail to prevent lifting. Work one side to the other and do not over file the nail. Ensure only the file edge touches the nail place. Hold it like this as the natural nail has a curved shape. If the file is half flat, you will take the rest of the nail off too.

2. Always prepare a brand new nail file by rubbing the sides on another file to blunt them slightly as the sides of a new file are sharp and you could risk nicking your client.

Katie Barnes files 23. Reduce the length of the natural nail and to a rounded shape with a 180-grit file as this makes it easier to fit the form to the free edge.

4. When filing your smile line in, begin with your file at the base of the pink platform at a 45-degree angle and as you file, slowly rock the file upright to become flush against the wall. This will ensure a consistent smile line all round.

Katie Barnes top_tip_55. Use a file flat (you can cut a file in half for ease) to push into the corners of the smile line.

6. Do not over file the natural sidewalls from the nail, as this will cause a weak structure.

7. When filing the enhancement, follow the same routine as the natural nail filing, using only the edge of the file touching the surface.

8. Refine using a lower grit file and repeat the same routine. Then repeat this routine again with your chosen buffers.

9. To finish, get the client to turn their hand to face you and correct the shape from ‘client’s view’.

Katie Barnes files 410. If you are unsure where your file is touching, draw in coloured pens or a pencil the panels that you want to file in the order of your routine. If you are filing through the incorrect colour, then you need to look at the angle of your file.

When to throw your file away

Katie Barnes files 3It is paramount to understand when to throw your files away. If they are looking grubby or dirty and you have to put too much force into the file to be effective, you are overdue to replace it. It is also essential to dispose of any files that come into contact with blood, bodily fluids or anything that could cross contaminate. If in doubt, throw it!

Files are easy to clean in-between clients with a file disinfectant spray or solution or if you prefer, many companies offer single use, disposable files.

Love Katie B xx

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