Are E-File Manicures Safe?

As nail technicians, there is already a lot of strain and stress put on our hands, wrists and shoulders. It is important that we make the necessary changes and follow safe working techniques to look after our hands while offering our clients the very best service.

We all know that the electric nail file has experienced its fair share of negative press and many techs are still fighting to educate against this myth. With newer techniques to include electric file cuticle work introduced in the last few years, this has only fuelled the myth.

In reality, with the wealth of information and education in the nail industry today, there is no reason that a fully trained e-file user would be any more dangerous than your average hand-filer. It is the user, not the tools that cause the damage within any area of our field.

As with all walks of life, there is the perfectly safe regular version and the one taken to the extreme.  Which do we think gets more publicity and subsequently gives the techniques a bad reputation? Of course, it is extreme version trend which just a small proportion of techs are actually doing. This stands for both electric and hand manicure techniques.  The Russian Manicure is associated with extreme techniques but this does not mean all those performing what they refer to as a Russian Manicure are unsafe.

A dentist uses an electric file, similar to ours in the nail industry. They choose their bits wisely. When polishing, it is a smooth buffing bit used on a lower speed, when filing down a tooth it is a harder and faster technique. You wouldn’t use the latter for the first task and how we use our electric files is no different.

Just like the electric nail file for enhancements used to, and often still can have a bad reputation, in the correct trained hands – it is perfectly safe. Using blunt, poor quality hand tools can cause more damage to the client’s nails with poor results than using an electric nail file to perform this job.

Without proper education and practice, using both hand and electric tools, a nail technician can seriously damage a client’s nails and potentially, permanently damage the nail matrix and inhibit nail growth. This is why, as with everything in our industry correct and up to date training is essential.

Working on the cuticle zone

Use the cuticle bits just like a cuticle pusher, with just a little pressure when doing this to avoid heat and let the bit do the work. Remember to move the handpiece and not stay in one spot. As with all manners of filing techniques, following a strict routine that is repeated on all nails is essential for consistency and avoiding heat build-up.

Cuticle work should be performed at a low speed. Selecting an e-file with low vibrations and making sure to purchase the appropriate quality e-file bits is vital. An electric tool is meant to be an investment and not a bargain. When you purchase cheaper bits, they can have a coarse, uneven feel and can irritate or catch the cuticle area.

When an electric nail file manicure is performed correctly and safely, the customer will feel less than they do of traditional cuticle tools as the pressure is so much lighter and gentle. Better results can often be achieved, as the e-file does the work for you.

Understanding e-file bits

E-File bits come in a variety of materials, shapes, sizes, and grits, with different uses and purposes for each kind.  

While this can differ from brand to brand, e-file bits tend to follow a generic colour coding to decipher the grit of the bit, just like a hand file. As a guide, this tends to follow

  • Red = fine grit
  • Blue = medium grit
  • Green = coarse grit
  • Dark blue / dark purple / Black = coarsest grit


Blue electric file bits

Too much force & pressure by the cuticle

If the bit does not have this, you can speak with the manufacturer or you may be able to try and calculate the grit by observing how big the carving is. I always advise against purchasing electric files, or their bits from third party online marketplaces. The electric files themselves have high vibrations, are too lightweight to control and have no manufacturer after sales care. The electric file bits may be of poor quality, are an uneven grit and can cause more work for the tech and often damage the nail when used, especially on the cuticle area. When purchasing from a reputable supplier, you can receive professional advice and education pre and post purchase.

Red e-file bits

Only a red, the finest grit must be used to perform an e file manicure. Just like you wouldn’t use a higher than 240-grit file on the nail natural. If you look at the e-file bits, you see the difference in the grit of the bit.

Just like our hand files, our e-file bits also need cleaning and replacing. If you try to work with an over used e-file bit, it will result in more pressure being required causing poor results and possible damage due to the excess force.

E-File too high speed for cuticle work

Perfect nails take time, perseverance and several appointments. Whilst a client may request it, achieving that airbrushed picture perfect skin is not possible with just one appointment and by achieving this damage will occur.  The more that this cuticle area is damaged, the thicker and faster it will grow back. Work together with your customer, correct education for your customers is critical to help them understand this.  When in the correctly trained hands and performed safely and not pushed to the extreme, using an e-file to perform your cuticle work is no different to using hand tools.

Let me know your thoughts on the e file manicure in the comments below.


  • Rebecca

    I am a qualified efile user and could not go back to full handfiling now. Not only does it save time, it provides amazing prep work for natural nails and enhancements.

    I understand that unfortunately there are unqualified techs out there using efiles and causing damage to client’s nails, which gives the technique a bad rep.

  • Rebecca

    I am a qualified efile user and could not go back to full handfiling now. Not only does it save time, it provides amazing prep work for natural nails and enhancements.

    I understand that unfortunately there are unqualified techs out there using efiles and causing damage to client’s nails, which gives the technique a bad rep.

  • Kelly Lupton

    I absolutely love this article. One of my big bares is technicians calling it a drill and drill bits. I always efile for prep and removal of products. I always explain to new clients that it is very similar to what a dentist uses and actually show my cuticle bits running on my glove so they can see how gentle they are. I love using a big ball with cuticle oil at the end of a service

  • Breda

    Hi Katie, very good written piece. I love the efile and totally agree that it’s the way you use and the correct bits to use that is essential to good work/ not damaging your clients nails.

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