How To File Acrylic Nails In 5 Easy Steps? Shaping And Buffing For Shiny Finish

Do you want to shape your acrylic nails perfectly and want them done with a glossy finish?

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll provide clear and concise instructions along the way. From choosing the right tools to shaping and refining the nails, I’ll cover every aspect to help you achieve the desired finish.

This blog on how to file acrylic nails is based on credible information coming from our professional nail technicians and manicure experts. 

Based on their years of experience, skills, and knowledge, this post provides a trusty solution to filing or buffing your fake nails.  

Can You File Acrylic Nails At Home?

Yes, you can file acrylic nails at home but make sure you are well up with the right tools, grit size and their correct applications, as using them wrongly will result in breaking your synthetic nails and also hurting your natural nails and skin. 

I’ll explain both ways of filing fake nails:

  1. Using Strip or board file
  2. Using electric file

How To File Acrylic Nails Using Board File? Step By Step

Filing acrylic nails require attention and focus as using tools the wrong way can hurt natural nails as well as the surrounding skin. Here is a detailed procedure.

Tools Needed To File Acrylic Nails

  • Nail File

What is a nail file? It is an abrasive tool having a rough, granular surface and is used for shaping and refining nails. 

It is made with a strip or board of metal, glass, or emery, which is abrasive and capable of grinding down the nails. 

They come in various shapes, sizes, and forms. The most advanced type of this tool is Electric Nail File.

The size and distance between these grains decide the grit size. You’ll most likely require a 180 or 240-grit size filer. 

  • Sponge Buffer 

What is a sponge buffer? It is a tool, also known as a nail buffer or nail buffing block, that is mainly for achieving a smooth and glossy finish on the surface of the nails. 

It primarily consists of a foam or sponge material and has different sides or surfaces with varying levels of abrasiveness.

To use a sponge buffer, you would need to start with the coarsest side to shape and smooth the nails and then turn to the finer sides for further refinement and buffing.

It generally has 180, 220, and 280 grit size sides. 

  • Dust Brush

A dust brush is a cleaning tool that contributes to removing dust, dirt particles, and debris from surfaces. 

It consists of a handle and bristles or fibers that are soft and flexible. They effectively trap and remove dust particles without scratching or damaging the surface being cleaned.

Dust brushes come in various shapes and sizes, with different types of fibers depending on the intended use. 

You’ll need this to get rid of filing and buffing dust. 

  • Nail Shiner

A nail shiner is also a beauty tool somehow related to filer and buffer. It is specifically used to polish and shine the surface of the nails and give them a glossy and healthy appearance. 

It is designed to smooth out any ridges or imperfections on the nail surface and create a smooth and reflective finish.

These tools are also available with varying grit sizes ranging from coarse to fine, which can assist you in getting in a specific level of shine.

  • Cuticle Oil

Cuticle oil is a specialized product used to moisturize and nourish the cuticles (the thin strips of skin that protect the base of your nails). 

It is applied to the cuticles and the surrounding nail area to facilitate healthy nail growth and prevent dryness and cracking.

The oil is usually formulated with a blend of moisturising ingredients such as oils (jojoba oil, almond oil, coconut oil, etc.), vitamins (vitamin E), and sometimes botanical extracts. 

These ingredients help to hydrate the cuticles, soften them, and enhance their overall health condition.

Here are the instructions on how to file acrylic nails without an electric file:

Step 1: Clean The Nails

Before filing, it is necessary that your hands and nails are clean and dry. If desired, you can soak your nails in warm water for a few minutes to soften and sterilize them.

Step 2: File The Nails

First, decide what shape you want for your nails, such as square, round, oval, or almond. It’s best to follow the natural shape of your nail bed.

Hold the nail file at a 45-degree angle to the side of your nail. File in a single direction and move from the outer edge towards the center. 

But don’t use this tool like a saw, and avoid back-and-forth motion as this can cause nail splitting or weakening.

Repeat the filing action on each side of the nail, ensuring you maintain the same angle. This will help you sustain a consistent shape and prevent any sharp corners.

As you file, periodically check the nail’s shape and length to avoid filing too much and thinning the nails.

Step 3: Smooth Out Imperfections 

After filing these fake nails, use the smoother side of the nail buffer to rub the surface of each nail gently. 

This helps get rid of any ridges or imperfections, producing a smoother canvas for polish or further treatment.

Move the buffer back and forth across the nail surface lightly and in a sweeping motion. Avoid applying excessive pressure, as it can thin the nail bed.

Continue buffing until the nails feel slick and look shiny.

Step 4: Apply The Shiner

If desired, you can use a shiner to further enhance the nails’ shine. As I mentioned earlier, shiner blocks or buffers typically have distinct sides with increasing grit sizes, ranging from coarse to fine.

Begin with the coarsest side and gently stroke it over the nail surface in a circular motion. Gradually move to the finer sides of the shiner, repeating the circular motion.

Be careful not to overdo it, as extreme rubbing can deplete and weaken the nail surface. Aim for a natural-looking shine.

Step 5: Apply Cuticle Oil

Once you’ve completed filing, buffing, and shining, it’s time to nourish your cuticles. Apply a small amount of cuticle oil to each nail. It can be applied with both fingers or a small brush.

Gently massage the cuticle oil into the base of each nail and along the surrounding cuticles.

Allow the oil to absorb for a few minutes to moisturise and soothe the cuticles. 

How To File Acrylic Nails With Electric File? Step By Step

Filing acrylic nails with an electric file can be a convenient and efficient way to shape and refine them. But approaching the process with care is crucial to avoid damaging the natural nail or causing any discomfort. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to file down acrylic nails without breaking them utilising an electric file:

Step 1: Choose the right electric file

Select an electric file developed specifically for nail care. Look for one with adjustable speed settings and different attachments suitable for fake nails.

Step 2: Adjust the speed

Set the electric file to a low speed to start with, especially if you’re a beginner to using it. As you gain more experience and confidence, you can gradually increase the speed for faster applications.

Step 3: Choose the appropriate bit

Depending on the desired outcome, you can choose from different types of bits. A medium grit or fine grit bit is commonly used. However, sanitise the bits properly.

Step 4: Start shaping the nails

Hold the electric file in a comfortable grip using a light touch. Start at the sidewalls and move the bit from the cuticle area to the free edge, following the natural shape of the nail. 

Recount this motion on each side of the nail until you get the desired shape. Take care not to file too aggressively or excessively, as this can hurt the nail.

Step 5: Smooth the surface

After shaping the nails, switch to a buffer bit or a fine grit bit to even out the surface. Move the bit softly across the entire surface of the nail to remove any roughness or unevenness.

Step 6: Refine the cuticle area

Use a fine grit bit or a mandrel attachment with a sanding band to refine the cuticle area. Be careful and peaceful around the delicate cuticle area to avoid causing any misery or injury.

Frequently check for the nails during the filing process to ensure you’re attaining the shape you want and putting off any rough edges. 

Avoid filing too deeply into the natural nail or causing excessive heat from prolonged filing in one spot.

Step 7: Cleanse and moisturize

Once you’ve finished filing the nails, clean them with a dust brush to extract any dust or debris. Also, don’t forget to apply cuticle oil to feed the nails and surrounding skin.


What is the best way to file down acrylic nails?

The best way to file down your acrylic nails is using an electric file if you’re experienced and have a good grip over it. However, if you’re just a starter, you should opt for a strip file. 

How can I shorten my acrylic nails at home?

You will need to cut or trim your acrylic nails with a nail clipper to shorten them, followed by filing and buffing for shaping, retouching, and providing them with a sleek look.   

Can you file down acrylic nails without ruining them?

Yes, you can file down your nails without ruling by following accurate guidance and proceeding with the right tools. 

Can you file fake nails down?

Yes, you can; the process involves a few simple steps. However, the level of difficulty depends if you’re filing gel nails or acrylic ones.  

Conclusion On How To File Acrylic Nails

So here ends our discussion with the words that different stages of acrylic manicures might seem to require struggle and demand passion and effort.

Filing nails might appear a challenging task at first, but the process can be broken down into three primary stages: shaping, smoothing imperfections, and refining.

However, each stage urges focus and care which is explained in the post. For queries and suggestions, you can comment below. 

Marissa Arnold

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