Natural Nails

My B.I.F. (Best Implement Friend)

What implement can you not live without? Nail techs answer this question by describing the tools that get them through the workday. Plus, be sure to save the experts’ advice for implement purchasing, and the convenient buyers’ guide for the next time you’re shopping for new implements.

What implement can you not live without? Nail techs answer this question by describing the tools that get them through the workday. Plus, be sure to save the experts’ advice for implement purchasing, and the convenient buyers’ guide for the next time you’re shopping for new implements.


Tommie Perkins, Nails & Hair by Tommie, Turkey Texas.

My B.I.F.: Electric File

“I use my e-file for everything from prep to finish. It makes the process of enhancements so much faster and smoother for me. I can get in curves and really get the enhancement smooth from eponychium to free edge. Also, I am not working my wrist, elbow, and shoulder as much as I would be by using a hand file, so my e-file is helping to extend my career by not wearing my body out. “

This motorized file features a revolving head that’s covered with a specialized bit, and helps nail techs speed up services and get into hard-to-reach areas. Most manufacturers recommend that nail techs take a training class before using an e-file on clients.


Erin Domangue, Parisian Beauty Academy, Hackensack, N.J.

My B.I.F.: Cuticle Pusher

“I use the cuticle pusher for almost every service. I have to get the nail plate clean before doing anything else! I keep various shaped pushers around for different shaped nails. My students are fascinated by the process of removing cuticle from the nail plate with a cuticle pusher. I tell them it’s essential to use the pusher gently but firmly so you avoid damaging the skin and the nail.”

After applying liquid cuticle remover to the nails, use the spoon-shaped edge of a cuticle pusher and pterygium remover (frequently sold together but also available separately) to gently push back cuticles.


Eileen Krinsky Klein, Bella Vita Medi Spa and Salon, Orlando

My B.I.F.: Toenail Clipper

“I have a large toenail clipper (which looks like a large cuticle nipper) for thick nails. I work in a spa/salon that has a lot of elderly clients, and this comes in handy when a regular clipper doesn’t work. My elderly clients tend to have thickened toenails and this tool opens wide, letting the nail fit easily in this clipper without getting squashed and hurting the client.”

Toenail clippers trim toenails to the desired length. There’s also a smaller type of toenail clipper (which looks similar to a home fingernail clipper) that uses a mechanical lever and a convex head to trim nails.


Judi Bell, Hair We “R”, Beecher City, Ill.

My B.I.F.: Ingrown Nail File

“I was first introduced to my ingrown nail file in my kit for beauty school. This tool is essential to my pedicures. I have had clients who have had ingrown nails for years who no longer have them after using this for a few pedicures. Most of my clients can’t believe how much better their toes feel after I clean out the corners.”

An ingrown nail file can release a toenail that has curved or embedded itself into the skin. (If the ingrown nail is chronic, red, inflamed, deeply embedded, or if the client has another foot ailment, refer the client to a doctor instead of using this file.)


Anthony Charles Licatta III, Nails-N-More, Macomb, Mich.

My B.I.F.: Striper Brush

“The versatility of my striper brush is why I can’t live without it. It can be used on natural nails, enhancements, and more. Just add one, two, or three (or more) stripes per nail for an easy, fun design. It’s a must-have for the finishing touches on any artistic nail creation! Plus, the more stripes you do the more you can charge per nail.”

An assortment of nail art brushes are must-haves for nail techs who specialize in art. From fan brushes, detail brushes, dotters and more, these brushes have desert-island status for die-hard nail artists.


Melissa Fox, Lacombe, Alberta, Canada

My B.I.F.: Tweezers

“I like to use tweezers with a sharp point to remove nail art decals from the plastic page and place them onto the nail. It works perfectly! They also work to pick up any other type of nail art, such as fimo canes. I wouldn’t be without my tweezers when it comes to nail art — they are priceless to me!”

Long-handled tweezers are ideal for picking up nail art embellishments with control and ease. If you also offer waxing services, you might also want slant tweezers (an all-purpose tool that’s great for eyebrows) and point tweezers (for removing ingrown hairs).


Melisa Bruce, ManiPediCutie!, Hermosa Beach, Calif.

My B.I.F.: Cuticle Nippers

“I was first introduced to cuticle nippers when I started beauty school back in 1990, and they have been an important part of my services ever since. I use them in my manicure and pedicure services to get rid of those stubborn little hangnails that drive you nuts. (I use cuticle nippers to clip off my own hangnails as well.)”

Cuticle nippers use spring-loaded jaw action to remove ragged pieces of cuticle from the natural nail. The 1/2-jaw size is the most popular.


Guin Deadman-Littlefield, Grand Junction, Colo.

My B.I.F.: Curette

“My curette can remove cuticle from the nail plate and sidewall area with no sharp corners, so I don’t have to worry about injuring the client. I use it on all natural and enhancement services. I’ve used it for about 10 years, and I find that I don’t need any other kind of pusher or implement except for nippers for the stray hangnail here and there.”

The rounded edges of a curette let you safely clean under the free edge of natural nails without harming sensitive skin. Make sure the open spoon side is facing upward under the nail to collect the debris.



Nancy Donotone McCoy, McCoy Nail Salon, Walnut, Miss.

My B.I.F.: Foot File

“I have a nickel foot file that is designed to buff the feet dry. I like the way it gently smoothes away calluses. I cannot live without it because I do pedicures everyday. I picked a durable file that is easily sanitizable and long-lasting.”

Foot files, frequently used in conjunction with liquid callus remover, smooth the bottoms of rough, callused feet. They are usually effective on both wet and dry skin.


G Elizondo, D’Hair to be Different, Las Vegas

My B.I.F.: Manicure Sticks

“Manicure sticks come in handy when I’m doing gels. If I accidently get some on the eponychium or sidewall, I use a manicure stick to clean up before putting the client’s hand into the UV light. For everything else, I tend to use my Young Nails Magic Wand implement.”

Sometimes referred to as orangewood sticks, manicure sticks can wipe off errant polish, push back cuticles, stir and apply wax, and be wrapped in cotton to clean under nails.


Amanda Dodge, Nail Me, Spanish Fork, Utah

My B.I.F.: C-Curve Sticks

“For the first part of my career I would only use these for creating impressions in acrylic. This has changed now that I understand the proper shape and structure of the nail. C-curve sticks give the nail the proper shape, pinch, and strength. I learned to make the time for it during a service and by doing that I became faster. Now, I love my C-curve sticks! “

A C-curve stick (also known as a C-curve shaping tool) is an easy way to create a perfect C-curve when applying acrylic using a form. After removing the form, place the stick under the nail then pinch the sides of the nail together around the tool.


Erika Terzani, Vista, Calif.

My B.I.F.: Nail File

I could not function without a 100/180-grit file. It can be used in so many ways — besides the obvious shortening length, shaping of natural nails, and other natural nail prep, it is my primary tool in smoothing rough areas of skin. Utilizing the 180-grit is great when trying to smooth out ridges, dips, and peeling. And the only thing separating a bad set of nails from a great set of nails is shaping. Give me a file and I can make almost anything look pretty and natural.

Lower-grit files shape and reduce the length of acrylic and gel nails. Higher-grit files are for finish work, nail prep, and smoothing and shining natural nails and enhancements.



1. Find out the details of what sort of warranty (if any) the manufacturer offers. Will they replace your tool if something should happen within a given amount of time? A good manufacturer will be confident in the product and back it with support. — Watson

2. Not every expensive implement is the best. Nor is every cheap implement bad. If you know what to look for, you won’t be distracted by the price. Sometimes, finding inexpensive, quality implements can help you save time with sanitizing, because you’ll be able to afford a set of implements for every scheduled appointment. That way, you can sanitize all of your implements at the end of the day and start your next day with 8 to 10 clean, sanitized implement sets. Having one set for every appointment will save you 10 or more minutes of cleaning time between services. — Watson
3. I recommend stainless steel implements. A professional implement must be able to hold up to liquid or heat sterilization. The term “stainless” means the tool has a mixture of metals that make it resistant to rusting when exposed to a wet environment. (INOX is a French word that means stainless steel.) Any implement simply coated, plated or chromed in a rust-resistant finish will not hold up like a stainless steel one. — Green

4. Ask if the nipper or nail cutter has a “box joint”. A box joint is superior in construction to a lap joint. It is made in a more complex way and can sometimes cost a bit extra, but is worth it in the performance and life of the tool. The box joint is a tighter joint and will not allow movement and slippage. This insures a perfect line up of the blades and a stronger tool that will last longer. — Green

5. Know your size. Whether it’s the size of the cutting blade you prefer, pusher or scoop width, or the size of the handle to fit your hand, everyone is different. Different sizes of all these options should be available in a good brand of implement. One size does not fit all when manicuring. A custom fit tool for you will make life easier. — Green

6. Try before you buy. Most professional brands merchandise their higher priced tools in try-me packaging. Don’t be afraid to hold the tool and see how it feels in your hand. Make sure you’re comfortable with the weight, the grip, and the angle. — Bulson

7.  Get recommendations and do some research. Talk to fellow techs who you know and trust and get their recommendations. Also, look for consumer reviews online or use chat rooms to get opinions. Speak to the store staff to see if their customers have been happy with their purchases or if they get frequent complaints. Remember that everyone is different, but if you’re getting consistent feedback (products rust, cutting edges dull quickly, guarantees have hidden costs or are not honored, etc), you could be alerted to possible problems. — Bulson

8. Country of origin still plays a big role in product quality. Not to belittle other countries, but the best craftsmanship for metal tools can still be found in Germany, Italy, and Japan. Check the back of the package to see where the implement is made. Also, if country of origin is important to you, then don’t be fooled by implements that are stamped “German stainless steel”. The steel may well have come from Germany, but the implement itself may not have been made there. — Bulson

9. Make sure you invest in products that are legal to use and that meet sanitation standards in your state. In addition to being dependable and wear-resistant, tools should be sterilizable to meet the highest standards of safety and sanitation. — Harvey

10. To be knowledgeable about performing specialized tasks while building your toolbox, make sure to research specific designs when shopping with unique services in mind. For instance, instead of a regular emery board, a specially designed nail file that corrects the problem



Kim Bulson, business development manager, Belcam Inc. (makers of Ultra/Denco)

Nicole Green, advertising manager, Antoine de Paris

Kathy Harvey, director of professional sales, Tweezerman

Elaine Watson, global education director, Star Nail International



American International Industries (AII)

Antoine de Paris


Body Toolz


Cala Products



Entity Beauty

Flowery Professional


Lava International


Nubar Cosmetic Products

OPI Products

PNI Worldwide

Rudolph International/Soft Touch

Sheba Professional Nail Products Inc.

Star Nail International

Trés Chic Nails

Tweezerman International

Young Nails

We’ve focused on manufacturers of metal implements only in this Buyers’ Guide, but for a complete list of suppliers of other tools — like electric files, brushes, or foot files — visit

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Foot care is simply the practice of caring for feet, from a cosmetic and maintenance standpoint; usually encompasses pedicure services, nail...
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