Want to build stronger, longer-lasting, belter-looking nails – in less time? The secret may be in creating your own system for filing nails.

“Before I established a filing pattern, I wasted a lot of time,” relates Brenda Lee Bollard, owner of Bren’s Nails in Conroc, Texas, and a top competitor. The system that works best is determined by the individual, say the three technicians we asked, who each have their own particular method for filing.

“Find what works well for you,” says Michele Baker, a nail technician at Euro Stylecutters in Lutz, Fla. Setting a pattern takes time, adds Baker, but once you’ve got it down, you will be able to work faster. You can also cut your filing time by applying your product carefully, she says, so that you don’t need to file as much.

Divide And Conquer

Michele Yaksich, co-owner of Nail Galleria in Pittsburgh, Pa., has gone so far as to print instructions on how to file nails, complete with line drawings, for the technicians at her salon. Yaksich uses what she calls a “panel” system. First, file the sides of the free edge until the sidewall of the nail is a straight line from the cuticle to the free edge. While filing, hold the file parallel to the nail bed, with the grit at a 90° angle to the nail.

Then file underneath the edge of the nail tip, holding the file at a 180° angle to the nail, to ensure both sides of the free edge are even from the smile line to the outermost tip of the nail.

Yaksich also recommends shaping the tip at this time. According to Bollard, a square shape is the fastest and easiest to do. “And it’s a good place to start to make sure all the nail shapes are consistent,” she adds.

For a square shape, hold the file perpendicular to the free edge of the nail and file the curved edge flat to meet the sides in a square shape, says Yaksich. To create an oval shape, hold the file at a 45° angle to the edge of the nail and blend the corners by filing with a hall-moon motion. For a softer squared shape (sometimes called “squoval”), file the tip like you would for a square shape, then blend the corners in a hall-moon motion, starting with the file at a 180° angle to the nail and gradually working to a 45° angle until the nail is the desired shape.

After shaping the free edges, Yaksich uses her panel system to shape the’ artificial nail surfaces. First, she says, shape the side panels by filing from the tip to the cuticle in even, consistent strokes. Your filing strokes should be on the diagonal of the nail — not side to side or top to bottom.

Next are the center side panels. Again, work from tip to cuticle with even, consistent strokes. Your filing strokes should be diagonal again and blend into the side panels.

For the center panel, again file from tip to cuticle, blending with your file from side to side into the center side panels.

Finally, lightly retrace the cuticle area with a half-moon filing motion to blend the product.

One Step at a Time

Bollard’s filing system is similar to Yaksich’s, but she doesn’t divide the nail into as many sections. Instead, she follows a five-step system, which she says she learned from Tammy Taylor. “I watched one of her videos in slow motion and counted every file stroke on the nail, which told me what to shoot for,” says Bollard.

Bollard uses 180-grit and zebra files for filing the nails. Her first three steps focus on the free edge. For the first two steps, Bollard files the left sides of all 10 nails; then she goes back and does the right sides. “That helps me make the groove walls consistent,” she says. “I want the sides of the free edge to come out straight, with no nicks or grooves that weaken the nails.”

Then, Bollard shapes each nail by holding the file at a 180° angle to the free edge and files back and forth until the tip is square-shaped. “If I want to round it off, I can take a little off on each corner until I get the shape,” she says. When she wants softer edges, Bollard tips the file back toward her a little. “You can adjust the tilt of the file as you work to adjust the sharpness of the corner,” she says.

Step four. Bollard says, is cuticle and contour shaping. “I do that with a zebra file, but a beginner who needs to get rid of lumps might use a 180-grit file to take the product down fast,” she says. Bollard starts filing at the left side of the nail, envisioning a wall as she works the file. “You file one side and then go up over the top and down the other side,” she describes. “Tilt the file at the sides, lay it flat on the top, and tilt it down the other side at about a 45° angle.”

Next, Bollard shapes the cuticle. When she applies product, she leaves enough space between the product and the cuticle to get a file between the two. “If you can’t get a file in there, you got the product too close,” she says. Bollard files from side to side in the cuticle area, tilting the file about 20°.

Finally, Bollard bevels the free edge. To do this, she looks down the barred of the nail and files the free edge at an angle from top to bottom with a zebra file.

“Hold the client’s hand at eye level so you can look at the curves when you’re beveling. Stroke toward the cuticle, then back toward the free edge, working left to right. Get a consistent density on all your free edges,” says Baker.

Try these technicians’ systems or figure out your own — you’ll like the results.

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