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Glass Nail Files: Everything You Need to Know

Plus, what manicurists really think about them.

<p>Courtesy of Chillhouse</p>

Courtesy of Chillhouse

Picture this: You’ve just snagged your nail, and you’re doing your best not to make it any worse. You beeline for your bag, reach in, and pull out your favorite nail file. Our question for you: Is it an emery board, or is it made of glass? While metal and ceramic files also exist, emery boards and glass nail files tend to be the most popular picks. Still, many people have never even tried a glass file. With this in mind, we chatted with a few manicurists to determine why one might want to use a glass file over a traditional emery board. Keep reading to learn more.



Meet Our Expert



What Are Glass Nail Files?

Glass nail files were invented in 1997 in the Czech Republic. Typically, they’re made of hardened Bohemian glass, which makes them tempered and thus resistant to breaks. While the trend began in Europe, it’s since made its way to the U.S. with boutique nail brands launching their own tempered files. In an effort to differentiate, some brands have opted for the term crystal file, rather than glass. Despite the name change, the consistency of the file is the same: It’s a tempered piece of glass with a slightly gritty texture on one side, which is used for filing.

Benefits of Glass Nail Files

Traditional emery board files can be quite harsh on the natural nail, especially if you have thin nails. Glass nail files, however, are much gentler. “Glass files usually have a finer grit and are great if you have weak or brittle nails,” says nail artist, Mazz Hanna founder, and Nailing Hollywood Agency CEO Mazz Hanna. Tacking onto this, Nailing Hollywood celebrity manicurist Rachel Joseph says that glass nails can reduce splitting and breakage.

In addition to being gentle on the nails, Hanna says that glass nail files can be used to spruce up your overall manicure routine. “Glass nail files are also a great addition to the cuticle and skin prep if you use them properly,” she explains. “To do this, apply a few drops of cuticle remover on the skin along the sides of the free edge of the nail. Use the flat side of the file to gently exfoliate away any callused skin until smooth.”

All this to say, while glass nail files may seem inherently sharper and more dangerous than traditional files, they’re actually the safer bet for natural nails. And since they have a smoother, rounded edge, licensed nail tech Rico Nashimoto says that they’re a great starter file option for kids. “In addition to the safety, kids’ nails are thin and sensitive, and glass nail files are less harsh when compared to traditional files,” he says. “Also, glass nail files sometimes have color and glitter and are more fun looking than traditional nail files, so they feel more special, and kids love them.”

Glass Nail Files vs. Traditional Files

As you just learned, the biggest difference between glass nail files and traditional emery boards is their level of gentleness.


“If you or your client have damaged, brittle nails and you're trying to work on getting the nails back to good shape, I recommend using a glass file to be more gentle on the nails,” Joseph says.


In addition to being gentler than traditional nail files, they’re also more sustainable. “Good quality glass files can last up to about a year making them very eco-friendly,” Joseph says. Just be sure to disinfect them with an alcohol wipe after each use for optimal cleanliness.


Psst: Chances are, you don’t disinfect your regular emery board after each use—you simply use it and toss it in your bag for the next time you need it. But according to Nashimoto, traditional nail files are only meant to be used once or twice. “Most traditional nail files are meant to be disposable and they typically get dull after one use,” he reveals.

Drawbacks of Glass Nail Files

As gentle as glass files are, they’re not the best file for everyone. Both Hanna and Joseph agree that glass files aren’t strong enough for shaping thick nails (especially acrylics), nor for removing gels. In those instances, a classic nail file is better. A classic file is also better when time is of the essence. “It’s faster to shape [with traditional files],” Nashimoto says.

Think a glass nail file might be right for you? Find some of the best-selling options, below.

MiniLuxe Glass Nail File ($NaN)

Hanna recommends the MiniLuxe Glass Nail File. One side features an ultra-fine grit, while the other is slightly more abrasive, so it works better than typical glass files in the shaping department. (If you're looking to give yourself a full pedi, Hanna says to try out the MiniLuxe Glass Foot File, $12, too.)

Tweeezerman Glass Nail File ($NaN)

The Tweezerman Glass Nail File is a fan-favorite pick thanks to its smooth and gentle design. Plus, it comes with a convenient little carrying case.

Lights Lacquer Crystal Nail File ($NaN)

Lights Lacquer is a brand beloved for its beautiful nail polishes and trendy nailcare products. Among them, you'll find the Lights Lacquer Crystal Nail File, which looks much like any other glass nail file, albeit with the Lights Lacquer branding.

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