Wait, Should I Be Using a Glass Nail File Tho?

Idk about you, but I’m all about creating less waste with my beauty routine these days, like phasing out single-use or limited-use items (like cotton rounds and sheet masks) and switching to products that will last for months, or even years. And when it comes to my nail routine, the first thing I changed was my old flimsy disposable nail file, replacing it instead with a glass nail file—a gentler, longer-lasting, and—let’s be honest—way prettier option for filing your nails.

Not only are glass nail files a generally more sustainable option since they can last for years, they’re actually better for your nails too thanks to their super-fine grit. Not only does sawing a traditional emery board back and forth across your nails cause them to fray at the ends (file in one direction only, ppl), but the super-coarse grit is way too harsh and can even leave your manicure more susceptible to breakage.

But before I made the official switch to glass (it’s going great, thanks for asking), I had to seriously educate myself on what a glass nail file even is. So if your nails also need an upgrade (spoiler: they do), scroll ahead for everything you need to know about glass nail files, plus the best ones to try right now.

4 glass nail files to shop right now:

Meet the experts:

What is a glass nail file?

I’ll get your first question out of the way: Nope, glass/crystal nail files aren’t little shards of glass that poke and cut up your fingers as you’re filing (that would be…hell). They’re chemically treated and tempered pieces of glass—meaning the entire piece is heated up until it’s sturdy and smooth—so it feels like a dense piece of plastic rather than a fragile strip of glass in your hands. “A quality glass nail file can last for years and years saving the planet and saving you money,” explains nail artist Julie Kandalec.

What’s the difference between a glass nail file and a crystal nail file?

Plot twist: “They are the same thing,” says Kandalec. “Glass nail file” and “crystal nail file” are terms that can be used interchangeably, and they both mean very gentle, tempered glass, with a gritty surface that will be much kinder to your nails.

Are glass nail files better?

If you’ve ever used a traditional ” data-vars-ga-product-id=”4b59ed01-e135-4baf-8c40-c646c22bebd2″ data-vars-ga-product-price=”0.00″ data-vars-ga-product-sem3-brand=”” data-vars-ga-product-sem3-category=”” data-vars-ga-product-sem3-id=”” data-affiliate-network='{“id”:”8fdf67ee-4f43-43cb-87d0-a6770869e8c0″,”metadata”:[],”network”:{“id”:”469ce69f-4798-416d-9432-eaa9954b4053″,”name”:”Amazon”,”metadata”:[]}}’ data-vars-ga-media-type=”” data-affiliate=”true”>emery or paper nail file, you know they be a little rough on your nails. That’s because the super-gritty texture of the cardboard or plastic can shred, rip, and tear the edges of your nails—even if they look smooth—leaving them susceptible to flakes and cracks later on.

While glass files still have grit, they tend to be much gentler than emery boards, thanks to the fact that they’re—again—firm but smooth versus gritty and flimsy. Basically, the grit on glass files is super finely sanded down, so you’re able to create a clean, smooth, “sealed” edge on your nails rather than a jagged, torn edge, which means less peeling and chipping for your manicure.

Do glass nail files get dull?

One of the coolest things about crystal nail files is that they don’t really get dull. Unlike traditional emery boards—which peel, bend, and dull the more you use them—glass nail files can last up to one year if taken care of properly (more on that in a bit). So if you’re someone who regularly files and shapes their nails, you should definitely consider switching to a long-lasting glass nail file.

The cutest glass nail files to try rn:

How do you use a glass nail file?

If you know how to use a classic nail file, you already know how to use a glass one. “Your glass nail file can be used just like a regular one,” says Choi. The only real difference in technique is that glass nail files can be used in any direction, whereas emery files are supposed to be moved in only one direction (as I mentioned, sawing back and forth can lead to that dreaded breaking and peeling). For a quick refresher on how to file your nails like a pro, check out the easy-to-follow tutorial above.

Can glass nail files be used on wet and dry nails?

Dry nails yes, but wet nails no. “All nail files, no matter what material they’re made of, should be used on dry nails,” says Choi. A wet nail file is harder to maneuver, plus having moisture on the nail when filing can cause splitting, adds Kandalec. “I always recommend using a glass nail file on dry nails, says Kandalec, since the very purpose of a glass nail file is that they prevent the natural nail from splitting and shredding”

Are glass nail files good for natural nails?

Yes! Both Kandalec and Choi told me that glass nail files have a very fine grit, so they are most efficacious on soft, natural nails. If you’re wearing gel nail polish or nail extensions, you may need to use a traditional nail file with a higher grit to get the job done.

Do glass nail files strengthen nails?

Tl;dr, no glass nail files won’t actually strengthen your nails. For that, you’ll need to invest in a nail strengthener (my personal faves are Ella + Mila First Aid Kiss Nail Strengthener and OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener for Dry & Brittle Nails). But glass nail files will help prevent the tip of your nail from fraying and splintering like it can with emery boards, thanks to their super-fine grit. Less fraying means less breaking, which ultimately leads to stronger, healthier nails in the end.

4 nail-strengthening treatments to try:

What is the best glass nail file?

When it comes to picking out a glass nail file, there isn’t too much criteria to consider. You’ll want to choose a file that feels lightweight and comfortable in your hands—i.e., you should be able to maneuver it fairly easily. Also, looking for a file that’s aesthetically pleasing doesn’t hurt either, since (spoiler) you’re going to have it for the long haul. The four top-rated glass nail files below are a great place to start.

The best glass nail files on Amazon:

How do you clean a glass nail file?

If you’re trying to make your glass nail file last as long as possible (and, uh, why wouldn’t you?!), you’ll want to get it a good clean after each use. If you notice any oils or debris, Kandalec recommends using a wire brush to help you out in the cleaning process. “Wash your glass nail file in hot soapy water and then spray it with 99 percent isopropyl alcohol to kill any germs and bacteria,” says Kandalec. Gently dry it off with a clean towel and then store it back in its case or pouch when you’re done.

Hot tip: Some—but not all!—glass nail files are dishwasher safe, which is great for monthly cleaning or whenever your file feels especially dirty. And by the way, if you’re letting a friend borrow your glass nail file, just spritz it with a disinfectant before and after you lend it (which, fun fact, is why glass files are a hygienic alternative to the single-use files and buffers you typically find in salons).

Need some new polish? These colors are c-u-t-e

So, should I start using a glass nail file?

At the end of the day, whether you use an emery or a glass file is totally up to you and your nail preferences. That said, if you’re worried about your nail health, you want your manicure to last longer, or you’re looking for a more sustainable option (hi, me), glass nail files are definitely the move. The only caveat? It might take you a hot sec to get used to the sound, which, although it doesn’t quite bother me, has been described by friends as “similar to nails on a chalkboard.” Do with that information what you will.

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