What is an Electric Nail File?

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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2019
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An electric nail file is a motorized file used for smoothing the edges of human fingernails and toenails. It may be a corded model that plugs into a traditional wall outlet or be wireless and powered by batteries. Some styles are made for heavy-duty use by cosmetologists, and others are more lightweight and marketed for use by home consumers.

Electric nail files started to gain popularity more than two decades ago when the trend of professional manicures and pedicures started to gain momentum. Prior to that time, only the elite in most societies hired someone to perform this personal grooming ritual. As demand for these nail services increased, electric nail files enabled manicurists and pedicurists to perform their jobs more quickly and efficiently.

Since the electric nail file was a relatively new invention, the first models had few safety features. Salon customers frequently complained that the tool injured their cuticles or filed their nails too short. Some customers suffered permanent damage to the matrix of their nails, which hinders normal nail growth. Each subsequent model of electric nail file became safer and easier to control.


Improvements over the original models incorporate the inclusion of several tips and attachments that are specially designed to perform specific functions. Certain tips are meant to be used only on natural nails, and others should not be used on anything but acrylic nails. A tapered bit is commonly used to easily repair acrylic nail edges that have lifted from the natural nail. Another popular attachment aids in repairing cracked acrylic nails.

One of the most common jobs that an electric nail file can make easier and more professional is preparing fingernails for a full set of artificial nails. Using a combination of bands and tips, a manicurist can properly texturize the natural nails and gently push back the cuticles before the process begins. Unlike a manual tool, an electric nail file can ensure conformity of the natural nail surfaces.

Proper maintenance of an electric nail file is fairly simple. It should be cleaned with a brush and cloth after each use to prevent the collection of dust and debris in its moving parts. The attachments should be removed after use and stored in a dry place to avoid oxidization.

If properly used and well maintained, an electric nail file will typically provide years of use. Most professional manicurists and home manicurists prefer it to manual files for precision and speed. Both artificial and natural nail specialists typically use the electric nail file for adult services only, as children may be injured if they move their hands or feet quickly while being served.


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Discuss this Article

Post 3

@raynbow- I don't use an electric nail file on my fingernails, but I do like to use one on my toenails. It works much better for nails that are thick and coarse, but it does seem too powerful for fingernails.

Post 2

@raynbow- I have used an electric nail file, and I found it to be too harsh for natural fingernails. It didn't give me an even result on most of my nails, and when I tried to fix it, my nails ended up too short. It does work well on acrylic nails though, because they are much tougher then natural nails.

Post 1

An electric nail file almost sounds like it might be too powerful for most people's fingernails. Does anyone have personal experience using one, and if so, does it work better than a regular nail file?

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