Beauty Emery Board vs Nail File: Which Is Better for Your Nails? They're not necessarily the same thing. By Audrey Noble Audrey Noble Twitter Audrey Noble is NYC-based contributing beauty commerce writer. She covers all things beauty, hair products, and makeup. InStyle's editorial guidelines Published on May 26, 2023 @ 07:34AM Pin Share Tweet Email In This Article View All In This Article What It Is Types of Nail Files How to Choose How to Use Getting the perfect mani starts way before you choose your go-to shade of nail polish. In fact, for a smooth, glossy, finish, it all starts in the prep stage — and the type of nail file you use can make all the difference. As a result, while they might seem interchangeable as a result, the merits of an emery board versus nail file can call for a little more explanation. In fact, an emery board is technically a type of nail file, which can come in different materials. Making matters more confusing? Each can serve different purposes. Before you begin shaping your nails, here's what you should consider. Getty Images A Glass Nail File Is the Secret Weapon Your Nails Need What Is a Nail File? "A nail file is beneficial for shaping, removing length precisely, and smoothing out any rough edges," explains Mazz Hanna, nail artist and CEO of Nailing Hollywood. "It can prevent your nails from catching on things and potentially causing damage to the nails or surrounding skin." They can come in different materials, which can ultimately dictate how you use them and the result you get. The Different Types of Nail Files Emery Board Files An emery-board nail file is made with cardboard or wood that has an abrasive material used to file the nail glued to it — a.k.a. emery. Hanna says that this type of nail file is best suitable for your natural nails and great for shaping. Metal Nail Files Often made of steel, these tend to the most durable of all nail files and are therefore the strongest option for nails. A metal or steel nail file are best suited for those who naturally have thicker nails or if you like using fake nails, says Hanna. Because of its abrasiveness, she recommends using this type of nail file carefully. Crystal Nail Files Both gentle and durable, crystal nail files are the best of both worlds, which a fine grit that makes them ideal if you're concerned about potentially causing damage to sensitive nails. "They are great for natural nails, as they minimize the risk of splitting or damaging the nail plate," says Hanna. "They are also great to smooth out the rough skin around the cuticle area that meets the free edge of the nail." The Best Nail File for Weak, Brittle Nails Is Made of Glass How to Choose the Right Nail File While the right nail file depends on what you're looking for and your daily nail routine, it doesn't hurt to have all three. "It's beneficial to have all three types of nail files in your nail kit because they serve different purposes," says Hanna. "Having a variety allows you to choose the most suitable file depending on your needs, nail type, and desired outcome," Hanna says. "This way, you can customize your nail filing experience for optimal results." How to Use a Nail File Regardless of which form you choose, how you use a nail file is pretty straightforward. Start with clean, dry nails, says Hanna, and make sure they are polish-free. Then, after you pick the right nail file for your needs, begin filing from the outer edge toward the center of the nail in smooth, gentle strokes. Pro tip: Be sure to file in one direction and avoid using a back-and-forth motion, as that can cause nails to fray or weaken. Also, be gentle and avoid excessive friction, says Hanna. The goal is to gently shape the nail — and not replace a nail clipper. Can You Cut or File Your Nails When You Have Gel Polish On?