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Best nail file 2023: The key to flawless at-home manicures

Level-up your manicure kit with our pick of the best nail files to buy for every nail type

Whether you keep them in your handbag or your bedside drawer, you’re bound to have a stash of nail files somewhere. Most of the time, very little attention is paid to choosing the best nail file – perhaps the cheapest or a multipack will be the first option. But there are plenty of reasons why you should be paying a little more attention to what nail file you choose to buy next.

Nail files all have their own purpose – from budget emery boards, which are best to keep in a handbag and are easily replaceable, to glass files which tend to last longer. Those with gel nails, acrylics and those keeping their nails natural, will all need a different type of file too, so it’s not just about quantity or quality.

We’ve pulled together the best nail files you can currently get your hands on, to suit various budgets and nail needs, as well as a small buying guide to help you make an informed decision if you’re unsure which nail file is right for you.

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Best nail file: At a glance

How to choose the best nail file for you

Is a glass nail file better?

Glass or crystal nail files are known for being relatively more gentle on nails than classic emery boards, which are more rough and gritty. Aside from typically looking a bit more fun, and being more gentle on nails, glass files tend to last a lot longer than an emery board, as they can be washed.

Glass files are made up of chemically treated, tempered glass. While they still have a grit number, they’re much smoother than traditional emery boards, meaning if you have fragile nails they won’t drag your nail back and forth as harshly when filing.

What does the grit number of a nail file mean?

You’ll often see numbers on nail files, which relate to the grit on the board. This can be quite confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The numbers refer to how coarse the board is and these can be the same on both sides or different for different uses.

80 grit: This is a coarse file, usually used to remove heavy products such as acrylic nails and will typically be used by a professional nail technician.

100-150 grit: Usually used to shorten nails or remove excess product and is still a very strong file with a coarse feel.

180 grit: Used on the nail edges and not on the plate, this grit is great to shape and file natural nails.

220-240 grit: With a medium-fine grit, these files are usually used to shape natural nails but they can also be used to buff gel nails. 240 grit is the lowest number that should be used on natural nail plates.

280+ grit: Files above 280 grit are usually used on very fragile, natural nails or for final touches and to remove little bumps.

How often should you file your nails?

You don’t want to weaken your nails by over-filling them, but you also want to ensure that you keep them at a hygienic and healthy length, and file away any jagged edges that could lead to breaks. Keeping a file in your bag or in your office drawer may help with filing away any chipped edges as soon as they appear. On average, filing your nails once a week should suffice but for those who want shorter nails or notice fast growth, filing them every few days will be fine.

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The best nail files you can buy in 2023

1. Leighton Denny: Best crystal nail file

Price: from £13 | Buy now from Amazon

While most nail files only last for a short time until the grit wears down, this super strong crystal nail file from Leighton Denny is guaranteed to last for 25 years. Stored in a protective aluminium case, this file is the gold standard of nail files that will rid you of that cringy filing feeling for good. That’s because it gently glides over the nail with very little resistance, filing it down quickly and smoothly without any discomfort; once you’ve tried it, you won’t want to return to a standard file. For a nail file you’ll pretty much never have to replace, it’s also a surprisingly reasonable price. The smaller size option measures 135mm in length and is perfect for popping in your bag, and the slightly more expensive large version is 195mm long.

2. Mylee 3 Pack Nail File: The best affordable nail file

Price: £4 | Buy now from Amazon

For a budget price, this pack includes three double-sided, high-quality files from Mylee so you can file your nails on the move, keep one in your bedside drawer and take one file to work. Colour coded with a 180 and 240 grit side, they are suitable for acrylics and gel, as well as shaping length on natural nails. While a lot of cheap nail files will bend or break when you use them, you won’t need to worry about breakage with this multipack – they’re surprisingly durable, making them an excellent budget buy.

3. Tweezerman Glass Nail File: The best glass nail file

Price: £8 | Buy now from Look Fantastic

Designed to be precise, this fine grit, glass file from Tweezerman won’t cease to be useful after just a few uses. Made from durable, tempered glass, you can use this file over and over again and clean it efficiently without affecting its quality. This file is great at keeping the edges of your nails in shape and sits neatly in a small protective case, so you can keep it safe for its next use.

Buy now from Look Fantastic

4. OPI Professional Nail File 6 Piece Sample Pack: The best nail files for professionals

Price: £17 | Buy now from Sephora

If you want to invest in a kit of nail files that will cover all bases, this OPI Professional Nail File set is perfect for achieving a beautiful manicure. There are six files for each of your nail needs from 120 to 4000 grit, so whether you’re wearing acrylics, gels or natural nails, you’ll be covered. You can create clean nail sidewalls, contour the shape, buff away edges and file your nails to the ideal shape.

Buy now from Sephora

5. Deborah Lippmann Buffer Nail File Smooth Operator: The best nail buffer

Price: £10 | Buy now from SephoraNails don’t just need to be filed across the tip to keep them in shape and to the right length, the nail bed also need a little TLC too. This buffing nail file from Deborah Lippmann is exactly what it says, a smooth operator. You can use this file as a multi-tasking tool to help shape your nails, but also buff away any ridges and make them shine. With this file, it’s easy to achieve a great shine and smoothness on the nail, without having them feel weak or flimsy afterwards. You only need to apply light pressure and you’ll see great results.

Buy now from Sephora

6. Navy Nail File Trio: The best multi-grit nail file pack

Price: £5 | Buy now from Navy Professional

This trio of files from Navy is an absolute bargain for any nail professional or home nail enthusiast. Stored in a personalisable box, these files have you covered for every situation. Victoria (150/180 grit) is designed to shape, Elizabeth (240/260) is ideal for buffing, and Kate (1000/4000) is on hand to lift and shine.

What’s more, the value of these nail files is unmatched, especially when considering how durable they are in use. You don’t need to buff too hard when using them, as the grit quality is high and the files don’t bend. While these won’t last quite as long as a glass file, the variety and quality make this an excellent multipack.

Buy now from Navy Professional

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