Nail File Grits: Types, Numbers, Uses, And Differences - Beauty Notifier (2022)

Choosing the right nail file grit for filing natural and artificial nails can make the difference between a healthy manicure or a disaster.

As a nail care snob, who likes doing her manicure at home, I tried and tested many nail file grits to find the perfect one for my nail’s texture. Because you see, not all grits are the same and do same thing, and not all nails have the same texture and thickness.

In this article, I will talk about the types of nail file grits, what each grit number mean, uses and differences between the grits, how to choose the right grit file for your nails, how to identify the grits on double, triple (or more) sided grit files, and how to prepare the nail file grit before using it.

Plus some tips! 😉

Quick intro into what grit mean and how is measured

Most of the nail files, especially the emery boards, are made from thick pieces of cardboard or plastic covered with a thin layer of emery paper. The grit of a nail file is defined by the size of the abrasive particles the emery paper has and is expressed in numbers. The grit number represents the amount of abrasive particles that fit per square inch.

For example: A 100 grit nail file will have 100 abrasive particles for every square inch. A 240 grit nail file will have 240 abrasive particles for every square inch. And so on.

In other words, the grit represents the surface of the nail file (emery board) you use to file your nails. And the grit number represents the level of abrasiveness the nail file has. The lower the grit number, the coarser (rougher) the grit file is. The higher the grit number, the finer the grit file is.

For example: A 180 grit nail file is coarser than a 240 nail file grit. And a 240 grit nail file is coarser than a 320 nail file grit. The higher the grit number, the finer the nail file surface.

Types of nail file grits

The types of nail file grits can be divided into two categories. One is by the level of the abrasive particles, and the other one is by the appearance of the grits.

1. By the level of the abrasive particles

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In the nail care industry and at-home manicure exists four main types of nail file grits. Coarse grit, medium grit, fine grit, and ultra-fine grit.

In practice, the grit number of a nail file starts from 60, the lowest, and ends at 15 000, which is the highest possible. The most common nail file grits you will see available are the 60/60 grit, 60/80 grit, 80/80 grit, 80/120 grit, 100/100 grit, 100/180 grit, 150/180 grit, 180/240 grit, 320/320 grit, 1000/4000 grit, and 600/9000 grit.

As an interesting fact, the grit of an emery paper can start from 24, which is the coarser grit. But in practice, I personally haven’t seen any nail file available with a 24 grit. Not even with 40. I’m just saying!

Below is a chart with all nail file grits available and what is considered to be a coarse grit, medium, fine, or ultra-fine.

Nail File Grits: Types, Numbers, Uses, And Differences - Beauty Notifier (1)

2. By the appearance of the grits

By the appearance of the grits exist two main types of nail files. Zebra and round grit. For a better understanding, below is a concrete example of these two.

Nail File Grits: Types, Numbers, Uses, And Differences - Beauty Notifier (2)

The zebra grit file appearance consists of horizontal or vertical lines which may look like a zebra. The round grit consists of round particles imprinted together, giving the impression of a round appearance.

The only difference between them is the final aspect of the nail file. Because I used them both, the appearance of the grits doesn’t have any impact on how the grit file is working. It is just for aesthetics. The final aspect of the grits is given by the method used to print the grits.

What grit numbers mean, uses and differences

Nail File Grits: Types, Numbers, Uses, And Differences - Beauty Notifier (3)
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60 grit – is the sharpest nail file grit available on the market, often used on super thick artificial nails to shorten or shape the free edge. The 60 grit is not recommended for natural or thin artificial nails or directly on the nail plate. Because of the super-sharp surface, it may damage the nail plate completely.

80 grit – is a coarse grit, often used on thick artificial nails to shorten and shape the free edge. It can also take off heavy products as hard gel or acrylic. The 80 grit is not recommended on natural or thin artificial nails or directly on the nail plate.

Personal tip: I use the 80 grit nail file to remove the thickened and hardened part of the skin from my feet. It works amazingly. If you want to try it, use the 80 grit and gentle file the needed area while it’s dry. Do not overdo it, and do not soak your feet. It doesn’t work so well on wet skin. In the end, use some moisturizing lotion and massage your feet. Divine!

100 grit – is a medium-coarse grit, often used on artificial nails to shape and file hard acrylic or gel enhancements. It can also shape the walls and free edge. The 100 grit is not recommended on natural or thin artificial nails or directly on the nail plate.

120 grit – is a medium-coarse grit, similar to 100 grit, often used for shaping medium acrylic or gel nails. It can also remove the top layers for better penetration of the soaking solutions. The 120 grit is not recommended on natural or thin artificial nails or directly on the nail plate.

150 grit – is medium-coarse grit, often used on artificial nails for shaping and filing medium gel or acrylic. It can also smooth the surface of the acrylic or gel and remove the leftovers. The 150 grit is not recommended on natural or thin artificial nails or directly on the nail plate.

180 grit – is a medium-coarse grit, often used for shaping artificial nails with medium thickness. It can also smooth the surface of the acrylic or gel and remove the leftovers. The 180 grit is recommended on thick natural nails for filing the free edge, even the walls, but not directly on the nail plate.

For me, the 180 nail file grit is the best. Perfect for my thick and hard nails. I use the 180 grit to file and shape my nails, but I don’t use it on the nail plate.180 grit is the lowest grit suitable for filing natural nails.

220 grit – is a medium-fine grit, often used for shaping and filing thin artificial nails, even natural nails. It can also smooth and buff acrylic or gel. The 220 grit is recommended on healthy natural nails with normal strength for filing the free edge, even the walls, but not directly on the nail plate.

240 grit – is a fine grit, often used for final touches on artificial nails and filing the natural nails. It can also smooth and buff acrylic or gel and remove small bumps or ridges. The 240 grit is recommended on natural nails for removing the natural oils from the nail plate for better product adherence.

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280 grit – is a very fine grit, often used for final touches on artificial nails and filing thin natural nails. It can also smooth and buff thin acrylic or gel and remove small bumps or ridges. The 280 grit is recommended on natural nails for removing the natural oils from the nail plate for better product adherence.

320-400 grit – is a super fine grit range, often used for buffing on top of the natural nails and smoothing the nail surface. It can also smooth and buff thin acrylic or gel and remove small bumps or ridges. The 320-400 grit range is recommended on super thin natural nails that are bending easily.

600-800 grit – is an extra-fine grit range, often used as buffers for artificial and natural nails. It can buff and smooth the nails, being perfect for adding a medium shine.

1000-4000 grit – is an extra-fine grit range, often used as buffers for artificial and natural nails. It can buff and smooth the nails, being perfect for adding a high shine.

4000+ grits – is an ultra-fine grit range, often used as buffers for artificial and natural nails. It can buff and smooth the nails, being perfect for adding an ultra-glossy shine.

Gosh, lots of details to pay attention to.

Remember always to adapt the nail file grit to the type of products you work with and the natural nail texture (thin, sensitive, bending, normal, thick, or extra thick).

How to choose the right grit file number for your nails

If you are a professional, choose the nail file grits according to the products you work with. And always test the grit file on the actual products before using it on the clients.

The general use of the grits for artificial nails:

  • Medium grit files (100-220) are most suitable for filing and shaping the artificial nails (gel, acrylic, other enhancements).
  • Fine grit files (240-400) are most suitable for final touches on artificial nails and filing (buffing) the natural nails.
  • Extra and ultra-fine grit files ( 600-4000+) are most suitable for adding extra shine to both natural and artificial nails.

The most recommended nail file for filing acrylic, gel, or other enhancements is the 100/180 grit file. It can file, shape, and take down the top layers for most products.

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The general use of the grits for natural nails:

  • 180 grit file is most recommended for thick natural nails to file the free edge, even the walls, but not directly on the nail plate.
  • 220 grit file is most suitable for healthy natural nails with normal strength for filing the free edge, even the walls, but not directly on the nail plate.
  • 240 grit file is the most recommended for natural nails to file the free edge, the walls, even to buff directly on the nail plate.
  • 320-400 grit is a super fine grit rangerecommended on super thin natural nails that are bending easily, are sensitive, and prone to break.
  • 600+ grits are best to use for adding extra shine to the natural nails as they are extra fine and gentler with the nails.

For natural nails, the finer grits are always a smart, healthy choice.

The 240 grit is the best for filing natural nails and most recommended. It can smooth and shape the nails without breaking them. Works for both side walls and free edge.

I use the 180 grit to file and shape my nails when I’m not patient enough to use my beloved glass nail file, which is eight years old. The glass nail file has a finer grit, and it’s a better option for filing natural nails. But because my nails are thicker and I rarely trim them, to save time, I prefer to use the 180 grit to file the length and use the glass file for final touches.

Note: Avoid using coarse grits on natural nails. It may break your nails, scratch, or destroy the nail plate. A nail file should always feel smooth and gentle on the nails.

How to identify the grits on double, triple (or more) sided grit files

Nail file grits are often available in two sides options. Most nail files have either two sides with the same grit number, either with different grit numbers.

For example, 80/80 grit is a double-sided file with one single grit on both sides. 80/120 is a double-sided file with one different grit on each side.

To determine which side is which on a nail file grit, first you need to identify which grit is coarser than the other. To do so, go with your fingers over each side of the file and try to determine which side feels coarser and which side feels smoother. The coarser side is the lowest grit, and the finer side is the highest grit.

For example: On a 180/240 nail file, 180 is the coarser grit, and 240 is the finer grit. 180 grit will feel coarser than the 240.

How to prepare the nail file grit before using it

When you first buy a nail file grit, you have to prepare it before using it. The sides and edges are super sharp on a new file. Filing the file edge to edge with another file is a good practice in getting rid of the sharpness of a new file grit. Failing to do so, you can easily cut yourself or the clients if you are a professional.

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Nail File Grits: Types, Numbers, Uses, And Differences - Beauty Notifier (4)

Does file shape matter?

Nail files come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. In practice, the file size, shape, or color doesn’t really matter. It’s all about personal preferences. Most of the files I have are different shapes and sizes, and all work great.

Final thoughts

Choosing the right nail file grit is important for maintaining the nails healthy over time. Even if you are a professional or at-home nail care passionate like me, always choose the file grits wisely. Do not use coarser grits on natural nails, and never over file the nails. Happy nails all!

FAQs

What do the grit numbers mean on nail files? ›

Basically, the higher the grit number, the smoother the file. Coarse files (80-100 grit) are best for acrylic nail extensions. Medium files (180 grit) are best to shape extensions of medium thickness, like most tips and wraps, and to shape the free edge of toenails.

What are the different grits on nail files? ›

In the nail care industry and at-home manicure exists four main types of nail file grits. Coarse grit, medium grit, fine grit, and ultra-fine grit. In practice, the grit number of a nail file starts from 60, the lowest, and ends at 15 000, which is the highest possible.

What is a 240 grit nail file used for? ›

240 grit. The least corrosive grit file available, this file would most commonly be used to prep nails before the application of UV gel polish. Before you use a new file, use it edge to edge with another file to remove any sharp edges. Failing to do this could result in damaged and sore cuticles or side walls!

What grit should you use on natural nails? ›

If you have thick hard nails or need to remove a lot of nail quickly then you will want to use a coarser grit. 120, 180, 240 are good for natural nails. The 180 grit is a good middle ground choice that can be used to shape and finish.

What are different nail files used for? ›

Any nail technician can do the full range of nail services with just four basic nail files: a coarse file (around 100 grit) for shaping acrylic and taking the length or surface down quickly; a medium file (180-220 grit) for smoothing artificial nails and shaping artificial and natural nails; a fine file (400-600 grit) ...

What is 240 grit nail buffer? ›

240/240 Grit Buffer: Each mini block buffer features abrasive material, three-sided 240/240 grit that will not scratch or damage natural nails during use. It allows you to easily buff and prep nails for the perfect manicure and pedicure.

What is the lowest grit nail file? ›

The main grit sizes of nail files are:
  • 80 grit – is very coarse and should NEVER be used for natural nails, as it is far too rough! ...
  • 100 grit – is less coarse than 80 grit but should still NOT be used on natural nails only on acrylics.
  • 180 grit – the lowest grit appropriate for natural nails.
Nov 7, 2013

What is nail file made of? ›

Nail files can be made out of a variety of materials, including emery, metal, glass, crystal and ceramic. Some metal files are coated with sapphire (corundum). The most common type of nail file is an emery board, first patented by J. Parker Pray in 1883.

How long is a nail file? ›

Each Nail File is conveniently measured at 7 X . 78 X . 18 inches (similar in size to a Hot Dog Weenie), so they can be placed anywhere - purse, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom car, office, friend's, partner's, the options are endless!

How long can you use a nail file? ›

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).

How do you file natural nails? ›

Start from one of the outside corners and file toward the center. Don't file back and forth across the entire nail tip because it can damage the nail. When you achieve the desired length and shape on one side, file from the opposite corner toward the center. Go slowly.

What is a soft nail file? ›

Glass files are extremely gentle on weak nails. Unlike traditional files, they can even be used in the faster back-and-forth motion without causing damage.

What is a diamond nail file? ›

A diamond nail file is a nail care tool used to shape and smooth the edges of fingernails and toenails. Diamond nail files are made from metal that is embedded with real diamond dust to create a rough surface. Beauticians use diamond embedded nail files when giving manicures and pedicures.

What grit is on buffer block? ›

Yellow Nail Buffer Block 240-Grit.

How long will a glass nail file last? ›

How long do they last? As mentioned, you can use your glass file for up to six months, assuming you properly clean it after each go. "It is time to swap out when the file loses its grit and is no longer able to shape the nail easily," adds Lim.

What is 240 grit nail buffer? ›

240/240 Grit Buffer: Each mini block buffer features abrasive material, three-sided 240/240 grit that will not scratch or damage natural nails during use. It allows you to easily buff and prep nails for the perfect manicure and pedicure.

What is the lowest grit nail file? ›

The main grit sizes of nail files are:
  • 80 grit – is very coarse and should NEVER be used for natural nails, as it is far too rough! ...
  • 100 grit – is less coarse than 80 grit but should still NOT be used on natural nails only on acrylics.
  • 180 grit – the lowest grit appropriate for natural nails.
Nov 7, 2013

What is the best nail file grit for acrylic? ›

The 80 grit file may be used to shape and shorten long or thick acrylics. 100 grit is the most common file to use when shaping and shortening acrylic nails. Although it is best to use on acrylic nails, 100 grit files may be used on natural nails (depending on the nails thickness).

Which is better glass or crystal nail file? ›

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.

How do you use nail files step by step? ›

Give Yourself a DIY Manicure at Home | Nail File - YouTube

How long do diamond nail files last? ›

How Long Does a Glass Nail File Last?
Butter0.5
Nail1
Knife4.5
Glass5
Diamond10

What are nail files made of? ›

Nail files can be made out of a variety of materials, including emery, metal, glass, crystal and ceramic. Some metal files are coated with sapphire (corundum). The most common type of nail file is an emery board, first patented by J. Parker Pray in 1883.

What is a diamond nail file? ›

A diamond nail file is a nail care tool used to shape and smooth the edges of fingernails and toenails. Diamond nail files are made from metal that is embedded with real diamond dust to create a rough surface. Beauticians use diamond embedded nail files when giving manicures and pedicures.

Are metal nail files better? ›

Metal Nail Files

While metal is a lot stronger and more durable than sand granules, the metal used to make the files is usually of a lower grade and actually quite soft as far as metals go. Metal files also grind the nail and leave the nail tip “open” as opposed to “closed”.

How do you file natural nails? ›

Start from one of the outside corners and file toward the center. Don't file back and forth across the entire nail tip because it can damage the nail. When you achieve the desired length and shape on one side, file from the opposite corner toward the center. Go slowly.

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