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File Knowledge: Are You Up To Scratch?

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by Lecente Admin

Is your File Knowledge up to scratch?

When it comes to nail services, choosing the right nail file can make all the difference in achieving the perfect adhesion of your chosen coating, finesse of your manicure or shape and the perfect finish of an enhancement. There are several different types of files available on the market, each has its own unique features and benefits.


One important factor to consider is the ‘grit’ of the nail file. A nail file’s grit refers to its level of abrasiveness (the lower the number the more course the grit), which determines the speed and effectiveness of the filing process.


Here are the different nail file grits and their benefits:

  1. Extra Coarse Grit (80-150): These nail files are ideal for debulking, shaping and shortening long and thick enhancement coatings and removing hard gel or acrylic nails. (Always switch to softer grits when nearing the natural nail) They have a rougher surface that can quickly remove material, but caution should be taken to avoid damaging the natural nail.


  1. Course/Medium Grit (150-180): These nail files are perfect for shaping and debulking nail coatings. They are also great for refining the shape and structure of a nail enhancement coating. Never to be used on the nail plate surface.


  1. Medium/Fine Grit (180-240): These nail files are perfect for shaping medium to short natural nails and fixing uneven nail edges. They are also great for etching a natural nail plate prior to a semi-permanent coating, but caution should still be taken to avoid damaging the nail if applying too much pressure, speed or friction.


  1. Fine Grit (400-600): These nail files are gentle and best used for finishing touches and smoothing out the nail surface. They can also be used for buffing and polishing nail building products, leaving them with a smooth and shiny finish.


  1. Extra Fine/ Glossing Grit (600-4000+): These nail files are best used for creating a high-gloss finish on the nails. Building up through the grit ‘levels’ gradually, finishing upon the softest grit will result in perfect, flawless shine – without the use of a top coat. (Be aware this method a labour of love with time needing to be accounted for to achieve glossy perfection.)

Take A Look at Our Which File When Checklist


Choosing the right grit for your nail file depends on the specific, individual nail care needs and preferences. It is important to remember that using a nail file with a high (coarse) grit can cause damage to the natural nail. It’s recommended to use a lower grit nail file, and then switch to a higher grit if needed.

It’s also important to choose a nail file that fits comfortably in your hand and is easy to use. Consider the material, durability, and maintenance requirements of the nail file. There are many different shapes of disposable files on the market (not to mention e-files but we will save that for another time). Here at Lecenté we have 2 shapes available – Straight and Half Moon:

Straight Files are best for producing straight edges like shaping the free edge, slim side walls and straight lower arches.

Half Moon Files have a rounded edge great for tucking into hard-to-reach areas around the cuticle zone and refining a softer shape.


Is a 180/240 File the same as a 180/240 Sanding Block?

Unfortunately, to add confusion – NO. Despite the grit being listed globally as standard on sanding blocks the cushioning nature diminishes the strength of the grit. Really, a sanding block is 240-300ish. The cushion absorbs the pressure applied thus making it softer and buffed vs etched. A sanding block is recommended to be used to ‘remove surface shine’ prior to gel polish services like Lecenté Create.

Lightly ‘buffing’ the nail plate dramatically increases the surface area which improves adhesion. By doing this, microscopic scratches will expose additional nail plate surface for the nail coating to hold on to. Almost none of the thickness of the nail plate needs to be removed (like when using coarser grits above 240 or even 180) improve adhesion. Over filing in an attempt to improve adhesion, will lead to quite the opposite – early service breakdown and eventually unwanted nail disorders and discomfort.

See these images below courtesy of Doug Schoon and Nail Knowledge where a nail has been buffed by varying grits and put under a microscope

What about Metal VS Padded?

Much like previously discussed, metal files have no cushion or flexibility, which is amazing for precise adjustments, perfect lines and shapes. You can of course apply minimal downward pressure, but a metal file still provides no ‘shock resistance’ like a padded/cushioned file can. Don’t be fooled thinking you can be firmer and therefore its safer using a cushioned file. Using the incorrect grit, pressure, or vigorous filing can easily be caused by using the softest of files.


Overall, choosing the right nail file grit can help you achieve the perfect finish while promoting healthy nail care, resulting in long-lasting nail services. It is important to consider your specific needs and nail type to determine which type of file will work best for you and your client.

Written By Theresa Foddering – Head of Education and The Naildresser® @thenaildresser