Let's start with the basics. The best way to shape your nails is by using a nail file. Some prefer to do their trimming with clippers, while others contest that filing is a better option. According to Sammy Tremlin, DivineCaroline contributor and nail art bloger at The Nailasaurus, it’s easier to trim long nails with a clipper. “I personally use clippers to shape my nails,” says Tremlin. “If you’re taking off a lot of length, filing alone would take a long time. So, I snip them first—slightly longer than I want—then work on the shape with a file.”
As for the type of file, there are a variety to choose from, including glass files, metal files, and emery boards. Tremlin uses a glass file because of the fine grit of the board. A glass nail file is made from small crystals and this type of file lasts longer than emery files or metal files. The fine grit of a glass nail file allows for more detailed shaping than a coarse file would on your natural nail. To shape a gel nail or an acrylic nail, opt for an emery board or metal file. Their rougher texture will smooth away the thicker nail faster.
Tremlin continues to say the only downside of using a clipper is the possibility of trimming off too much nail. To avoid this, Tremlin suggests clipping the nail a bit at a time to get the desired length. Another option would be to clip the nail longer than the length you want and file the nail the rest of the way as you do your shaping.
Once you’ve reached your desired nail length, the next step is to figure out the nail shape that works best for you. While trendy nail shapes have found their way onto our fingertips, there is one safe way to know what shape works best: Check out the shape of your cuticles. Are they curved, squared, or squared with rounded edges? This is an easy indicator of what nail shape will work best. The three most common nail shapes are square, oval, and squoval—a mix between an oval nail and a square nail. Less common nail shapes include the classic round nail shape and the trendy stiletto, or pointed, nail shape.
If you fancy a traditional nail shape, opt for the oval. This nail shape isn’t as strong as the square because the sides are filed down, but the oval nail shape gives wide nail beds a more feminine appearance. For this classic nail shape, file nails into an egg shape by holding the nail file at an angle. Oval nails are best for short fingers because it replicates the shape of the finger and gives a longer appearance.
This nail shape is for the more conservative lady. If you're constantly working with your hands and need to keep a short nail, this is the best bet. The round nail shape is also a safe choice because it's easy to maintain and complements longer fingers or larger hands. To achieve this shape, start as you would with a sqaure nail and then round the nail out at slight angle or follow the curve of your fnger.
The most popular nail shape is the square nail. While fashionably famous, it's also the sturdiest nail shape because it spans the entire width of the nail bed. It won’t slice steel in two, but it won’t break as easily either. To achieve this shape, trim your nails to the desired length and file nails in one direction straight across the entire nail. To finish the look, file lightly around the edges to clean up any snags or roughness. This nail shape works best for long fingers with a wide nail bed.
The in-between nail shape: not quite a square nail, but not quite an oval nail. This is also a strong nail choice since the majority of the nail is as wide as the nail bed, similar to square nails. To get this nail shape, start as you would with an oval nail by filing the edges of your nail at an angle. Once you’ve gotten the oval shape, flatten the peak of the nail by filing as you would a square nail, straight across in one direction. This nail shape is flattering on any finger length.
For a lady-like nail, the almond shape is the way to go. To start this shaping process, mark a spot in the center of your nail and file toward that point. File the nail at an angle that is just off the center of the nail, leaving a flat tip to round out. After you have the angles on both sides, file the corners to smooth out the sharp angles and blend the nail into an almond shape. The almond nail shape elongates fingers and adds a feminine flare to shorter fingers.
This look is definitely for the more daring. The stiletto nail, also known as a pointed nail, has created quite the sensation among rock stars such as Rhianna and Adele. It's also the nail shape choice for those looking for a long and slender look to their hands. To get this nail shape, alternate filing both sides to the center of the nail. If need be, you can mark the middle of the nail as a guideline. While the pointed nail may be a trend to try, it's the weakest nail shape and is often seen done on acrylic or gel nails to avoid damaging natural nails.