Beauty School 101: How To Shape Nails

by Rebecca Boneschans and Caroline Harris

Beauty School 101: How To Shape Nails
Shop Story

The best accessories a girl can have are freshly-manicured nails. If you can’t make it to the salon every other week, we suggest taking a few minutes out of your jam-packed schedule to do your own nails. Shaping your nails is a great substitute for a fresh manicure. Read on to find out how to get almond shaped nails without having to schedule an appointment.


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, More 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.


RELATED: Acrylic or Gel Manicure? DIY Perfect Nails At Home


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.




Oval Nails



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.


RELATED: This At-Home Manicure Kit Is Flying Off The Shelves—And It’s Earned Perfect Reviews


Round Nails


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 square nail and then round the nail out at slight angle or follow the curve of your finger.


Square Nails


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.


Squoval Nails


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.  


Almond Nails


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.


Stiletto Nails


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.


RELATED: Nail Polish Fixes For Thick Or Sticky Polish


Now that you know all about how to get almond-shaped nails, shop the nail accessories you’ll need, below.


1 of 5 Image Credits: Sephora

Tweezerman Mini Nail Rescue Kit


This set contains all the essentials when it comes to nail care: a mini nail file, fingernail clipper, cuticle and hangnail clipper, nail cleaner, cuticle pusher, and handy storage case. You can use this top-rated kit boasting over 8,800 hearts on Sephora for trimming, shaping, and polishing your nails at home.

2 of 5 Image Credits: Amazon

Bona Fida Beauty Glass Nail File


Use this glass nail file for detailed shaping with no scraping or irritation. The product is made of durable Czech glass, comes with a protective case, and includes several adorable shades to choose from.

3 of 5 Image Credits: Amazon

FIXBODY Nail Clipper Set


Trim your nails to the perfect size with this nail clipper set including fingernail clippers, toenail clippers, a nail file, and a leather case for easy transport. The clippers are constructed from stainless steel with sharp blades for a smooth, even finish to your nails.

4 of 5 Image Credits: Amazon

ZIZZON Stainless Steel Nail File


This metal file has a rougher texture to easily shape gel or acrylic nails. Made of stainless steel, these clippers are long-lasting and well-made with hundreds of five-star reviews on Amazon.

5 of 5 Image Credits: Amazon

Heeya Professional Nail File


Grab a ten-pack of nail files so you won't run out anytime soon. These nail files are super popular on Amazon because they're affordable and effective for shaping your nails. Each nail file is double-sided, washable, and durable so you can use this tool on repeat.