Which is Better? Metal Nail Files vs. Glass Nail Files

Even for the most informal nail care, nail files are essential. Without a file, nail edges are prone to chipping and breaking, as well as environmental damage, and filing helps smooth rough edges that result from cutting the nail. We compiled a list of pros and cons to pit trendy glass nail files against traditional metal iterations.

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Pros and Cons of Glass and Metal Files:

Crystal Nail File, $10 Sephora

Glass files have progressed from being a handcrafted item found in small beauty boutiques to a common tool found in many drug and department stores. They have gained popularity and proponents of the product often say they would never use another version ever again. However, are they worth all the hype?


  • Glass nail files seal the keratin layers in nails, thus preventing them from cracking. Over time, some even state that using files actually helps users develop stronger nails. They also keep nail edges smooth, and are especially beneficial for delicate nails.
  • The surface of these files are acid-etched, which makes them more durable and means they won’t wear down as fast as traditional nail files. Many argue that glass nail files are more environmentally friendly as well, since they last longer (some of them are actually designed to last a lifetime).
  • Glass nail files can be cleaned easily, simply using soap and water.

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  • While glass is a tough material, most are definitely not unbreakable. Although I used it properly and kept it in its case, I owned a glass nail file that broke in half after owning it for less than a year.
  • Glass nail files may not work as well if your nails are longer; instead, they work best after nails have been trimmed.
  • Quality versions are often more expensive than metal nail files or emery boards.
  • Metal nail files are easily accessible, and require no shipping costs or special trips to obtain.

Sally Hansen Metal File, $5.49 Walgreens


  • Metal files are recommended for hard, strong nails, such as acrylic or gel nails.
  • They are often included in standard nail kits.
  • They are also inexpensive and can be purchased wherever nail products are sold.


  • These files are meant to be used in one direction, but are often used improperly. Typical users run the file back and forth over the nail, ripping apart the nail edge.
  • Metal files are incredibly rough on nails and can cause damage over time. In fact, most nail care enthusiasts say that metal nail files cause more harm than aid to nails.
  • In addition, they are more difficult to clean.

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Verdict: It’s worth it to purchase a glass nail file. Most sources emphasized how much damage metal nail files can do to your nails, and several sources said outright that people should never use metal nail files. Add in the numerous benefits of glass nail files, and the winner is obvious! Glass nail files promote overall nail health and are gentler on nails. Try it!

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What kind of nail file do you use?


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About the Author: Tung Chi