How to Use a Nail Buffer

Daily wear and tear can really take a toll on the luster of your fingernails. With monthly buffing and a little spit and polish -- minus the spit -- you can restore their natural sheen. While many beauty companies offer multi-way buffing blocks and super-fine grit files, a traditional chamois buffer and a little cream will also do the trick. All nails have teeny ridges that keep them from cracking, and some pros are dead set against any sanding that might wear them down. Buffing with the nail growth rather than across your nail will add some sheen without causing extensive damage.

Buffing With blocks and files

Step 1

Prep the nail by dabbing cuticle oil around the cuticles of the nail and pushing them back gently with a flat-tipped orange stick. For extra TLC, wrap a thin washcloth around the tip of the orange stick. This shouldn't hurt; if it does hurt, you're pushing too hard.

Step 2

Use the roughest side of your multi-way buffer, or a 2,400-grit buffing file, and rub the nail in the direction of growth -- upward -- in short, soft strokes. You'll only need a few strokes -- about three to five, depending on the thickness of your nail -- to smooth out any thick ridges and bumps. If you're a nail-buff virgin, follow the "less is more" philosophy. If you buff too much, you'll notice your nails are weaker and break more easily.

Step 3

Turn your buffer to the next, slightly smoother side, or choose a buffing file of about 4,000 grit. Use the same upward motion, and gently rub until the nail is smooth. The finer grit of this buff -- it will feel soft to the touch -- means you can use a few more strokes than you could with the roughest buff.

Step 4

Use the third side of the block, or a 12,000-grit buffing file, to give your nails a glossy finish. Use upward strokes and stop when the nail has a soft, slightly glassy sheen.

Step 5

Brush on a strengthening coat of clear polish to seal your nails and keep them from peeling and breaking. Repeat the buff once every three to four weeks.

Buffing With a Chamois

Step 1

Treat your nails with cuticle oil and your orange stick. Dab a small amount of buffing cream on each nail.

Step 2

Use upward strokes to rub your chamois over each nail. Rub lightly -- you shouldn't produce any warm friction -- until your nails are smooth and have a soft sheen.

Step 3

Finish with a strengthening clear polish, especially if your nails are weak or prone to breakage. Repeat every three to four weeks. Ease up on your buffing routine if your nails begin to break or peel more easily.

Things You'll Need

  • Cuticle oil

  • Orange stick

  • Washcloth (optional)

  • Three-way buffing block or 3 fine buffing files

  • Strengthening top coat

  • Buffing cream

  • Chamois patch or buffer


If you have deep, visible ridges -- they tend to deepen with age -- don't try to buff them completely smooth. They're there to add strength. Instead, rely on a ridge-filler to give your nail a more even surface. When in doubt as to exactly how much you should buff, consult your local professional nail salon.

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