How to Shape Your Nails Square with a Nail File

By Karen Spaeder

Your fingernails are one of the first things people see, whether you're reaching out to shake a hand, handing over an important contract or taking someone's order in a restaurant. Manicured nails can be your best accessory, right alongside your handbag and jewelry. By regularly visiting a nail salon or giving yourself manicures at home, you'll maintain a groomed appearance that lets people know you care about looking sharp and put-together. Square nails are a popular choice that resists breaking because the shape follows the natural width of your nails.

Woman getting her nails done by a manicurist
credit: jacoblund/iStock/GettyImages
How to Shape Your Nails Square with a Nail File

A Healthy Option

Square nails not only resist breaking, but also help prevent ingrown nails, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Ingrown nails occur when the side of the nail grows into the skin, which can cause painful swelling, inflammation and even infection. Once the nail becomes ingrown, you may need to seek medical attention and antibiotics to heal the nail and its surrounding skin. With a square nail, you more easily avoid this problem because the nail shape encourages the nail to grow upward, not outward into the skin.

Trimming vs. Filing

The first step to create square nails is to either trim them with nail clippers or file them. If your nails are long, it's best to trim them with clippers first, as filing alone would take much longer. From there, you can shape them into a square shape or any other shape you want. Trim them to be slightly longer than you want them to be so you have some nail left for filing. Once you've trimmed your nails, you can then use a glass file, a metal file or an emery board for shaping.

Types of Files

For bare nails with no acrylics or gel manicure, a glass file works well because it has a fine grit with small crystals embedded, allowing for detailed shaping of the natural nail. These files also tend to last longer than metal files or emery boards. For gel nails or acrylics, opt for a metal file or an emery board to smooth the thick nail more quickly. To prevent the spread of germs, avoid sharing your nail files with others.

Shaping Your Nails

For a square nail, file the tip of the nail to your desired length, filing in one direction only so the nail edge has a smooth finish. Afterward, wash your hands with soap and water, dry, and apply hand lotion or cream to your nails to moisturize them. You can then apply nail color if you wish.