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Glass Nail Files VS. Emery Boards and Metal Files

You may own one yourself or have given one a test spin at a women’s show or local fair; the glass nail file.

Its sleek, colorful and very chic but is it worth its $8-$10 price tag and is it superior to the emery boards we purchase by the dozen? How does it stand up against a metal file?

Emery Board Nail Files

Emery boards are cardboard with small grains of sand adhered to them and in fact are interchangeable with sandpaper. As you slide it across your nail tip, the emery board tears the end of the nail producing a rough edge which is the nature of how it works.

With emery boards you should file in one direction in order to minimize damage to the nail during the filing process.

Emery boards are sandpaper adhered to a cardboard stick and come in different grits so you can file your nail down in length, shape it and then do your best to tame those jagged edges.

The coarseness of grit you choose to use depends upon if you have weak, thin, fragile nails or hard, strong, thick nails.

Unfortunately in doing the job they are designed to do emery boards cause more harm than good to your nails. When using an emery board, you leave the tip of the nail “open” as opposed to being “closed”, just like pores on your face are opened and closed throughout the process of a facial.

Leaving the nail edge “open” means dirt and water can leech inside the nail itself causing chipping, cracking, peeling and weakening of the nails. Also, the harshness of the grinding action of the sandpaper weakens the nail.

Because of the porous nature of the cardboard, glue and sand, dirt and debris can get imbedded into the file and fungus and bacteria can grow rampantly. Though you might not see it with your eyes, a good micro-biologist and a microscope will enlighten you as to what’s really on your emery board.

There is no way to clean or sanitize an emery board and they are so subject to bacteria that you should toss out your emery board after each use. This is the mandated practice per the FDA in professional salons and this bring us to the environmental factor. The emery board scores very low on the “green-o-meter”.  At least one entire football stadium can be filled each year with tossed aside emery boards and it takes years for one to fully decompose in the ground. Let’s not forget all the trees it takes to make emery boards.

Metal Nail Files 

Metal files are manufactured in two ways: one, there are actual tiny flakes of metal adhered to a metal or cardboard stick and two, a metal stick is formed and the stick itself is roughened to create the filing surface. In both cases tiny, minuscule bits of metal flake off when filing. While metal is a lot stronger and more durable than sand granules, the metal used to make the files is usually of a lower grade and actually quite soft as far as metals go.

Metal files also grind the nail and leave the nail tip “open” as opposed to “closed”. Due to the nature of the metal bits on the file, dirt and debris can be trapped between the tiny little metal-like “teeth” and can stick to the metal. Metal is non-porous so bacteria growth on the file itself is not likely, however the make-up of a metal file is such that it doesn’t pass FDA standards for professional re-use on clients in a spa setting.

On the “green-o-meter” metal files score higher than their cardboard friends because of the lack of trees used in their production. Metal does off-gas chemicals during the production process and metal files should be thrown out after several uses since they cannot be sufficiently sanitized.

They take a lot longer than emery boards to decompose in landfills.

Glass Nail Files

There are two ways that glass nail files are manufactured, first tiny glass filings are adhered to a glass stick using a super-glue like substance combined with heat. Your highest quality glass files are manufactured from the second method of manufacturing which is to cut from actual pre-treated sheets of thick glass and the surface of the crystal is treated in the manufacturing process to roughen it, creating the filing surface.

The glass nail file glides over the nail tip. It doesn’t tear the nail like the emery board or metal file, so you can file in both directions and it smooths out the nail tip as it files. No jagged edges to smooth out.

When you file your nails with a glass file you’ll notice how smooth the nail tip is.The glass file closes the nail tip and actually seals it, preventing water and debris from leaching into your nail.

After using a crystal nail file for a period of about one month, users report a noticeable difference in their nails being stronger and they “don’t chip and crack and peel as much”.

Glass is non-porous and very hygienic. No bacteria or debris can grow on the filing surface, nor get trapped in the roughened surface of the crystal file. The same is true for the crystal pumice file which can be left right in the bathtub without fear of mold, mildew, fungus or bacteria growing in it or on it!

There are no varying grits of a glass file, with the exception of the pumice file. The pumice file is made with a coarser surface and can be used for calluses, dry skin, toe nails and artificial nails.

Glass nail files meet all of the sanitization requirements of the FDA. They can be sanitized in alcohol, under UV light, and baked in an autoclave. Because of their hygienic nature, glass files are perfect for diabetics – especially the pumice file. You don’t have to worry about cutting yourself while you’re taking care of your feet, the way diabetics do.

Glass nail files will last years, if not a lifetime. The glass nail file scores high ratings on the “green-o-meter” because its made from recycled materials and several factories use lead-free, environmentally safe dyes. They last for such a long time that landfills will not be largely impacted by constant consumption and they are recyclable !

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