A nail file is a small, roughened strip of material used to file, smooth and shape fingernails and toenails. It is a common manicure and pedicure tool used after the nails are cut and shortened with nail clippers.
Nail files can be made out of a variety of materials, including emery, metal, glass, crystal and ceramic. Some metal files are coated with sapphire (corundum).
The most common type of nail file is an emery board, first patented by J. Parker Pray in 1883. Inexpensive and disposable, they make a great choice for pedicures and manicures, as nail files used on more than one person can lead to the transmission of diseases like nail fungus.
Nail files are a typical tool in many women’s beauty cabinets, along with pumice stones, skin buffers, toe separators, foot moisturizers, makeup brushes and polish removers.
Rumor has it Marie Antoinette was a big fan of a nail file-like tool called a lime à ongles (or limestone for edges), which was made by carving pumice stone into a pencil-like shape. The tool quickly became a trend in the French Court of Versailles. Prior to the nail file’s invention, people used scissors, stones, metal and even acid to shorten and shape their nails.
Today, the most sought after nail files are glass and Bohemian crystal files from the Czech Republic, considered to be the best in the world by many nail enthusiasts.