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What is a nail buffer and when do you use it?

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So..what is a nail buffer and when do you use it? Have you ever seen a block buffer in a nail video tutorial? Well, a nail buffer is a tool that can help your nail enhancements last longer. In this blog, I’m going to dive into the world of nail buffers and discuss when, why, and how you use buffers in an at-home manicure.

This is a photo with a woman buffing her nails

What is a Nail Buffer?

A nail buffer is a block that you gently rub in one direction on your nail plate to make the surface of your nail bed slightly rougher. This roughness provides a better foundation for nail enhancements to stick to the surface of your nails. This results in longer-lasting manicures.

This is a nail buffing block

When do you use a Nail Buffer?

Nail buffers are typically used before applying nail enhancements such as gel polish, dip nails, or artificial nails. These blocks have different grits and the buffing step helps the enhancements bond more securely to the surface of the nails. This can help prevent the enhancements from lifting prematurely from your nails.

This is a nail buffer

How to Buff Your Nails

Okay, so now let’s get into how to use a nail buffer block.  

Take a nail buffer and use the side that says 240 (a fine grit) on it. Note that a 4-way nail buffer comes with different grits. A grit of 100(coarse grit) is way too rough for your natural nails. I recommend using the 240 buffing side.

Hold the buffer above your nails and rub it very gently in one direction on your nails. Again the goal is to remove the shine on your nails and not layers of your nails. This will give your nails a rougher surface which will help enhancements stick better to your natural nail surface.

Can Buffing Damage Your Nails?

Yes, like many things in life, too much of anything is never good. Excessive buffing can cause damage to your nails. If you file down too many layers of your nails, they can become thin, weak, and prone to breakage. Unlike your skin, your nails don’t have a new layer of dead cells that you need to remove on a weekly basis. When you remove layers of your nail plate, that thins out your nails. You would have to wait at least 4 months for that damage to grow out. So, it’s important to be gentle when using a nail buffer. This will ensure that it does not have a negative effect on your nail health. 

Do You Have to Buff Your Nails?

Now, here’s my unpopular opinion. Personally, I rarely buff my nails before gel manicures(builder gel in my case). Instead, I focus on removing my cuticles and ensuring my nail surface is clean from cuticle oil by using alcohol pads. In my experience, this has been sufficient for achieving a builder gel manicure that lasts 2 weeks. I also think this works for me because my nails are on the thicker side.

However, you may find that buffing becomes a necessary step to get gel polish to adhere better to the surface of your nails. If you’re unsure, you can experiment with buffing a few nails and comparing the results to see if it makes a noticeable difference for you.

​What is a Less Damaging Method?

What if you do gel nails every 2 weeks? Do you have to buff your nails every two weeks? You actually don’t have to buff your nails that frequently. In fact, you can use a method called infilling, and let me break down how it works. Infilling is a process where you file down your gel all the way down to the base gel( use a 180 grit file). You then prep your nails and reapply your gel as usual. 

This process ensures that you’re not thinning out the surface of your nails with the buffer from constant use. It is an easy way to see the new nail growth you have and fill in for it.

Note for best results: You want to make sure that you are doing the full prep process. This will ensure the new layer of gel you apply sticks to your new nail growth.

How Often Should You Buff Your Nails?

The less you buff your nails the better. I would recommend buffing your nails no more than once a month. Any more than that, it can thin your nails out over time which can lead to damage.

Can You Buff Away Nail Ridges?

I wouldn’t recommend buffing your nails to smooth ridges or uneven nails. The surface of the nails naturally has ridges. It’s just that they become more pronounced when you get older because your collagen production slows down and your nails become drier(or if you have vitamin deficiencies). 

If you use this sanding block to file your ridges away you will thin out your natural nail surface. Ironically enough, thinning out your entire nail will actually make it harder for nail enhancements to adhere to your bare nails. There are different uses for a nail buffer, but this is not one I recommend doing.

Note: I recommend masking nail ridges with a ridge filler from brands like OPI. Check Out Ridge filler info here.


A nail buffer is a cosmetic tool in the world of nail care that can increase the adhesion of your nail enhancements. By following the correct buffing technique and using a light touch, you can achieve a rougher surface on your nails without causing damage. While buffing might not be necessary for everyone, it can still be beneficial. So, whether you do regular nail buffing or prefer alternative methods(like me), remember to prioritize gentle nail care and take care of your beautiful nails.

Want More Nail Care Tips?

Then check out this post


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