Can You File Nails With Nail Polish on? (Quick Answer)

You can do a few things in your free time that are more therapeutic than letting someone paint your nails at the salon or doing it yourself. What’s infuriating is to have them smudged or clipped minutes later. All that money down the drain!

You spend hours painting with patience that would put Michelangelo’s work to shame, only for the polish to crease while putting away the bottle. Manicures are expensive. Most women get them once a month. The first week feels like you can conquer the world, but when your nails start to grow, the urge to file is strong. The question is: Can you?


Quick Answer

Depending on the nail polish you have on, you can and cannot file your nails. It’s a simple enough answer, so don’t be confused. If it’s regular nail varnish, you can easily file your nails without worrying about them chipping. However, if it’s acrylic or gel nail polish, you risk running the finish of your nails. In the hands of a professional, your nails are more likely to survive.

Now that you know what will happen if you file your nails with nail polish, let’s look at this dilemma in detail so that you can figure out how to maintain your manicure:

Types of Nail Polish

When choosing a nail polish, you have plenty of options. However, deciding on which one can be hard. If you pick the wrong one, you will be stuck for weeks with it. If your nails grow at a fast rate and you are on a budget, you might want to look at the standard options. If money is no issue, select one that will last longer and offer the most bang for your buck.

Following are seven most common nail polishes you should before visiting the salon:

Basic Nail Polish

Also known as regular nail polish, you have been applying this one even before wearing makeup. This nail polish comes in various finishes, including natural, matte, and holographic. You can find them in every store and at a very cheap price. They last for about a week fully intact, and then the color starts to chip away.

Gel Nail Polish

This nail polish is a hard gel, which you apply over your bare nails. You then place your hands in a UV light machine that helps it cure. It lasts for about two weeks. One of the best things about this nail polish is that it allows you to lengthen your nails as much as you desire.

Acrylic Nail Polish

This nail polish combines liquid and power to give your nails length. It is similar to gel nail polish. The mixture goes over your bare nails. Once the mixture hardens, you can file it into your desired shape. It lasts for about two weeks.

Breathable Nail Polish

As you know, nail polish creates a barrier between your nail and skin. Enter breathable nail polish that allows water and oxygen to pass through. This self-maintains your manicure. However, the nail polish still lasts for about a week, and it is vulnerable to chips, just like regular nail polish.

PolyGel Nail Polish

When gel and acrylic nail polish combine, you get PolyGel nail polish. The gel-like consistency of this nail polish makes it easier to apply. The technician uses an acrylic brush to give the nails shape. Next, they file them, and then a UV light cures them. Among all the nail polish choices, PolyGel lasts the longest, up to 3 weeks, with proper maintenance.

Dip Powder

This nail polish also has a 3-week lifespan. It will last longer if you maintain it properly. Since applying this nail polish is a bit difficult, it’s better to visit a technician for it. The application involves two steps. First, a base coat is applied, followed by pigmented powder. The nail technician repeats both steps multiple times and removes the excess powder every time. The technician does this until an opaque manicure comes out. The last layer is a clear powder, finished off with a sealant.


Shellac nail polish is a mixture of two formulas like PolyGel. It combines basic nail polish with gel nail polish. After painting the bare nails, a UV light cures the coat. This nail polish lasts for about two weeks.

How to File Nails With Nail Polish

We have already established that you can file your nails with nail polish on them. However, strong adhesion is the key to ensuring they won’t chip. If the technician did an inadequate job or you got the manicure a couple of weeks ago, you will lose nail polish from the edges.

We don’t recommend filing your nails when it comes to gel nail polish. Usually, the stylists cap the tips to cover natural shrinkage. Since gel manicure is thick, this cap protects your nails and gives it plenty of room to grow and maintain the top edge color. As for acrylic nail polish, you need to use the right grit to file the nails. Glass nail files will only ruin the manicure and might even chip the color.

Following are step-by-step instructions on how to file your nails:

Clean Your Nails With Alcohol

Dip a cotton ball in alcohol and clean your nails. This will remove any uncured nail polish, as well as a cuticle oil and hand lotion. You will now be easily able to use the tools to file your nails. Moreover, this will ensure that none of the tools get contaminated.

Use a Nail Drill or a Nail File

Depending on how steady your hand is, you can use either one. If you are a novice, it’s better to use a nail file. Move the filer from one end to the other in a continuous motion to minimize any stress on your nails. This will also protect your gel polish and prevent it from pushing away from the surface. While an electric drill will cause less stress to your nails, you will have a ruined nail on your hands if your hand slips.

Buff the Edges

With your nails now filed, use buffer to smoothen the rough edges. Buff the whole nail lightly. A heavy hand might remove the top layer of the coat. Run your forefinger over the edge to feel if any sharp corners are left.

Remove Dust

Use a soft brush to remove any dust from your nail. This step is very important for filing your nails because you will apply a topcoat next. If you want the surface to be shiny and smooth, make sure there are no particles on the nail.

Apply Gel Topcoat

Try to coat the nail in a single swipe. This application will create a smooth shine without any bumps. Do not apply a regular coat as it will remove easily, and while filing, it will create cracks in the nail polish.

Add the Finishing Touch

Cure the topcoat for 45 seconds and then clean the nail with alcohol once again to ensure that the nail polish has been set.


Now that you know how to file your nails, you won’t feel dread every time you see the nail growing and the nail polish receding. You need to be careful with the filer: Use one with a coarse surface and file with side to side motions.

This technique applies to gel nail polish and acrylic nail polish. As for as regular nail polish goes, you can always wipe it off with a nail polish remover and apply it again.

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