How to Use a Nail Buffer the Right Way

What Is Nail Buffing?

A lot of attention is paid to nail polish and cuticles when doing a manicure. But we often overlook preparing our nails themselves. That’s where buffing and the nail buffer comes in. Nail buffing is simply polishing your nails with a buffer block or nail buffer that’s made of different types of grit. It will leave your nails looking smooth and well…. “polished” whether you choose to wear polish or not.

Buffer blocks are super versatile because they can smooth out ridges, make your nails look shiny and healthy and even help your polish adhere if you choose to wear polish. Each side of the buffer block has a different grit for a different use. Some of them have each side numbered making it much easier to see which side is which.

For this article we are focusing on the 4 way buffing block.

Here’s an example of what they look like.

4 way buffer block
4 way buffer block

How To Use a Four Way Buffer Block:


Make sure your nails are clean and dry.

You should use nail polish remover to remove any traces of your old polish.

Trim your nails to a desired length with a good nail clipper.


Side One (step 1) – File

Use this side to shape your nails. You always want to work in short, sharp strokes, and only file your nail in one direction. Filing back and forth in a sawing motion will split and weaken the nail.

4 way buffer block

Side Two (Step 2) – Buff

Next you can use this side to smooth out your nail and buff away any ridges or dips you might have. Be sure to pay attention to the ridges. Usually they are just a normal part of aging but sometimes could be a sign of other issues. If something doesn’t look or feel right, you should always see a Doctor.

nail buffer
nail buffer

Side Three (Step 3) – Polish

The third side is similar to the previous buffing step, but you’ll be doing it a tad more vigorously. It gets out all the little imperfections that you might have missed, and makes your nails even smoother. The finer the grit, the glossier the finish will be.

Side Four (Step 4)  – Bring out the Shine

It’s ahhhmazing how much shine you can get from this step. Gently buff in small back and forth motions until you are satisfied, but don’t press too hard and don’t overdo it.

Helpful hint – If your nails are all shiny from the last step, your polish might not adhere as well. Especially if you plan to use Nail Polish Strips like those made by Color Street (full disclosure – I’m a Color Street Independent Stylist, so I would def be using those nail strips :).

Make sure you wipe your nails with nail polish remover or an alcohol prep pad to remove any residue from the buffing and dehydrate the nail a bit before applying polish.

Think of your fingernail as a smooth, blank canvas that must be primed first before you can turn it into a work of art!

How Often Should I Buff My Nails?

Buffing is actually mild surface abrasion, so it should not be done too often or too roughly because it could result in thinning or weakening of the nails.

With that said, at least once a month is ideal. But if your nails aren’t rough, or if you usually wear nail polish and don’t care about the extra shine on your nails, you can do it less often.

So if you don’t have a buffer block buried in your at home nail arsenal, grab one the next time you are out and about in the Health and Beauty section or your local pharmacy. I think you will be glad you did.

What’s The Difference Between a File and a Buffer?

You may be wondering what the difference is between a nail buffer and a nail file.

The most significant difference is that buffers normally have different grits and are designed for polishing the surface of your nails. (Grit basically indicates the size of the abrasive particles and therefore the harshness).

On the other hand, nail files are used for shaping and smoothing the edges of nails. Nail files are more common and usually used at home. They are long and flat making it easier to maneuver around the edges of your nails.  You may not have a nail buffer in your home nail care kit but will surely have a nail file.

Nail Buffers are made with a sponge inside making them a bit softer. They are shaped like a block or rectangle and normally have 4 numbered sides.

Click here to see the 4 way buffer block from Amazon that I use. 

Related Article(s):

3 Types of Nail Files

Tips to Care for Your Nails

Note: I am an Amazon Affiliate and may receive a small commission if you make an Amazon purchase. However this will not change the price for you.


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