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Fanatic Feedback – To Buff or Not To Buff? That Is The Question!

feedback Happy Friday Fanatics! Things have been a bit slow this week because I suffered a massive tear on my ring finger and I’ve been been babying it.  However I do have a few fun things to show you that will go up later today.

In the meantime, I was reading a recent article on Glamour’s Girls In The Beauty Department blog about whether or not nails need to “breathe” (they don’t btw) and in it they mentioned “buffing is key” to getting your natural nails to look good.

I’ve talked to many a manicurist over the years and there are definitely two camps when it comes to buffing.  Those that feel that an occasional light buffing to smooth out ridges/imperfections is okay and others who consider a regular buffing part of a proper manicure.

Now let me clarify, when I say “occasional” I mean once every few months and by “regular” I mean once every week/two.  I doubt I could find a manicurist worth their salt that would advise to buffing your nails every few days as that would severely weaken the nail plate.

Personally, I stand firmly in the anti-buffing camp.  I rarely buff my nails because they are naturally weak.  When I do, I use a tip I received from Celebrity Manicurist Elle who told me to apply cuticle oil to the nail plate prior to buffing.  The oil provides slip that prevents you from removing too many layers from the plate.

So what’s your take?  Is a good buffing part of your regular manicure routine?  Are you in the no-buffing camp? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

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There Are 56 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Krystal S. says:

    I buff every few months, especially when I want to wear neon or metallic polishes since that shows everything.

  2. Nat says:

    Me too I’m in the no-buffing camp!

  3. Jenny says:

    I think it definitely depends on the type of nails you have in the first place. I know friends with naturally strong, thick nails that buff more regularly, and then I know others that barely buff at all because, as you mentioned, it weakens their already weak nails.

    I personally am somewhere in between – I give my nails a nice buff every few weeks, although sometimes I am tempted to do it more often since they are nice and shiny afterward! :)

  4. Cali says:

    I’m a buffer – probably once a month or whenever I notice the ridges. I also buff the tips if I get flakiness, I find it helps to ‘smooth out’ the flakes and stop them getting caught/getting worse.

  5. Melaina says:

    I’m firmly in camp No Buff.
    When I want ‘smoother’ nails for a particularly thin, or show through polish, I just use a ridge filling base coat.

  6. Nicole says:

    I also buff on occasion, it seems to me that when my polish starts chipping right away, it’s time to buff. Which may be crazy, but it seems to me that after I buff, my base coat and my polish seem to last longer. Like I said, that could just be my crazy mind though..

    • Cathy says:

      You are not crazy for thinking this, buffing absolutely makes polish last longer. Think of it as sanding before you paint. However, I would NOT buff proior to each polish application. I buff my clients on an as-needed situation. Some clients with thyroid disorders or other medications can create very thick nails as well as ridges and corrigations that require buffing every time. Others who have thin nails never get a buff. It really is different for everyone, but for my clients who come in for a monthly manicure, if they have “normal” nails, I do usually give a very quick, light buff with a very high grit file, like 400. This does help with polish to stick and helps smooth the nail out. However, there are exceptions to this and unfortunately, there are alot of nail techs who go crazy with overbuffing. It simply isn’t necessary to do more than remove the shine from the nail, that is 99% of the time all it takes to smooth the nail out.

  7. emma says:

    I once got a manicure and she buffed away complete parts of my nail! There was only a very thin layer left and I had to be careful for months until it finally grew out. It was very sensitive. I shiver every time I think about it. I think she thought the horizontal ridges I had were thick parts, when in fact they were just dents because I bit my cuticles at that time.
    Never ever again.

  8. gypsy says:

    i only buff when glitter scratches my nail and i want to wear a more plain polish that would otherwise show scratches. I too am/ was a nasty nail biter who paints to avoid nail biting and just wanted to say i love your blog it has been so helpful kicking this lifelong habit … it has been 2 months since my last naw :D

  9. Denise says:

    I buff every month or so, when I notice the bumpy appearance of my nails.

  10. sara says:

    I buff occasionally (once a month, or so) so that when I wear cremes, the ridges aren’t as noticeable. I know I could get a ridge-filling base coat, but I have yet to find a good one. I’m open to recommendations, though. :)

  11. jenny says:

    I only buff if I have a peel beginning or a chip or something that I fear will catch on things and lead to a nail catastrophy.

  12. Killion says:

    No no never buff again. I have thick strong nails, but when I buff I end up with breaks and tears galore. It’s the corregated shape that gives metal, plastic, whatever it’s strength and your nails are no different.

  13. Kat says:

    I never buff my nails, with a layer of basecoat any ridges don’t seem to show anyway, maybe my ridges just aren’t that bad to begin with or maybe I’m not as much of a perfectionist as some people…
    My parents are both doctors and I’ve always been told never to cut or push back my cuticles (can let in infection and cause irritation) and not to buff the surface (as it thins and weakens the nails and can cause splits) and I’m inclined to trust them more than beauty magazines or blogs. Plus buffing would just add a whole new unnecessary aspect to my routine. Maybe if you have very deep ridges that bother you it might be good to smooth them down but otherwise why would you risk damaging your nails?

    I’ve always wondered, does buffing them smooth mean polish doesn’t stay on as well? Just because paint tends to stick better to textured surfaces than totally smooth?

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      That’s a good point you bring up. When enhancements like acrylics are applied, they rough up the surface with a buffer, rather than smooth the nail, to give the product something to grip. The same principal does apply to polish but I find that using a tacky base coat, like CND Stickey or Orly Rubberized Bonder, does the job that roughing up the surface would do but that’s just my opinion.

  14. bpdd says:

    I’m somewhere between occasional and regular. My nails are pretty thick and strong naturally and they have pretty noticeable ridges. I usually use a ridge-filling base coat but sometimes or with some polishes it just needs to be done otherwise the polish doesn’t come out smooth (unless I use way too many coats and then it’s too thick to last the whole day!)

  15. Ulmiel says:

    I try to buff as seldom as possible, since I fear it would weaken my nails. So I’m the no-buffing camp. I do have the buff cube at home, but I use it very rarely, if I really must, on my right middle finger, since there i have this ridge, that shows up every once in a while and it’s very obvious.

  16. Chris says:

    I sometimes leave my nails lacquerless because I noticed that they become weak and start to peel if I wear polish nonstop. So I somewhat agree with Bethany. Everything in moderation, nothing in excess.

  17. Rachel says:

    My nails are weak and prone to splitting. I don’t buff now. I used to and liked the shiny look on bare nails that it gave me, but it has been years since I buffed.

  18. Kate says:

    I treat myself to a professional manicure once a month (I look forward to that weekend all month long, and am known as the girl who always brings her own polish – I blame you for this, Michelle! :) The manicurist does buff, but I’ve never thought twice about it. When I’m doing polish at home, I don’t buff.

    I got my nails done last Friday with Essie Playa del Platinum and one week later, not a single chip or any tip wear! I’m super impressed because I’m so hard on my nails – I type all day and night long at two computer-intensive jobs.

  19. I buff, but sparingly. Only when I feel like I truly need it; maybe once every 5-6 weeks? When I was younger, I got a cute little spa set and I buffed my nails EVERYDAY. I cringe now when I think of how that must have weakened my nails! I think it’s good, like everything else, in moderation!

  20. I used to buff once a week, religiously, because I was addicted to the shininess and smoothness.
    But then I realized that my buffing was probably why my nails broke all the time, so I stopped cold-turkey. And bam, so did my breakage. Imagine that.

    So I’m an anti-buffing convert. If I want to wear something where every imperfection is shown, I use a couple of coats of ridgefiller and leave it at that.

  21. Neon says:

    I agree with Jenny — I had super weak nails when I was buffing twice a month, and now that I’ve stopped, they’re much better. My mom, on the other hand, has thick beautiful nails that she can buff whenever she pleases.

  22. M says:

    I’m like you, I rarely buff, every 2 month or less, mostly because I’m lazy and I can’t be bothered with the four steps…
    But when I do buff, I really love the smooth and shiny finish ;-)

  23. Emily says:

    I buff once a week but very sparingly. I only do it to smooth down the edges because my nails peel and i don’t know how to keep them from snagging when i can’t wear polish (3 days a week boo!) so the night i remove my polish i do a quick once over near the ends to remove anything that could snag.

  24. Asami says:

    I buff about once every two months as it really helps me take down quite a bit of staining.

  25. Grace says:

    I buff maybe once a month, but I make it a point to only buff the new growth. Once I have buffed down the ridges on my nails, it’s not like they’re going to magically reappear, right? The majority of the nail that is visible (i.e. not underneath your cuticle) is “dead”, so once you’ve smoothed it, it should stay that way. I can see how repeatedly buffing the same area over and over again would be bad, but if you only concentrate on the area around the cuticle then I feel like you’re pretty safe from that.

  26. Lauren says:

    I hope you dont mind, but I have an unrelated question. I got fairly sick recently and for weeks had to wash my hands constantly, and now my hands are SO dry! My hands usually get really dry in the winter anyway, but it looks like they are never going to recover. Can you recommend any lotions or products and/or any other advice? Thanks!

    • Katrina says:

      Burt’s Bees body butter is good. The macadamia nut is richer than the honey one. I really like Oyin handmade whipped pudding, I think you have to go online unless you are in the Baltimore area. Skin food by Weleda is great too. As for the nails, Solar oil or Burt’s bee cuticle cream.

      Happy hydrating!

    • Donna J says:

      In elementary school there was cold after cold going around and the teachers told the kids to wash their hands more often so they wouldn’t spread colds. My son took this to the extreme and must have been washing his hands dozens of times a day. His hands were so dry they were cracked and bleeding. Our doctor recommended we use Aquaphor at night, it’s super thick like vaseline. You slather that on heavily and wear gloves/mittens/even a pair of socks would work, overnight. The gloves/etc keep the Aquaphor on your hands instead of rubbing off all over your sheets and blankets.

      His other recommendation was Eucerin. He even gave us a bunch of little trial sized bottles so my son could take it along with him to school instead of a big full sized bottle. This is also thicker and heavier than most moisturizing lotions, which is probably what you need.

  27. I have thick, strong nails, but buffing still scares me because I don’t want to damage my nails at all. I buff once or twice a year, really, and I love the way it looks afterwards, but I keep my nails polished, so it doesn’t really matter to me.

  28. TropicalChrome says:

    I’m in the sometimes buffing camp. I have one nail that grows in severely damaged (it has for over 20 years) with huge horizontal ridges and surface chipping. If I don’t buff that nail when things get worse than usual, it can chip all the way through the nail. (Wearing polish on it has helped immensely, and I always double base coat it.)

    And as long as I’m doing that nail, I often give the rest of my nails a once over. I don’t grind away at them to try to get them perfectly smooth, just top them off a little. And I do love how they feel afterwards, even if they do have some vertical ridges left.

  29. Megan says:

    I buff every week. Mostly to get rid of the ridges but also because if I don’t they seem to break easier. I have always had thick nails though.

  30. Diana says:

    I only buff when I need to smooth down glue from a patch. I used to buff regularly with Solar Oil as a base. I found that my nails would be more easily damaged. Even though my nails are very strong, I find that buffing does weaken them.

  31. I buff but ONLY after I apply a layer or two of basecoat. That is usually all I need to get a glassy smooth surface and it doesn’t harm my natural nail which tend to peel since they are still recovering from years of me biting them and mistreating them.

  32. Bunny says:

    My nails are strong, but flexible which means that polish rarely lasts very long on me unless they are shellacked. I also have ridges that run the length of my nails, so buffing is a no-no for me. If the ridges are buffed, my nails split longitudinally which is no joy. This is why I love CND Shellac — the nail isn’t buffed or roughed up first and you can use polish over it so long as you use non-acetone remover. Btw, polish over shellac lasts, and lasts, and lasts, and lasts…

  33. margot says:

    I have never buffed my nails, ever !! I don’t really see the need to do so, either ! I don’t have very strong nails to begin with and they don’t really have ridges (or at least, I don’t think so. Polish goes on smooth) so all in all I’ve never felt the need to buff.

  34. Heather says:

    I only buff if I get a really bad ridge or a flakey tear at the tips that could catch because I find buffing makes my polish peel right off, otherwise I just use a ridge filling base coat to get the smooth application.

  35. Jessi says:

    I NEVER buff my full nails, although I’m tempted to sometimes just to get off the staining. I don’t have ridges so buffing wouldn’t really do much for me. Although I sometimes do lightly buff the ends of my nails because otherwise they peel.

  36. Katrina says:

    Does anyone remember when buffers were made from chamois wrapped around a buffer handle. I think the goal was to improve circulation and shine. It seemed much more gentle than the cubes of today.

    • Bronwyn says:

      YES! My mother had one of these and i loved it. It definitely didn’t seem like it did much other than polish, so I felt less like I was taking bits of nail with me.

  37. Lauren says:

    I’d say by this definition I stand in the “Regular buffing” camp. I probably do it at least once every couple weeks. This post has got me thinking about it though, I’m not sure if I notice a huge difference unless I have a major ridge. I’ll probably ease up on buffing and take more notice of the results. At least it’s definitely never caused a problem for me.

    -Lauren from Death By Polish

  38. Ollie says:

    I buff if I have major ridges on a certain finger (I find some of my nails get them much worse than others) or if they start to peel, which is very occasional.

    However, I had to buff all my nails a couple of weeks ago before I put on my GOSH holo, because it doesn’t get on with my normal base coat and I can’t find one of these special holo base coats. The effect was probably worth it (for the few hours that it lasted! But what do you expect from a polish that hates base and top coat and has the worlds most frustrating application!)

  39. Lauren says:

    This is so interesting to me. I never even thought about it weakening my nails. I get a weekly manicure and she always puts cuticle oil on my nail before lightly buffing them. However, I’ve always had thin nails, so I guess buffing doesn’t help. I’ll probably let her continue though, because I like my nails very short anyway, so they rarely break and my polish usually lasts the entire week. She also uses nailtiques on me, so I wonder if that balances it out.

  40. Rebekah says:

    The only time I buff my nails is when, say one of my nails brakes and my nail layers are uneven. I really don’t think that its good for your nails to be buffed all the time

  41. Jo says:

    I used to buff my nails once a week. But I’ve noticed buffing made my nails thinner and weak. When I stopped buffing my nails for a month, my nails started to regenerate its strength, and it became thicker.

  42. Donna J says:

    On rare occasions I get one or two spots peeling on my nails. I lightly buff only those spots to smooth them out and so they won’t catch on anything. My nails are weak and thin, so I never did think it would be a good idea to regularly buff them.

  43. LISA says:

    I buff lightly if a see ridges, maybe once a month or so. If i buff the nails to smooth perfection I will get hang nails.

  44. Karin says:

    I do buff my nails maybe once in the 2 months or so. But that only is because i have very deep ridges in my nails. Its so bad that when i dont buff a bit after a top coat, 2 layers of nailpolish and a thick layer of seche vite you can still see the ridges. If i could just get rid of my ridges i would stuff buffing but i didnt find anything that helped yet. So if anyone has any tips or tricks to get rid of my deep ridges please do tell me :)

  45. Ali says:

    I am an occasional buffer. But when I do, I don’t completely erase the ridges. I just smooth them down a little.
    I tend not to use the side of the buffer that is supposed to shine nails, because I found that polish seemed to stick better on nails that weren’t shiny already /not including basecoat/.
    Maybe it was just the polish I was using but since I wear nail polish 95% of the time it doesn’t matter to me whether my natural nails are shiny or not.

  46. Shatteredshards says:

    I try to keep my buffing as minimal as possible, which means maybe a couple times a year if I have some harsh ridges. Any time my nails are buffed, they peel, split, and break like crazy until I grow out the buffed part. The use of oil or cream doesn’t seem to make a difference, nor does having my sister (who went to cosmotology school) buff them.

  47. LadyMorrgian says:

    I have peeling nails, and I will buff down some of the peels flush to the nail.But otherwise I never buff

  48. melli says:

    I buff maybe once a year, and only on two nails that get ridges. So, I guess I am in the no-buff camp too. :)

  49. Sara says:

    I lightly buff every 4 months or so, and only after being reminded because I feel like they’re particularly ridged or something of that nature.

  50. Kellie says:

    My nails are naturally thin, but they’re also very ridged. So, I only buff my nails as the ridges grow out. Which is every few months. I also use nailtiques formula 2 plus between polishings and manicures to maintain what little strength they have. :)

  51. Rachel L. says:

    I buff every single time I change colors, which is maybe once a week. However, I do it VERY lightly and with a VERY fine grit. I do suffer from flaky nails, but I’ve found since I began this practice that a)I get no bubbles in my manicure and b)my nails have actually been growing more evenly and stronger.