Recently, NailPro posted some useful tutorials about hard gels which had an e-file component, unintentionally starting a war in between e-filers and hand-filers. Apparently, some technicians have a hard time understanding the difference between the words “lazy,” “careless,” and “irresponsible.”

All nail techs know there has always been a rift between the hand-filers and the e-filers. Hand-filers prefer to file nails manually, e-filers prefer to use an e-file.

Whatever method they choose, neither one makes a professional better or worse than another. It’s a personal preference.

The simple fact that a technician might prefer to use an e-file does not mean that technician is “lazy.” She is using the method that is most efficient for her. A technician that intentionally rushes through a service and abuses her client with the e-file is “careless” and “irresponsible.” Laziness may play a part in it, but essentially, any technician (hand filer or e-filer) that works hastily and recklessly because they value profit over client safety is careless and irresponsible.

I belong to neither camp. I use an e-file when necessary and a hand file the majority of the time. I prefer using an e-file when prepping fills because it gives me the ability to be precise. Any lifted or damaged product that needs to be removed can be easily isolated and discarded without damaging the nail underneath or removing excessive amounts of enhancement product.

A hand file does not and will never offer the same degree of precision. That is a fact that can’t be argued. If you want to remove lifted product with a standard board file, the entire enhancement must be sanded away until the lifted product is removed. It is difficult to keep from filing the natural nail during that process (notice how I said difficult, not impossible). In addition, the friction from the hand filing may cause the product to lift further. Personally, I remove lifting with the e-file, apply my product precisely, and use my hand file to do any shaping necessary. Since I apply my product well and keep it tapered tight near the cuticle (no ledges), I often can get away with simply buffing before I cleanse and polish.

For back-fills and removing hard gel, I e-file. I have no desire to spend 20 minutes hand-filing away. I’d like to keep from getting carpal tunnel surgery, thank you very much. If you want to work your wrist to death, that’s your prerogative. Personally, I’d rather do a few quick swipes with an e-file. With hard gel removals (which CAN NOT be soaked off with acetone–I almost can’t even believe I have to say this to these so-called “professionals”), I e-file the bulk and buff down the rest.

Hard gels, for the record, must be abraded off. It does not make a technician “lazy” to file off hard gels. They have literally NO OTHER WAY to remove them. And why would that make them lazy? Arguably, it’s much easier to wrap a client up for 30 minutes, perform another service during their soak time, and then wipe away the product than it is to hack away at that product for the duration. That’s literally the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. If it were possible to soak off hard gel, I’m fairly certain the majority of us would chose that method over filing. How many techs do you know that are out there filing off anything soakable? …not many, I’d wager. (Other than gel polish…which I do not understand. It soaks off in ten minutes. Are you seriously going to tell me it takes you less than a minute per nail to safely remove that thin layer of product with any file? Please. Just wrap that crap up.)

Both hand-filing and e-filing are capable of inflicting damage on the client and her nails if they’re not properly executed. I have seen nail technicians absolutely destroy natural nails with nothing more than a 180 grit file. I have seen technicians abuse the crap out of a client with an e-file. Like many things in our business, it comes down to how the person utilizes the method.

Saying that every technician that uses an e-file is “lazy” and will surely cause damage to the client in their chair is the most ignorant, uninformed, insulting generalized statement another technician can make (regarding e-files, anyways). It’s the same thing as a client ripping off her gel polish and then saying, “All gel polishes destroy the natural nail.” No. Gel polishes don’t destroy natural nails–idiots that rip their gel polish off instead of having it removed properly destroy natural nails. We all know how incredibly stupid clients that make those statements sound when they preach about things they have no real knowledge of (“UV lights cause skin cancer!”).

When you make similar statements, you sound just like those uninformed clients. Those of us that are actually informed just do this.

To take it a step further and then make statements about how all e-filers only care about their bottom line and not the clients in their chair is absolutely infuriating (like this). Yes, you have insulted me–and a legion of cautious, conscientious e-filing nail technicians who care very much about their clients. We care so much about our clients that many of us have taken the time and spent the money on learning how to use our equipment the right way. How about you, judgmental hand filers? Have you even once taken an e-filing certification course? How many hours have you dedicated to mastering the tool? If you’re making statements like that, I’m willing to bet you either haven’t bothered (and therefore have absolutely no room to make a judgment) or have tried a few times and have given up (in which case, my original statement still stands…you have no room to speak on this topic since your experience is so incredibly limited). Just because you can’t use an e-file without damaging your clients nails doesn’t mean that we can’t. So shut your face. You’re making an ass of yourself.

Now I’m going to make a few generalized statements of my own based on my own experiences as an educator, manager, and salon owner.

  • I have never once met a “die hard hand-filer” who had ever known how to use an e-file with any competence whatsoever. The majority of them admitted never being taught to use them and were intimidated by them. I met one professional who could use one well, but preferred hand filing because the e-file made her nervous and she preferred hand-filing.
  • I have never met a hand-filer that was capable of removing slivers of lifted product with precision, without filing down the body of the enhancement or filing into the natural nail. Prove me wrong. Please. (I’d actually like to know if that’s possible, I’m not being entirely patronizing here.)
  • I have rarely known e-filers that were competent with acrylic placement. I have observed that students who are taught to e-file exclusively are often not taught proper product ratio or application techniques. As a result, they often use the e-file as a crutch. They slap the product on the nails as thick as bricks and rely entirely on the e-file to shape it out. Hand-filers tend to be more conservative in their use of product to keep from having to grind away at the product. With experience, both types of professionals learn proper product placement, but I think it might take e-filers longer since removing excess product is much easier with an e-file, so they have less incentive to learn placement.
  • I have seen e-filers and hand-filers alike work so carelessly (note the phrasing), using such excessive force and friction that they actually caused the natural nail to lift from the nail plate. I’ve seen hand-filers and e-filers alike tear up cuticles and plow straight through the nail itself.

An inexperienced tech or a careless tech is just that. Not all technicians that utilize a commonly abused method are inexperienced or careless. You can’t form a judgement about a professional’s values based on their equipment or product preference (unless that tech is doing something super stupid, like ripping off enhancements or using MMA-based products, in which case it’s pretty obvious that the technician is not concerned with consumer comfort or safety).

In the future, do all of us a favor and don’t make ignorant, uneducated, inflammatory comments. Don’t embarrass yourself or your profession.


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