Nail polish alternatives: Is buffing nails a safe alternative? | Nail Care #2

When small talk touches on toxins in nail polishes, I get this a lot: “Buffing’s the only safe option left”. To answer with Mylène Farmer: Yes but no. Let’s see why.


Nail buffing has got quite a tradition. In those long gone dandy years, chamois leather (together with a wax) has been used for nail grooming. Today we have plastic buffers and shine creams and real + faux chamois at our service.


I own a simple, drugstore nail buffer that I use for minor fixes and emergencies only: a broken nail for example.
My nails are pretty healthy, even and shiny (here’s my secret weapon for healthy nails, suitable for men, too, in case you missed it), so I don’t need any buffing.



If you must, use the buffer once a month.
It’s not good to use nail buffers daily, and I wouldn’t advise to use them weekly neither:
You risk wearing away the surface of your nails, making nails thinner and thinner, more and more weak. Extensive buffing causes heat as well which makes the nail surface brittle and prone to chipping.

Just saying: if you have healthy, moisturised nails, they’ll have a pretty natural shine without mechanical buffing.


Apart from the 3-in-1-style drugstore variety, chamois buffers are offered. Most manufacturers seem to use man-made material. I’ve tested a chamois buffer once (feels like a hundred years ago, and it was in the last milennium indeed) – they seemed to be really soft to the nails while the shine wasn’t impressive, unless you were willing to polish your nails every evening in front of the telly.
You obtain way shinier results, those that look like a top coat, with drugstore plastic buffers – but in the same time you risk to heat up the nail surface (bad) or to weaken nails (worse) by wearing away thin layers of the surface. So be extra careful and use no pressure if you have to use the rough side of the buffer first.

As I said before: I’m on the side of “no” when it comes to nail buffing blocks anyway.


If there’s one reason why I dislike most professional products then it’s this: they don’t need to list the ingredients. After having checked out two different nail buffing creams, I’ve come to the conclusion that those are really full with synthetic stuff you want to avoid (parabens for example).


Nail buffing (sans creme) seems healthier than any nail polish simply because it doesn’t contain an unspeakably long list of toxic ingredients.
BUT it’s made of either plastic (potentially toxic as well) or leather (not cruelty-free + potentially toxic)

Nail buffers can help you mask an uneven nail surface.
BUT if you repeat the treatment too often, uneven surface is going to be your least problem. Ouch!

Nail buffers can boost the blood flow in your finger tips.
BUT so does simple drumming with your fingers on the surface of a table. Really! I’m not kidding you.


Nail buffers can give your nails “natural” shine that won’t chip off.
BUT if you buff too often or too hard, mechanical rubbing will wear away your nails’ surface, and the heat will make your nails dry and brittle. Don’t want.

Nail buffing is a nice grooming treatment for guys.
BUT same risks apply. I haven’t found anything easier to use than this unisex looking nail pen yet (and I’m still not on their payroll, only a happy customer who doesn’t want the product discontinued or, worse, revamped! OMG!)


As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and of course new questions.

Good night and sweet dreams, everybody! 😉

4 Comments on “Nail polish alternatives: Is buffing nails a safe alternative? | Nail Care #2

  1. Pingback: Water-Based & Peelable Nail Polish: Suncoat vs. Namaki | BEAUTYCALYPSE: Ethical Excellence – A Quest!

  2. Pingback: ABC: Your Guide to Non-Toxic Nail Polish | BEAUTYCALYPSE: Ethical Excellence – A Quest!

  3. I had no idea that buffing could be so injurious. But I don’t need to worry because the last time I buffed my nails was about 5 years ago 🙂

    • injuries and allergies lurk everywhere, my friend!
      (just check out the darwin awards…)

      but seriously, just as always, anything that creates an *illusion* of health – shinier nails, sleeker hair, whiter teeth – has downsides.