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How To Shorten Acrylic Nails At Home

Acrylic nails are a great way to achieve a longer nail look. However, if you find your acrylic nails are too long, you may be wondering how to shorten acrylic nails at home without ruining your new manicure. At Posh Salon and Boutique we love educating people on things all nail related, so let’s look at several ways to effectively and safely trim acrylic nails. As always, if you need help trimming and caring for your nails, visit us or book an appointment.

how to shorten acrylic nails at home

Points To Consider

Before you begin trimming your nails, here are several points to keep in mind:

File, Rather Than Cut, Acrylic Nails

Acrylic nails are a type of artificial nail. These are from a mix of liquid monomer and powder polymer. While you can cut acrylic nails with a clipper, we highly recommend filing down fake nails instead. Why? With a nail file, you have better control over removing nail length, as well as an easier time shaping nails.

Desired Length

How long do you want your nails to be? If you’re new to acrylic nails, it may take some time to get used to longer nails. If you find your nails are interfering with daily activities, trim them and have shorter acrylics applied at your next salon visit.

Desired Shape

Do you want to maintain the current shape of your acrylic nails? Or do you want to change the shape as you file your nails down? Have an idea of what you want to achieve with your nails before you start trimming.

When To Trim

If you’re new to wearing acrylic nails, we recommend starting with shorter nails, as it can be an adjustment to having longer nails. Why? The more acrylic added to a nail, the heavier the nails. If you have acrylics applied at a salon and return home only to find your nails are too long for your liking, then trim them down to the desired length.

It’s also a simple rule: the longer your natural nails grow, the longer your acrylics will be. While the acrylics may have been the correct length when applied, you will find you need to trim your nails eventually. How fast your nails grow will vary from person to person, so you may trim your nails every few days or every few weeks, depending on the desired length. Nail trimming is part of nail maintenance until your next appointment at the salon, so knowing how to safely trim your nails is crucial.

While acrylic nails are durable, you should baby your nails—never hang objects from your nails and avoid banging and tapping them on surfaces. Until you’re used to having long nail extensions, you may find long nails get in the way of everyday activities.

How To Safely File Acrylic Nails

A nail file allows you to start small, rather than risking taking too much off with a nail clipper. If you’re new to having acrylic nails, we highly recommend you use a file, instead of a clipper, if you need to trim them. Whether you’re using a standard file, emery board, electric file, or nail scissors, make sure each is high quality and sharp enough.

Standard Nile File

You can use a standard nail file with coarse to medium grit to file down your acrylic nails. New to trimming your fake nails? We recommend starting with a basic file.

How To Use

Acrylic is tough, so patience is key when using a regular nail file on fake nails. Expect to take more time and effort as you file down the acrylic. Begin by filing the outside corners of the nails and work your way toward the center. If you find that your acrylics are especially tough, use an emery board or a metal file.

As you trim your nails, gently remove the acrylic tips with your fingers or a tweezer. Never forcefully tug at acrylic tips, as you risk damaging your real nails.

Types of Nail Files

Nail files can be categorized into the following:

Coarse (80-100 grit): Super gritty file. Best for shaping acrylic nails, as these files remove length and thickness.

Medium (180 grit): Great for lightly shaping or buffing acrylic, dip, or gel enhancement nails.

Fine (240-600 grit): Smooth file, great for finishing up nail extensions. Best file for shaping natural fingernails.

Extra fine (600-2400 grit): Smoothest file. Creates shine on both natural nails and nail extensions.

Electric File or E-File

An electric file, also known as an e-file, can also be used to trim nails. These files come with different tips or bits, depending on the thickness of the acrylic. Each bit has different angles, shapes, and sizes to achieve the desired nail shape. Only use an e -file if you’re comfortable doing so. You can use a combination of both a standard file and an e-file to shorten long acrylic nails.

How To Use

Read the e-file manufacturer’s manual for best use. E-files usually have 3 categories of nail bits:

  • Carbide bits: Cuts and shapes of acrylic or gel nails.

  • Diamond bits: Removes product build-up on the nail surface.

  • Ceramic bits: Cuts and shapes nails, and removes buildup, but with less heat and friction.

E-file kits usually come with these types of specific nail bits:

  • Flame bit: Cleans the cuticle area.

  • Nib bit: Removes hangnails, and other cuticle work.

  • Micro ball bit: Cleans nails and removes dead skin.

  • Needle/ thin needle bit: Removes residual acrylic or gel on the sides and under the nails.

  • Safety bit: For surface and cuticle work.

  • Ball bit: Cleans the side and under the nails.

  • Flat-end cylinder bit: Buffs nails (removes shine from the nail surface.)

  • Silicone bit: Polishes and smooths the nail.

  • Cleaning brush: Cleans nails and nail drills.

Using an e-file requires training and practice. If you feel any pain when using an e-file, stop immediately. Trim acrylic nails with a file instead.

Nail Trimming Scissor

A nail-trimming scissor is another tool you can use to trim down acrylic nails. As with a file, be sure the nail scissor’s blades are sharp and strong enough for trimming fake nails.

How To Use

Start by cutting the sides of the acrylic, working towards the center. In between cuts, file and buff the nail edges.

Nail Clippers

You need clippers that work. Dull or low-quality clippers can lead to nail breakage, as you have to apply more pressure to the acrylic to break it. Clippers are intended to make trimming nails easier, so use clippers that make a clean cut.

How To Use

As with filing your nails, start by cutting your nails from the outer edges—do not cut straight across. If you cut straight across, you place plenty of pressure on the nail, risking nail breakage at the vertical crack, or middle, of the nail. Not only will this ruin your manicure, but vertical cracks can be extremely painful, and prone to infection. Be patient as you clip your nails and work your way toward the center of the nail.

To cut off a lot of length, try cutting your nails in an upside-down V shape, then gently cut at the center.

Tip: Cut A Little At A Time

When trimming acrylic nails, you may be tempted to cut a lot at once. However, it’s best to cut a little at a time. Remember it’s better to cut them long, as you will then follow up with shaping and filing your nails, to even out the edges.

trimming acrylic nails

Post Nail Trim Aftercare

After you trim your acrylic nails, follow up with these several nail aftercare steps:

Wash Your Hands After Trimming

No matter how you trim your nails, be sure to wash your hands to remove acrylic residue and nail dust.

Apply Cuticle Oil

Cuticle oil thoroughly moisturizes your nails and cuticles.

Apply A Top Coat

To preserve the wear time of your artificial nails, apply a topcoat of acrylic or a coat of clear polish.

How To Trim Different Get Different Nail Shapes

After you’ve trimmed your nails down, your nails may look thick and somewhat unattractive. To improve nail appearance, you may want to preserve the current nail shape or try a different shape.

Which Nail Shape is For Me?

Need help deciding which nail is best for you? Check your lanula or the “moon” at the base of your nails. Your nails’ edges typically mimic the shape of your lanula. If your lanulas are round, rounded nails may be best. If your lanulas are square, square nails may be best.

Also, consider the shape of your fingers. Some nail shapes flatter wider fingers, while other shapes can make fingers appear larger. For example, square nails can accentuate thicker fingers, so try slenderizing shapes such as squoval, coffin, or stiletto nails.


Square nails are really easy to achieve. Simply file straight across until the nail is straight, then gently round the corners. You may find you have to file a lot off if your nails are long.


Squoval nails are a combination of square and oval nails. Start with square-tipped nails and then gently round out the corners.


Coffin nails work especially well on long nails. These nails have a flat tip with the sides angled in, like a coffin. To achieve these nails, file the tops of your nails straight, then file the sides at an angle.


For a more natural look, go with round nails. Simply file your nails in a curv