What Is the 90-10 Rule (and Why Is It Crucial for Manicures)?

The difference between a top-notch manicure and, well, every other one that's just fine comes down to one thing: the shaping. Whether it’s at home or at your salon, you know the elation that comes when you get your tips clipped and filed to the exact length and shape you want.

Well, you no longer have to rely on luck (or that one magician technician who always has a long wait) for that to happen. Our friends at Olive and June shared the secret to superb shaping every time: the 90-10 rule.

What the heck is that? We’re so glad you asked. The 90-10 rule refers to the exact ratio of how much you should cut versus file your nails. Specifically, cut your nails 90 percent of the way down and file the remaining 10 percent to your desired shape. (We’re partial to almond shapes lately because they make our nails look longer.)

That’s oddly specific. Please explain the logic behind this ratio. Simply put, the less you have to file, the easier (and more precise) the shaping will be. Because who among us hasn’t gotten tired of moving the file back-and-forth over your nails until your eyes glaze over and you're left with an uneven edge so you file some more (and then some more) until you basically have nubs for nails. (Just us?)

Oh, and a final note on this topic: Get yourself some straight-edge clippers. They will make a world of difference when you’re trying to reach those tricky corners.

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Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...