You want to buy a nail drill to work on your nails at home, but you are overwhelmed with so many different styles, sizes, and functions on amazon and not sure which is the best electric nail drill to buy.
A nail drill, electric nail file, or e-file is an electric-powered rotary tool used to reduce repetitive manual filing and time of nail service. Nail drills can be used on natural nails with great care, but they work best on harder artificial nails such as acrylics, hard gel, or dip powder because they reduce manual filing time and effort.
To choose which nail drill set to buy, you should first understand an electric nail file. Then you will then buy an e-file that works with your particular application.
What is a nail drill?
A nail drill is a small electric drill used to work on nail enhancement products using various nail drill bit attachments, and each nail drill set has three essential components: an electric motor, a speed control, and a handpiece.
The motor provides the power. It can be either an AC motor that uses 115V or a DC motor that uses either 12VDC or 5VDC on newer nail drill machines.
Older AC motor electric nail drills use foot pedals to control the rotary speed, while newer desktop nail drill machines have a knob to adjust their motors’ speed manually.
What a speed control does is it regulates the electric current or power going to the motor. Less power going to the motor makes it spin slower and higher power makes it spin faster.
In AC models, the speed control knob is in line with the power cord, or it could be a foot pedal, while it fits inside the power units on newer DC power, portable ones.
On the older AC motor type, the handpiece is where various nail bits are attached, and it contains no motor so that it can be small. On all DC motor handpieces, the DC motors are inside the handpiece. That is why this newer handpiece is a little larger and heavier than that of the AC motor type.
Forward and reverse selector: this function is a built-in feature that both right-handed and left-handed users can use. A right-handed person will set it forward F for clockwise rotation, and a left-handed person will turn it to reverse R for counter-clockwise rotation of the nail bits.
Note: always turn off the electric nail file and wait for it to come to a complete stop when you change the direction of your drill bit. Switching this selector while the motor is still running might damage or shorten the life of your electric nail file.
How long should a nail drill last?
The older type AC motor electric nail drill should last more than ten years. I started out using these nail drill sets in 1997, and the motors themselves still function well. However, I had to replace the handpiece every five years due to the internal bearing wearing out.
The newer DC motor-type nail drill sets do not last as long because of the four following reasons:
The internal delicate electronic circuit will burn out or be short-circuited due to an overheating problem.
The male and female connection will wear out after so many inserting/pull-out cycles.
The heavier handpiece will be damaged easily if accidentally dropped.
The rechargeable lithium battery stops holding a charge after so many charging cycles.
Generally, if you only use your DC-powered e-file a couple of times a month, take good care of it, and do not let it drop on a hard surface, it should last up to 3 years.
Is a nail drill worth it?
If you only do gel manicures at home, an electric nail drill machine will save you time just in taking gel polish off your nails. Without an e-file, you would have to manually remove the gel topcoat on your nails with a nail file, taking up to one minute on each nail. Using an e-file, you can cut down this filing time to 15 seconds. It also saves you a lot of elbow grease.
So owning an electric nail file is worth it because you will save a lot of time doing your nails and money from not going to a nail salon for nail services that you can do at home with your nail drill machine.
Before you click on a “BUY NOW” button, there are a few factors you should know before you decide which nail drill set you are going to buy.
What do you use a nail drill for?
I am sure you have seen other people have used their e-files on both natural and fake nails, but you should have a good idea of what your electric nail file will be capable of doing and its limitations.
For natural nails:
An electric nail drill is a powerful tool. No matter how small it looks, it can do a lot of damage to your natural nails if you do not know how to use it or are careless.
Sometimes your nail technician uses her nail drill machine on your natural nails, either fingernails or toenails. She can do that because she holds her handpiece using her dominant hand the whole time.
When you do your nails at home, you will have to use your non-dominant hand, which most people have difficulty controlling. You might drill on your natural nails too much and thin them out.
If you want to use your e-file at home, be extra careful when using your non-dominant hand to drill nails on your other hand.
A better alternative is using a fine nail file or a buffer to roughen up your nail surface. It does a great job preparing your nails for polish or any artificial nail product application such as acrylic, dip powder, or polygel.
For artificial nails:
Electric nail drill sets are very effective when used on acrylic nails, hard gel nails, polygel nails, dip powder nails.
These nails are thicker and more rigid than natural nails, so an electric nail file will save a lot of manual filing and cut down on filing time.
Can a nail drill damage nails?
An electric nail file does not damage nails directly but through the attached nail bits.
That said, an electric nail file is a force behind your sharp nail bits that will directly damage the nails. Therefore, proper training and practice on e-files and their nail bits are the two prerequisites for working with a nail drill machine.
Without the two prerequisites above, you will thin out your nails or cause ridges in them or even injure yourself.
Why do nail drills burn?
Electric nail drills burn because the nail bits attached to them either are dull or you apply too much pressure at one spot too long, and the heat created by friction causes the burning sensation.
- If your metal or ceramic nail bit is dull, instead of cutting away the acrylic powder, dip powder, gel topcoat, or polygel, it just grinds them off. This grinding action causes a lot of friction and generates a lot of heat. If you run your dull nail bit at one spot too long, you will feel this burning sensation.
- The sanding bands are the ones that use grinding action to remove acrylics or other artificial nail products, so they usually cause more heat than metal or ceramic nail bits if you run your nail drill at high speed.
What is a good nail drill?
In the late 1990s, I started doing nails using a Dremel type electric nail drill with a foot pedal because back then, they were the ones used by most nail tech and cost one-third less than table-top ones. The table-top professional nail drill sets were sold for a little more than $300, and only a few companies made them.
My Dremel-type nail drill (Craftsman in the picture) was a good nail drill for me. With only three different sanding bands, fine, medium, and coarse grits, I was able to create tens of thousands of good-looking acrylic nail sets. Not only me, but these Dremel-type nail drill sets also enabled thousands of nail technicians who created millions of sets of acrylic nails for their customers in the US during the last four decades.
The hanging nail drill brand that nail technicians used most is Konica drill on Amazon. The drill has clockwise and counter clockwise rotation option for either right-handed or left-handed users.
To keep up with my nail profession, I bought different table-top, portable, cordless, rechargeable nail drills to try, but my favorite electric nail file was still the big old Dremel-type one.
Up until the early 2000s, there were not many people who did their artificial nails at home because videos on YouTube teaching people how to do nails at home were just far and few in between, if any.
Now the DIY nail trend is getting more popular, and the number of people who do their nails at home can easily surpass 395,600 nail technicians in the US in 2018, according to Statista.com.
This number is small compared with the number of views on just one popular YouTube nail channel, which could be a few million. So there is a significant demand for nail drill sets from the general public.
Electric nail file manufacturers realize they can make more money by selling electric nail drill sets and accessories to people who do their nails at home. You can see dozens and dozens of them on Amazon’s nail drills and accessory category trying to sell all kinds of nail products to DIYers. Also, you can now watch and learn about nails to your heart content on YouTube. So many different styles and brands available, even I have difficulty telling which one is better than the other.
So what is a good nail drill machine for me to use at home then? You ask.
An excellent electric nail drill for you to use at home is not the most expensive one, nor it has all the functions that you will ever use, but you should choose it for what nail products you will use on and how often you do your nails.
In other words, two things you must consider so you can choose a good e-file out of dozens of different ones.
How do I choose a good electric nail drill?
If you are shopping for a nail drill machine, whether it is your first one or to replace the old one, then you should consider these two factors:
I will explain these factors in detail next.
1 – Nail drills for gel polish:
Applying gel polish does not require the use of a nail drill machine. However, when it is time for you to take off the old gel polish, it will be quicker if you use an e-file to remove the gel polish top coat.
If you were to use a nail file or an emery board to remove this gel topcoat, it would take about 10 minutes and a lot of elbow grease to do it. However, if you use an electric nail drill, you can do this in less than 3 minutes.
Since this is the only thing you have your e-file to do, it can be a basic nail drill set. You can just set the speed at medium and use a coarse ceramic nail bit to remove the gel top coat and cut down on your old gel manicure removal time.
In removing your old gel polish, you only need to use your electric nail drill every two to three weeks, and each time no more than 10 minutes, so your nail drill motor does not need to have all the bells and whistles.
If you just start out doing nails, you are more likely to do gel polish first. You are a beginner.
Because you only use your e-file for a short time and infrequently, the hand piece’s shape and weight do not play an essential role in ergonomics. Your hand and wrist will not get tired after each nail drill use.
The motor is a small DC motor that can fit inside a handpiece.
Speed control is conveniently attached to the power cord and within reach.
The handpiece is light and small enough to fit in your hand to comfortably file off the gel topcoat.
In my opinion, this basic portable nail drill set is the best nail drill for beginners for removing gel topcoats if you only use it every two weeks or so at home.
A good thing about this table-top basic nail drill set is the motor runs on a direct power source; it does not have a battery, and you just have to plug it in whenever you need to use it. It does not have a breakdown issue associated with rechargeable battery charging cycles that lose their holding power over time.
Theoretically, rechargeable lithium battery has a charging life cycle about 2,000 times, but this number tends to fall short in reality, just like those in your smartphones, for example. It means that a rechargeable battery will not hold a charge after so many charging cycles.
Because of the simplicity of a table-top nail drill design, it is the best nail drill machine for beginners. It will last many years provided you take good care of it.
Further down the road of your nail adventure, if you want to get better at working with an e-file, you can use this electric nail file to practice. I have a short training section on practicing nail drills and nail bits on other materials that you do not have to use your nails.
For about $50, the cost of 2 gel manicures, you can buy on the Melodysusie website and you might get a better special seasonal deal or you can get it on Amazon.
It is the best electric nail file for beginners regarding price, practicality, and a training nail drill.
Another great advantage with this table-top nail drill set comes with an on/off pedal switch. This pedal switch allows you to start or stop the motor without the need to use your hand to manually turn on or of the nail drill, but you can do it with your foot.
This is a great feature to help you save some time in removing the tedious gel polish removal.
If you decide to work on artificial nails, you can use it for them too. Furthermore, if you choose to buy a more expensive nail drill machine sometime later, the old one will be your backup if something happens to the new one.
A short review on cheap nail drills
To make nail drills for beginners affordable, e-file manufacturers make them with plastic chucks.
Chucks are the tip part of a drill used to hold a nail bit firmly in place. For nail drills used in nail applications, their chucks are made of either metal or plastic.
There are basic electric nail drill sets that cost much less, in the range of $20. These are also good for removing gel polish top coat. These e-files use an internal hollow plastic tube to hold the nail bit. You attach a nail bit by pushing it all the way in, and the plastic tube will hold it in place.
This is the one for people who do not want to spend a lot of money and just need a cheap nail drill to try out.
However, after going through many inserting/removing the nail bit cycles, this plastic tube will wear out, the hole will get worn out, so it will not hold the nail bit tightly as it should, and a nail bit will vibrate.
Working on your nails with wobbled nail bits will send the vibration to your nails, which is not a good feeling. Worse yet, it can thin out your nails without you knowing until it is too late.
If you are serious about your nails and want a nail drill set that lasts, the basic nail drill set for doing your gel polish at home should be in a mid-price range. These e-files hold the nail bits using metal parts so they are held firmly in place properly every time and will not wear out as fast as plastic ones.
2 – Nail drill for artificial nails:
The most common artificial nails are acrylics, hard gel, polygel, and dip powder. These fake nails are much harder than gel polish, so you need a good electric nail file to work on them.
In all of those artificial nails I mentioned above, acrylic nails require the most filing. So the acrylic nail drill should be good enough to use on other types of less demanding artificial nails.
If you only do acrylic nails at home on yourself, the basic table-top nail drill above can work on acrylic nails just fine because you do not have to use it every day. However, If you do acrylic nails in a salon setting, your professional acrylic nail drill should be able to run for 4 to 5 hours a day, day in and day out, without giving you any issues.
Professional nail drills
If you want to buy your first electric nail file for your work, how do you choose one?
The answer is you should choose an e-file to have the following two factors:
A professional nail drill machine must withstand the heavy daily workload. You should choose a brand that has been around for a while and has good customer support if your nail drill machine gives you any problem. When you work as a nail technician, the last thing you want is to have your nail drill quit on you. Not only will you not be able to complete your nail service, but it also makes your customer think that you are not competent.
Quality does come with a price. After I tested a few of them, the excellent quality electric nail drill sets start around $170.00 on the Amazon nail drill category.
A suitable handpiece:
It must be light and ergonomic:
If you are a new nail technician, there is one thing you must try to avoid at the very beginning: do not injure your hands through repetitive nail filing.
A busy nail technician’s hands and wrists go through several hundred if not thousands, repetitive movements each day. If you use an electric nail file that has a handpiece not suitable for you, either it is too big or too heavy for your hand, you can develop hand and wrist pain as soon as after six months of working.
Like a person who types on a keyboard all day, she can develop carpal tunnel syndrome; a nail technician can have hand and wrist pain if she overworks her hands.
One way to prevent this hand and wrist pain is by choosing a suitable handpiece.
Unfortunately, due to mass production, there are only two different kinds of handpieces that are currently commercially available.
Electric nail file manufacturers are betting on portable, rechargeable DC-powered nail drill sets. They overwhelm consumers by producing so many different styles that choosing one is not easy. However, as many, as they seem, there was only one kind of handpiece, and not until recently, a new handpiece was introduced. It is lighter, smaller, and more powerful because it has a better DC motor.
This is the best handpiece currently on the market.
The best nail drill for you
If you read this far, you can guess that there is no one best e-file for everybody.
Electric nail file manufacturers continue to create new ones, and they either have a small or big breakthrough in terms of improvement. Based on what I have seen and used on several electric nail files, I think it would be simpler to categorize these e-files into three levels: good, better, and best.
Good nail drills:
If you only do light nail drilling and a couple of times a month, the Melody Susie electric nail file is a good choice. It will last a long time because it does not have a lithium battery to replace every few years.
Better nail drills:
It is the trend now that e-file manufacturers are pushing for portable, rechargeable electric nail drill sets, so we can not help but have to go along with it.
If you plan to do artificial nails like acrylics, better e-files would be in the $150.00 range. It is good enough to take on all the drilling jobs you throw at them, all day long and every day.
The handpiece is smaller and lighter, so your hand and wrist will not get tired from doing nails at the end of the day.
Melody Susie has one in this price range. It is called Sparkle Pro.
You can also buy it from Amazon.
The best nail drills:
When you are looking for the best nail drill machine to buy, besides high quality and ergonomics, it is made from a well-known electric nail file manufacturer who has been in business for a long time.
Buying an expensive nail drill from a nail drill maker with a good reputation, you can have peace of mind that it will last and not give you any hand and wrist pain later on, and it is a brand you will be proud to own. It projects seriousness and commitment to your customers as a nail technician who cares about providing the best nail services.
Different high-end nails drills can go as high as $400. However, I think the most recognized brand is Gelish. Gelish GoFiles are professional nail drill sets.
Gelish is the first company that invented gel polish; the quality of their gel polish is unrivaled, so they built their GoFile nail drill with that high-quality reputation in mind. However, they only have a very limited quantity.
The best nail drill you can have for about $300.00 is the Beyond Pro from Kyara Sky. This company not only make nail drills but it have an extensive gel polish color and dip powder collections that many nail salons use.
The handpiece is slim and light; a nail technician can do nails all day long without having any hand pains.
It has one year warranty just in case you need it.
You can check out other great professional nail drill brands like Kupa, Medi Cool, and Kyara Sky. They are all available on Amazon.com.
High-quality nail drill sets are expensive, and they are usually out of the price range for most nail hobbyists and new nail technicians. E-file manufacturers know that well, so they have package deals to make their drill more affordable a few times a year.
One of the companies that are very aggressively pushing bundled sales is Melodysusie. If you are shopping for a nail drill, check out their website first, You might catch one of their seasonal bundled sales. Sometimes it could be up to 30% off the original price.
Whether you look for the best nail drill machine for a beginner or professional, make sure you exercise good safety practice and give yourself adequate initial training.
If you are still here, thank you for being patient! However, now you know a lot about e-files in one reading.
Summary on nail drill costs:
Now you have a pretty good idea of which nail drill you can use. However, your personal preferences and budget also play a big part in your decision. However, I recap the costs of nail drills in each category, and you can expect the minimum price you should pay for the nail drill that you will pick.
- Least expensive nail drill sets: these are for a young group of nail enthusiasts who want to get a feel of an electric nail drill and on a limited budget. You should pay no more than $30.00
- Nail drill for gel polish: these table-top electric e-files should cost about $50.
- Nail drill for the novices: who want to do more with their nail drill sets than just using them for gel polish. These drills are portable and rechargeable type. These nail drill can cost from $150 and higher.
- Professional nail drills: these high-quality, ergonomic electric nail files should be used by nail technicians or someone who works on artificial nail enhancements every day to take advantage of their outstanding features. They start at $300.00 and can go as high as $430.00.
Good luck with your electrical nail drill shopping.
Bundled nail drill packages you might like:
Melodysusie keeps improving the nail drills by combining them with other essential nail equipment. Here are a few of their new products:
Nail drill with a nail dust collector: sanding off gel polish topcoat, acrylic or dip powder nails will create a lot of fine nail dust that can stay in the air in your room, and you should not inhale it. A nail dust collector will suck away most of these tiny nail dusts so you will not to inhale them, especially if you have little ones around. This nail dust collector – nail drill combo is great for some one who is allergic to nail dust or clean working area is his or her top requirement.
Nail drill with LED nail lamp: if you will be doing a lot of gel manicures, this nail drill and LED nail lamp combo is a great idea. It has a smaller foot print so it will not cluster you work area.
Check out the latest one-of-a-kind nail drill design from Melody Susie.
Picking out a nail drill that is right for you is just half of your nail drill story because it is the nail drill bits that will directly work on your nails. Therefore, you must also be familiar with different types of nail bits, their applications, and how to use them on your nails proficiently. If you are new to nail drills, you should read about them before you work on your nails so you can avoid any damages or injures.