Nail Drill Bits Guide: Types, How to Use, Top Picks & More

Updated on September 21, 2023
Lauren Long By Lauren Long
Lauren Long

Creative Writer, Lifestyle Blogger, and Skincare and Wellness Enthusiast

Table Of Contents

    Nail Drill Bits Guide IntroPIN

    Nail Drill Bits Guide: Types, How to Use, Top Picks & More

    We can all agree that there is something irresistibly feminine about manicured nails.

    Colorful, decorated fingertips are a way to express our personality, show off our elegance, and complete our cosmetic appearance.

    While we can’t deny that having beautiful acrylic or gel nails has aesthetic benefits, plenty of people don’t enjoy bi-weekly trips to the nail salon.

    After spending big bucks on the reg, or losing precious time, maybe you’re wondering if you can achieve manicured nails in your home. Thanks to the advent of online shopping, the tool they use in professional nail salons, an electronic nail file, or ‘e-files’ are easily available for home use.

    What Are E-file Nail Drill Bits?

    E-file nail drill bits are interchangeable attachments screwed into an electronic nail file. They come in several types of materials and a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Almost all shapes of the nail drill bits used in professional salons are conveniently available through a couple of clicks on our phones.

    Nail drill bits are used to:

    • File nails
    • Remove gel or acrylic
    • Buff nails to prepare for nail enhancements
    • Exfoliate cuticles
    • Clean nail beds and under the nail
    • Smooth out gel and acrylic nails

    All that whirling and drilling of an electronic nail file may be intimidating, but nail drill bits are nothing to be afraid of.

    If you’re considering doing artificial nail enhancements, here are the supplies you need to get started:

    1. Electronic nail drill or e-file
    2. Nail drill bit set
    3. LED nail lamp (acrylic) or UV lamp (gel)
    4. Nail cutting scissors
    5. Acrylic nail liquid and powder kit or gel kit
    6. Application brush
    7. Nail tips
    8. Nail glue
    9. Nail primer
    10. Top coat
    11. Nail buffer

    If you’re hoping to find a solution that contains (almost) all the essentials, look for an acrylic nail kit to get you started on the right foot.

    Are you ready to get started using your electronic nail drill and e-file bits? We’ve got you covered with our complete electronic nail drill bits guide!

    Different Nail Drill Bits Explained

    Like all those different nail drill bits your husband leaves around the house when he finally gets to his handyman projects, nail drill bits for manicures and artificial nails have various uses.

    Nail drill bits come in various shapes, sizes, and materials. While the choices may be overwhelming, we’ve narrowed it down to the most common materials of nail drill bits and the most essential shapes.

    Let’s talk about the four main categories of nail drill bits heads. The attachments are categorized based on their material. Some at-home nail kits will include a variety of nail drill bit materials.

    Mandrel Bits with Sanding Bands

    Your go-to drill bit for filing nails and preparing nails will be a mandrel bit attachment with a sanding band. Mandrel bits and sanding bands always go hand-in-hand. The bit itself is reusable and can be made of rubber or metal. Sanding bands are paper or fabric cylinders which slip over the mandrel head and are disposed of after each new client. They are available in coarse, medium, and fine grits.

    Sanding bands are used to:

    • Prepare nail bed to remove oil
    • Sand natural nails
    • Remove existing polish or gel
    • Shorten natural nails
    • Sand down gel or acrylic nails

    Carbide Nail Drill Bits

    Depvko 3Pcs Nail Drill Bits Set
    $9.99 ($3.33 / Count)
    10/30/2023 02:10 pm GMT

    Made from a metal which is about 20 times stronger than steel, carbide nail drill bits are tough and made to last. They’re the kind you most likely come across at the nail salon, as they’re specifically designed to cut, file, and shape acrylic and artificial nails. They’re lined with flute-like cuts, which allow the attachments to shave off the product effectively. Carbide heads are sharp and should never be used on natural nails

    Carbide nail drill bits are used for:

    • Removing acrylic nail products
    • Cutting down acrylic nails
    • Advanced users and professional nail technicians

    Ceramic Nail Drill Bits

    Nail Drill Bits Set
    $15.99 ($15.99 / Count)
    10/31/2023 08:31 pm GMT

    Ceramic nail drill bits are ceramic-coated attachments with flute-like cuts, similar to carbide nail drill bits. They’re great for natural nails or clients with sensitive nail beds as they don’t heat up like carbide bits. These nail drill bits can be used for a complete manicure to remove products, exfoliate cuticles, and smooth nails.

    Ceramic nail drill bits are used for:

    • Removing polish and gel
    • Shaping nails
    • Buffering and smoothing nails
    • Cuticle exfoliation

    Diamond Nail Drill Bits

    Diamond nail drill bits are very versatile, as they work great for both artificial and natural manicures. The attachments are made of natural or synthetic diamond particles and scratch rather than shave off the product. Diamond nail drill bits are used for precise dead skin removal, to smooth natural nails, and work for pedicures too.

    Diamond nail drill bits are used for:

    • Scratching off product
    • Dead skin removal
    • Cuticle exfoliation
    • Pedicures

    Zohna Tip

    Purchase a nail drill set with a variety of sanding bands and material attachments to use on both natural and artificial nails.

    Electric Drill Bits Shapes

    There are dozens of different nail drill attachments with various shapes, sizes, and coarsenesses. Some nail drill bit kits will contain common attachment shapes with their own unique name. Nail drill bit attachments can be used for multiple purposes.

    Here are the most common electric nail drill bit shapes and their uses:

    Shape Description Use
    • Flat, sharp top
    • Cylinder shape
    • Removes all types of polish, gel, acrylic or dip
    • Cutting and shaping nails
    • Shortening nails
    • Surface work of nail
    • Not for use near cuticle
    UNC or Needle
    • Pointed tip
    • Slim, needle shape
    • Gets into tight spaces
    • Under nail cleaning and side walls
    Ball Top
    • Ball-shaped head
    • Slim shape
    • Exfoliates edges of cuticles
    • Remove dead skin
    • Cone-shaped tip
    • Long, slender shape
    • Prepare cuticle and sidewalls
    • Clean under nail
    • Remove nail product
    • Toenail shaping
    Safety Bits
    • Round tip
    • Various sizes
    • Clean and prep cuticle
    • File close to cuticle
    Flame Bits
    • Pointed tip
    • Slim shape
    • Cleaning around cuticle
    • Remove dead skin
    • Perfect polishing touch-ups
    Mandrel Bits
    • Rubber or metal
    • Cylinder shape
    • Work with disposable paper sanding bands
    • Prep nails for gel and acrylic
    • Gel and acrylic removal
    • Shape natural nails
    • Buff nail surface

    Cuticle Drill Bits

    MelodySusie Nail Drill Bit
    $8.99 ($8.99 / Count)
    10/31/2023 09:02 pm GMT

    Cuticle drill bits are designed to remove the dead skin around the cuticles and sidewalls and prepare the nail for artificial nail enhancements or polish. For natural nails, is always best to use a fine grit bit around the cuticles. If you’re comfortable with using nail drill bits, you may choose to use a medium coarse bit.

    The top four cuticle nail drill bits are:

    1. Cone drill bits: Remove excess gel or acrylic around the cuticle and sidewall
    2. Ball top drill bits: Exfoliate and polish skin around the nails
    3. Flame drill bits: Create a lip of dead skin around the cuticle for easy removal
    4. Safety bits: Designed to clean cuticles and remove dead skin without damaging the nail

    Some carbide nail drill bit sets contain cuticle drill bits, for advanced or professional nail technicians. We strongly recommend playing it safe and using diamond or ceramic attachments for working on the cuticles, especially on natural nails.

    File Nail Drill Bits

    10/31/2023 08:21 pm GMT

    The nail drill bits used most often to file down nails are barrel bits and mandrel bits with a sanding band. When filing down acrylic nails, barrel bits can easily shave off the length. Mandrel bits with sanding bands can be used on acrylic nails to file down or reshape the tip. If you are filing natural nails, you will always want to choose a mandrel bit with a medium to fine-grit sanding band.

    Acrylic Nail Drill Bits

    10/30/2023 02:16 pm GMT

    The primary material for acrylic nail drill bits is carbide. Carbide nail drill bits are the toughest material for shaving off and cutting down artificial nail enhancements. Choose a carbide nail drill bit set with various coarse and fine attachments for a complete acrylic nail set application and fill.

    Pros Cons
    Durabel Damaging to nail beds
    Last up to 3 weeks High maintenance
    Enhance length Require regular fills
    Can be filed into a variety of shapes Require soaking in acetone for proper removal

    What is the difference between gel and acrylic nails?

    Acrylic nails and gel nails are types of artificial nail enhancements. Both can be used with tips to achieve long, shaped nails. Gel nails are less damaging to the nail bed but are more expensive and require UV exposure. Some nails reject gel because they naturally have excess oil and moisture in the cuticles and nail bed.

    Pedicure Drill Bits

    Foot Nail Drill Bit Pedicure
    $12.92 ($12.92 / Count)
    10/30/2023 02:16 pm GMT

    Before using nail drill bits for pedicures, prepare your toes manually:

    1. Cut toenails
    2. File toenails with a manual nail file
    3. Use a manual cuticle pusher to prepare the toenail bed
    4. Remove excess cuticle skin with cuticle nail clippers

    For pedicures, use diamond attachments with a fine grit that are pointy and slim:

    • Diamond Cone Bit: Shape the nail and file surface to prepare for polish
    • Diamond Ball-Shaped Bit: Exfoliate the cuticle area around the toenail
    • Diamond Needle Bit: Clean narrow spaces around the cuticles and sidewalls

    You may also want to purchase a stainless steel pedicure bit separately from your nail drill bit kits. These large, cone-shaped attachments are designed to remove dry skin and calluses from the feet and heels.

    How to Use Nail Drill Bits: Step by Step

    How you use nail drill bits will depend on several factors, depending on whether you are working with natural or artificial nails, if the client wants to remove existing polish or gel, and whether you are preparing nails for a full, fresh set or doing a maintenance fill.

    Here is a step-by-step guide for using nail drill bits for a fresh acrylic nail set:

    Step 1: Product Removal

    Remove existing gel or acrylic using a medium or coarse carbine cone drill bit or barrel drill bit. Use a cotton ball soaked in acetone to remove any remaining product or polish.

    Step 2: Prepare Natural Nail Bed

    Prepare the natural nail bed by using a mandrel nail drill bit with a medium-coarse sanding band. Gently buffer the entire nail bed to remove oil and shine.

    Step 3: Exfoliate Cuticle and Sidewalls

    Select a diamond ball-top shape drill bit or a safety bit and exfoliate the cuticles, sidewalls, and the entire perimeter of the nail to remove dead skin.

    Step 4: Acrylic Application

    Select artificial nail tips for each finger and apply them with acrylic nail glue. Trim the artificial nail tips to the desired length. Use acrylic liquid and powder to create the nail enhancement. Place nails under a UV lamp to allow them to dry.

    Step 5: Shape Nails

    Using a manual nail file or nail buffer block, file the artificial nails into the desired shape: coffin, almond, oval, square, etc.

    Step 6: Smooth Out Nail Surface and Nail Perimeter

    Attach a carbine barrel drill bit and smooth out the entire nail surface. Change the attachment to a carbine, ceramic, or diamond flame drill bit and smooth out the cuticles and sidewalls.

    Step 8: Clean Under the Nail

    Using a diamond needle drill bit, carefully clean out and smooth under each artificial nail.

    Step 9: Perfect the Cuticles

    Change your nail drill bit to a ball-top or a safety drill bit to exfoliate and perfect the cuticles.

    Step 10: Decorate the Nails

    You are ready to decorate your nails! Once painted, dry your nails under a UV lamp and finish by applying nourishing cuticle oil.

    3 Best Nail Drill Bits

    When purchasing nail drill bits separately from a nail drill machine, consider the shank size. The standard shank size for a professional nail drill machine is 3/32″ and works with 3/32″ shank nail drill bits.

    Are you ready to purchase nail drill bits for your nail drill machine? Below are our top choices for nail drill bit sets, which include various materials, shapes, and grits. These sets have everything you need for a beautiful manicure, from prep to polish!

    Depkvo 30Pcs Nail Drill Bits

    Depvko 30Pcs Nail Drill Bits
    $16.99 ($16.99 / Count)
    10/30/2023 02:25 pm GMT

    Depvko’s 30-piece nail drill bit set offers various carbide, ceramic, and diamond drill bit attachments. With this set, you’ll be able to perform acrylic, gel, and natural manicures. The attachments allow you to do everything from product removal to cuticle exfoliation.

    The kit features nail drill bits, among other tools:

    • 3 clear plastic storage cases to keep nail drill bits organized
    • 12 tungsten carbide nail drill bits for artificial nail enhancements
    • 7 ceramic nail drill bits for natural or sensitive nails
    • 7 diamond nail drill bits for under nail cleaning and cuticle exfoliation
    • 2 quartz pointed nail bits for polishing the nails
    • 1 blue silicone flame bit for polishing and shaping nails
    • 1 pink brush bit to tidy nails and clean off debris
    • Universal 3/32″ shank size

    MelodySusie Nail Drill Bits Set 7Pcs Tungsten Carbide

    MelodySusie Nail Drill Bits Set
    $28.99 ($28.99 / Count)
    10/30/2023 02:36 pm GMT

    MelodySusie supplies professional quality manicure equipment. This 7-piece set of tungsten carbide nail drill bits is the ultimate set for acrylic nails. The attachments are great for removing acrylic and gel products, preparing nails, shaping, and exfoliating for a complete acrylic manicure.

    This nail drill bit kit includes:

    • 2 fine grit drill bits for dead skin removal, cuticles and under-nail cleaning
    • 3 medium grit drill bits for shaping and shortening nails
    • 1 coarse grit drill bit for product removal
    • 1 safety drill bit for gentle cuticle work
    • Universal 3/32″ shank size

    KISS Power File X Nail Dryer

    10/30/2023 02:51 pm GMT

    Are you looking to try out e-filing at home without a pricey commitment? The Power File x Nail Dryer by KISS New York is an all-in-one nail dryer and electronic nail file with interchangeable nail drill bits. KISS nail drill bits work best for natural nails. The set includes a nail dryer, a rechargeable electronic nail file, and 12 nail drill bits to groom, shape, buff, and polish nails.

    It includes coarse disk attachments to exfoliate calluses and dead skin on feet, as well as:

    • Built-in nail dryer for polish, acrylic, and gel
    • Rechargeable electronic nail drill with 12 nail drill bit attachments
    • Polishing disc to shine nails
    • Coarse disks for pedicures and exfoliation
    • Emery disk to shape and smooth nails
    • Cone drill bits for polish removal
    • Barrel drill bits for filing nails
    • Precision drill bits for cuticles and sidewalls
    • Cuticle pusher


    • Nail Drill Bits Color Code

      When we talk about nail drill bits and sanding bands, we often refer to the coarseness of the grit. Each nail technician may prefer different coarseness for different purposes, but the standard rule breaks down the coarseness of grits and their uses into three categories:

      1. Fine Nail Drill Bit: Used to smooth out the top of artificial nails and clean cuticle area
      2. Medium Nail Drill Bit: Used to smooth out lumps of acrylic or gel product during application
      3. Coarse Nail Drill Bit: Used to remove gel top coat and shave down artificial nails

      The nail drill bits color code breaks down coarseness into five colors and numerical values. The higher the number, the more coarse the grit.

      Color Coarseness Numerical Values
      Yellow Super Fine 15-30
      Red Fine 30-70
      Blue Medium 70-125
      Green Coarse 125-190
      Black Super Coarse 190-300

      Some nail drill bit manufacturers will expand their coarse drill bits to include orange, ‘2X Coarse’, and pink, ‘3X Coarse’. These are usually recommended for professional salon use.

    • Which Nail Drill Bit To Remove Gel Polish?

      Medium to coarse carbine barrel nail drill bits work best to remove gel polish. Once the bulk of the gel is shaved off, you can use a carbine, ceramic, or diamond cone drill bit to take off any excess gel around the perimeter of the nail.

    • How To Change Nail Drill Bits

      Here’s how to change nail drill bits out when you need to switch it up or tackle a different nail task:

      1. Press the lock button on the nail drill pen to release the attachment
      2. Keep the lock button pressed down and turn the nail drill bit counter-clockwise
      3. Take out the current nail drill bit and replace it with the desired attachment
      4. Press and hold the lock button and turn the nail drill bit clockwise until it is screwed in tightly

      Depending on which nail drill you buy, the process to change e-file nail drill bits may differ slightly.

    • How To Clean Nail Bits

      Never underestimate the importance of cleaning nail drill bits. Nail drill bits should be cleaned and sanitized between clients or between each use.

      Here’s what you need to keep in mind to maintain clean nail drill bits and why it’s important:

      • Using nail drill bits breaks the skin, causing bacteria to enter if the attachments aren’t sterilized, so take the time to sanitize your nail drill bits after use.
      • A build-up of dirt on nail drill bits makes them less sharp and effective, so it’s important to ensure you maintain their condition.
      • Each nail tool needs to be cleaned and sterilized as directed by their individual directions.

      Here’s how to clean nail bits step-by-step effectively:

      1. Brush off dust and residue with a brand new, dry toothbrush or a hard brush
      2. Fill a small bowl with acetone or Barbicide
      3. Soak nail drill bits for 10 minutes
      4. Pat dry nail drill bits to absorb moisture
      5. Allow nail drill bits to air dry before using them again

    You Nailed It!

    Understanding what the different nail drill bits are used for is easy, but perfection comes with time. As you get comfortable with your e-file, you’ll be so comfortable with nail drill bits that you could use them blindfolded! (Although we strongly do not recommend it) Now get filing!