Nail Tech Guide: How to Prevent Rings of Fire


Rings of fire are red semi circles or grooves that appear on the nail plate. This indicates damage to the nail bed caused by over filing, and may be painful for some people. When you over file the nail plate, it thins the nail down, near to the nail bed which then creates these sensitive spots. 


Common mistakes that cause rings of fire include:


  • Filing the tip of the bit into the nail plate
  • Using too much pressure 
  • Incorrect speed (too fast or too slow)
  • Over filing (doing too many passes)

Tips to Prevent Over Filing Nails

If you’re a nail tech or nail DIYer, maintaining healthy nails should be your top priority. If it’s not, you risk losing clients and damaging nails. Follow the tips below to avoid over filing nails and creating rings of fire:

  • Run your bit at the correct angle
  • Use high-quality nail bits
  • Use the correct speed (RPM)
  • Avoid doing too many passes (less is more!)


Tip #1: Run Your Bit at the Correct Angle


The shape of the nail bit will determine how you will angle it on the nail plate. 

Bits that are cylindrical (flat sides), use parallel to the nail plate. Use light pressure to sweep away dead skin cells, and gently push it into the proximal nail fold. 

For flame or football-shaped nail bits such as Erica's flame bit, use the bit tip's 'cheek' when exfoliating, not the body or belly of the bit. You'll be working at roughly a 45 degree angle to the nail plate. The tip of the flame should be able to clean out the underside part of the proximal nail fold. 

If you’re working with a ball bit, never run it on the nail plate. Instead, work on top of the skin and proximal nail fold. Pull back the skin to where the cuticle is standing up to better access the areas where you want to exfoliate without touching the nail plate. 

Tip #2: Use High-Quality Nail Bits


By using low-quality nail bits, you’ll find yourself applying too much force into the nail plate. This is because the tool is working less effectively, so techs tend to lean in and apply more pressure in order to achieve their goal; however, this will cause damage to the nails. Instead, use high-quality bits (like Erica's!) that allow you to complete the service efficiently with even better results. Erica's diamond bits are made in the USA with 100% real diamond particles, making them the best tool for dry manicures.

Tip #3: Use the Correct Speed (RPM)


There are two ways that speed can cause rings of fire: running too slow or running too fast. If the bit is running too slow, it’ll lead to dragging in which the operator ends up applying more pressure into the nail plate in order to achieve their goal. If you find that your bit is going too slow, increase the RPM to where you can gently exfoliate the nail. Allow the RPM to do the work for you. 

If you run your electric nail file at too high of RPM, you risk losing control of the bit, over filing, or creating nicks in live tissue.

Tip #4: Avoid Doing Too Many Passes (Less is More!)


If you do too many passes with your electric nail file, it’ll cause the nail plate to thin down. If the nail plate gets too thin, that increases the risk of coming into contact with the nail bed, which then causes the rings of fire.  

To see these tips in action, check out our YouTube video here.


Rings of fire are common mistakes; however, there are ways to prevent them from forming altogether. If you do run into a situation where the client has rings of fire, don’t panic. Here are a couple of our recommendations:

  • Apply product if the ring of fire is not deep - When curing, place nails slightly outside of the lamp to prevent an uncomfortable heat spike. Move the hand closer to the lamp and eventually into the lamp for a full cure.
  • If the ring of fire is deep, don’t apply any product and allow the nail to naturally grow out.

Don’t allow rings of fire to scare you away from using an electric nail file. Mistakes happen, and the best thing that you can do is learn from it and continue to improve. You got this!

April 11, 2023 — Erica Schlabach