I remember looking at my nails and thinking, they're always going to be ugly, so why even bother? I'm so glad I did! I'm not an expert, just an ordinary chick with a 35 year nail biting habit that I finally managed to overcome. I thought it was time to share my tips and tricks on how to go from Nibbled Nubbins to Killer Claws!
Tabbzoid, one of my former foster kittens, showing how it's done.
Read on for my top ten tips:
I have always, always bitten and picked at my nails and cuticles, apparently from the time I first had teeth. Nothing could deter me - cash incentives, bitter-tasting polish, even becoming a nurse, and contemplating the horrors that lurked under my nails at the end of a particularly disgusting shift. The thing that finally convinced me to kick the habit? Diamonds of course!
Personality and sense of humour are totally important too.
But only if he doesn't have diamonds. And he'd better be funny as hell.
I had a hunch David was gearing up to pop the question, and I had nightmares of showing off a brand new engagement ring on my rat-nibbled-looking fingers.
Gratuitous engagement ring photo.
Fast forward 2 years (Engaged? Yes! Married? Not yet...sigh) and I'm pretty good with my nails, so I thought I'd share my tips and tricks to help you get started, and to help you stay on the wagon, most of the time.
1. MAKE NAIL CLIPPERS YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND
Special nail clippers are special.
The hardest part about quitting is that you have all these raggedy cuticles and jagged nail edges that are too tempting to leave alone. I find that after years of biting, my nails are very soft and peel like crazy. They don't take kindly to filing, so I use nail clippers instead. Use them to clip off any little bits of jagged nail, or ragged cuticle - you know, the bits that catch on your clothes and are just begging to be picked at. Carry your clippers EVERYWHERE.
2. MOISTURISE RELIGIOUSLY
The Holy Trinity of the First Church of Pretty Nails*.
*May not be a real church. But send money if you like.
Dry cuticles are a huge temptation to pick at, and cuticle picking leads to nail biting. Moisturising ensures your cuticles stay soft, with none of those annoying little flaky bits. Massaging the cuticles and nail beds increases circulation and helps everything stay happy and healthy. I've found it's good to have 3 things: a cuticle balm or butter, a thick, deep-moisturising hand cream for night, and a fast-absorbing, non-greasy hand cream for day. My current favourites are NS-5 Cuticle & Nail complex, Lanolips Rose Balm Intense for night, and L'Occitane hand cream for day. Nivea Express Hydration hand cream is another daytime favourite, it absorbs super quick and it's under $5!
3. USE A GREAT STRENGTHENING BASE COAT
I went through about six different Sally Hansen base coats and treatments, ranging in price from $10 - $17, and none of them made a noticeable difference. OPI Nail Envy is very good, but the one that made the most difference to my nails is Revitanail Nail Strengthener.
Nothing so far has stopped my nails from peeling, I think they always will, but with Revitanail I actually felt like my nails grew faster. There's quite a complicated "process" of application if you use it according to directions, but I just use it as a base coat for nail polish, which means I apply it probably twice a week.
4. KEEP THEM POLISHED
They always say not to use nail polish when you're trying to stop biting, or grow your nails, but it was the defining factor in helping me quit the biting habit. For me, nail polish is great on a number of levels. For a start, the smoother your nails are, the less likely you are to nibble at them. You will be surprised at how nice your nails can look when polished - mine are often a disaster underneath it all. The photos below were taken today:
This has base coat but no polish, my nails are peeling and they look kind of flat and weird shaped.
With polish they look so much better (excuse the weird lighting, I just snapped a quick photo in the kitchen).
No matter how short your nails are, they will look better with polish than without. Short nails look surprisingly good with a dark polish like plum, navy or black. As a rule, cream polishes look better than metallic or shimmery shades (these will highlight ridges or peeling areas). The best feature of polished nails for me though? It adds an extra layer of defence.
5. CARRY POLISH REMOVER WIPES AND BASE COAT WITH YOU
As I mentioned above, nail polish is fun to pick at. If I've had a nervy day and picked all my polish off by lunchtime, I can see all the peely bits of fingernail I want to pick at. My nails usually look dry and terrible once the polish has been picked off, and if it's a few hours until I get home, my nails are toast.
Shut up it DOES SO look like toast.
I carry nail polish remover pads and a little bottle of base coat in my handbag, along with my friendly clippers.This way, I can tidy them up and pop a coat of clear polish on them to keep them smooth until I get home and sort them out. It basically comes down to being prepared for temptations and minimising risk.
6. TREAT THEM LIKE JEWELS, NOT TOOLS
Ok maybe that's too literal.
7. DON'T GROW THEM TOO LONG
I know right? The idea that my nails would ever get so long I'd have to cut them was laughable. But it happened, and quite quickly too! The problem is, the longer your nails are the more easily they can bend and break. It's science...and I'm kind of a nerd so indulge me for a sec.
And science is always better with monkeys.
Archimedes is basically saying the longer the lever, the less force is required. In very simplistic (and possibly slightly inaccurate) manicure terms: You can imagine in the picture above, that if the earth was glued to the lever, and was very heavy, the lever would break at the point of the triangle. Your nails are fixed at the base, and free at the ends. The longer the free end is, the less force has to be applied to bend and break the nail. I usually keep my nails slightly below the tips of my fingers, which for me means about 2 - 3mm growth.
8. TAKE A DIETARY SUPPLEMENT
Look for a supplement that contains Biotin (Vitamin B7 or sometimes called Vitamin H). Your nails are made of keratin, a type of protein. Biotin assists with healthy protein production and several studies have shown that biotin promotes the formation of stronger nails. Be aware, though, that these supplements take around 3 months to show results, simply because the nail you can see has already been made. Think about the rate of growth of your nails, and the amount of time it would take a small dot at the base of your nail to reach your fingertip. New nail growth will be stronger, but you have to give the old weak portion of your nail time to grow out. In 3 months' time though, your nails will be stronger all the way from the cuticles to the tips. Worth it!
9. SAVE ONE THUMBNAIL FOR BITING
When I first started on my quitting journey, cold turkey was just too hard. I saved my right thumb nail for my one "biting nail", and I bit the living daylights out of it! I chose a thumbnail because it was easier to hide, however now I know that the thumbnails are the slowest growing out of all the nails, so I am aware of the consequences if I bite them! Eventually I was able to muster up the willpower to give that one last nail the chance to shine, because it looked so awful compared to my other nails, but it got me through a lot of difficult times during the first few months.
10. HAVE FUN WITH NAIL POLISH!
Right from the start, pick some pretty polishes and make a habit of doing your nails when they start looking chipped or messy. This was a really enjoyable part of quitting for me - it became like another fashion option besides makeup or jewellery, and now I'm obsessed! There are so many beautiful polishes out there - creams, metallics, holographic, glitters, every colour of the rainbow and then some! It's great to have plenty of choices. Nail stickers ("decals") are fun for adding cute little pictures, "shatter" polishes are great for a textured, multilayered look (or quickly covering up a smudged or chipped mani), and there are even nail wraps, which are like stick-on sheets of nail polish! Read plenty of reviews and blogs before you choose your polishes, as a bad quality polish will be frustrating to work with and make you feel like you're not good enough, when really it's not you at all! The more you enjoy playing with your nails, the more likely you are to treasure them.
So there you have it, my ten "pretty finger" tips for ten pretty fingertips!
One last gratuitous engagement ring photo - all fingertips are prettier with kittens attached :)