I bit my nails for almost 20 years. Yeah, you read that right. Nearly my entire life, right through adolescence and into my adult life, I have bitten my nails.
Well, up until about a year ago.
I never really paid attention to my nails. My biting habit was a cathartic release from my ever-present anxiety. And let's be real: I can't paint my nails to save my life anyway, which is why I'm all about the negative space nail trend. I didn't become aware of how disgusting this habit was until I got a real-life desk job and noticed that I was in the direct eye line of our receptionist. This means she had to look up at me, gnawing on my tiny nub nails, all day every day.
I felt terrible. Even as a nail biter, seeing other people on public transit biting their nails grossed me out, so I could only imagine what she was thinking every day. I was horrified. But even then, I continued to bite — I just made more of an effort to hide it.
For those of you who don't bite your nails, it often isn't just your nails that look terrible and disheveled; it's your whole nail bed and the skin surrounding it. In my time as a nail biter, I developed callouses above and around my nails that I would pick at and make even worse. I was incredibly familiar with the sharp, straight-to-the-bone pain of biting my nails right down to the quick (and often past it). I tried tracking down some photos to use as an example of just how short they were, but I hated my nails and did my best to hide them over the years.
Before you say, "Well didn't you try those nail polishes that taste bad? The ones made for nail biters?" I need to let you in on a little secret: I DID use that polish, and even the gross, bitter, chemical taste couldn't stop me from biting my nails. It had to be a mental switch, but even then, after all these years, it wasn't that simple.
I desperately wanted to stop biting my nails, but this decades-long habit had me unconsciously putting my nails to my mouth at any awkward or stressful moment. Trying to think up a new concept at work? Biting. Sitting alone at a bus stop? Biting. I just couldn't let it go. I tried putting an elastic around my wrist to snap every time I caught myself, but that didn't work either.
I wanted the long, slender nails I associate with a put-together adult. With my nails bitten down so badly, how was I ever going to be taken seriously?
Then I thought up a plan: acrylics. I mean, you can't really bite those, and I'd have the long, gorgeous nails I always wanted, instantly.
I booked an appointment at the nearest salon and decided to pop in the day before to see if I needed to prep myself in any way for the application. It was only a few seconds before the receptionist broke it to me that my nails were too short for acrylics. I had no idea, but you need a bit of an overhang to slip the guide under during the application. My nails were so short there was absolutely no space, making tips impossible.
I was devastated. My quick and easy route was not an option. Regardless, I kept the appointment, opting instead for a normal manicure. Maybe just having someone else clean up my nails and make them look nice will keep me from picking at them, I thought. I mean, it worked in the past (sort of) when I attempted to do nail art on myself.
It was at this appointment the lovely woman doing my nails suggested I do a "shellac," which I assumed was just normal polish. She clarified that she meant a gel manicure, and that it was longer-lasting and had virtually no drying time. I was sold. I mean, I wasn't 100% sure what a gel manicure was, but I figured it was similar to what they do with acrylics, without the acrylic tips. It was close enough to what I was originally planning on, being that this extra layer would make it nearly impossible to bite off my nails. That and the fact that they virtually don't chip was incredibly alluring.
I went with the gel, and within the hour I had perfectly strong, manicured nails. I soon found that I could go weeks without a single chip, even after absentmindedly scrubbing down pots with a copper wire puff. They were virtually impossible to ruin! I was in love.
I'm incredibly impatient when it comes to painting my nails, and I just can't see a traditional manicure standing up to what I put my nails through. It's only been a year since I quit biting and my nails grow like weeds! Even when I had the gel polish removed for a few months, my nails were still stronger than ever.
I've completely rid myself of this horrible habit, and I don't think it would have been possible without the instant strength that comes with a gel manicure. It's why it's the first thing I recommend to anyone who comes to me and complains about having brittle, short nails. It won't give you instant length, but it sure as hell with give you the strength. The length comes in time, and when you have your own strong, long nails, you'll never think about acrylics — or biting — again.
• Did you ever bite your nails? How did you stop?
• Have you ever had a gel manicure? How long do they last you?