One of my favorite childhood memories revolves around what my mother affectionately dubbed, “Sunday Night Spa Night” — and, years later, it helped me stop biting my nails permanently. Every Sunday, my mother would set aside some time to pamper herself for the work week ahead, which included blowing her hair out, tweezing her eyebrows, and painting her nails.
I, like many little girls, reveled in watching my mother “beautify” herself. I was fascinated by how she was able to style her thick, curly hair into smooth, voluminous waves and even more mesmerized by how effortlessly she gave herself a manicure — and she noticed. One Sunday, it happened: She offered to paint my nails. I remember all at once being really excited and then immediately filled with dread because I bit my nails, something she also noticed. Regardless, she took my tiny six-year-old hands and gave me my first manicure. I was convinced they’d look horrible, but as they say, “mama knows best” because after she applied that shiny Sally Hansen top coat, I felt like a star.
As much as I’d like to say this cured me of my nail biting habit, I can’t. In fact, I kept it up for decades after that. But my first manicure and the “Sunday Night Spa Nights” would be the driving force behind how I stopped biting my nails for good.
How to Stop Biting Your Nails for Good
For those of you struggling to break the habit, you’re well aware that it’s going to take more than just slapping on a wonder polish and calling it a day. This is not going to be an article where I wax poetic about the wonders of Mavala or any other insert-name-of-no-more-biting-nail-polish-here because I’ve tried them all to no avail. When it comes to nail-biting, punishment won’t resolve it.
Significant changes, both mental and physical, must be made, but if I can do it, I have faith that you can, too.
Scroll down to see the seven steps I took to stop biting my fingernails.
Step 1: Make the Commitment to Stop Biting Your Nails and Skin
After years of literally chomping at the bit, I took the first and hardest step: I made the conscious decision to commit to a bite-free lifestyle and stopped cold turkey. Now I know “to break the habit you have to just stop” isn’t what you want to hear. Boy, do I know. However, as with any habit, to truly break it, you need to channel your inner willpower. You need to remind yourself why you want to do this and why it will be worth it.
At the end of December 2016, I asked myself, “What could I accomplish in the next year that would make me proud?” Immediately, the memory of that first manicure flashed across my mind. I wanted to recreate the feeling I had and knew that meant one thing — I would have to stop biting my nails. Was it easy? No. Did it get easier? You bet. It meant a little soul searching on my part, but it ultimately led me down the hardest and most transforming road of my nail journey.
Step 2: Identify Your Triggers and Replace the Action of Biting Your Nails
While step one is the hardest, step two is runner up. Giving up a habit will test anyone. It’s something that takes a lot of discipline as well as some mental rewiring. So after you make the commitment and stop, you need to identify your triggers and replace the action.
For me, anxiety has always been a big reason behind the issue, so whenever I found myself in a stressful situation, feeling the urge to bite, I snapped my fingers. I know it sounds ridiculous — it was. But hear me out. By doing this, I was consistently alerting myself to the problem, giving me ample time to process what I was doing and address it head-on. Thanks to this auditory cue, I began to realize just how much I was biting my nails, and it was a lot. Layer that with what I had known for years about the number of germs I was willingly putting into my mouth on a daily basis (which is a good reason why to stop biting your nails in the first place), and my habit gradually began to die down.
Step 3: Load Up on Biotin to Boost Nail Health
Aside from the mental aspect of deciding to stop biting my nails, there was a vital second part to the internal change — I needed to incorporate some vitamins. The years of abuse on my nails had made them flimsy and weak, and with nails being a good indicator of your overall health, I knew they needed some intervention. After my doctor recommended biotin pills, I went to the vitamin aisle to find the right supplement for me. Here’s a list of some of the best vitamins for nails (including my go-to!):
Sports Research Biotin
Where to buy: $14.20, Amazon
This vitamin from Sports Research is a great option for those new to biotin supplements. Biotin is one of the B complex vitamins widely known to aid the health of hair, skin, and nails. This particular supplement is made with coconut oil, the wonder oil of the last 10 years. But don’t take my word for it — check out the rave reviews! Amazon buyer Vanessa M. said, “My nails are great now, so strong I can keep them quite long. People ask if my nails are real!"
Sugar Bear Hair Vitamins
Where to buy: $24.48, Amazon
If there’s one skin/hair/nail vitamin you’re probably aware of, it’s this one. These vitamins became a viral sensation after getting scores of celebrity endorsements and seem to have a cult following for a reason. Made with over 10 of the most essential vitamins to a healthy diet, including 5000 micrograms of Biotin, these gummy vitamins might very well become your favorite part of your vitamin regimen.
Genius Beauty Hair, Skin, and Nails Vitamins
Where to buy: $37.99, Amazon
This next supplement is not your everyday beauty vitamin. Far from just another biotin supplement the Genius Beauty Hair, Skin, and Nails vitamin is made with ingredients scientifically proven to give you results, including collagen peptides, glutathione, astaxanthin, ceramides, and other antioxidants. If you’re looking for a hair/skin/nail supplement that can also aid in boosting your immune system and soothing your aching joints, this is the one for you.
Vine Nutrition Hairtonica
Where to buy: $21.99, Amazon
The Hairtonica vitamin from Vine Nutrition is similar to others on this list thanks to its biotin and collagen composition, but what sets it apart is its two other star ingredients: keratin and grapeseed extract. Both are well known for being incredibly helpful to the overall health of nails, and when combined with biotin and collagen, what you get is the ultimate beauty vitamin, guaranteed to strengthen your nails, grow your hair, and keep your skin smooth and glowing.
Where to buy: $28.22, Amazon
When it came down to choosing a nail vitamin for myself, this is the one I picked up. This vitamin worked wonders on my nails thanks to its complex mixture of vitamins and minerals, including 5000 micrograms of biotin per serving. With additional ingredients, such as niacinamide, zinc, and horsetail extract, Naturentics' Hair Anew uses a small blend of supplements (with 11 active ingredients) to give your hair, skin, and nails the focused nutrition they need to be at their strongest.
Step 4: Create Your Own Nail Tool Kit
Now that we’ve addressed some internal steps to take towards ditching the nail habit, let's talk about the external steps. On my nail journey, my saving grace was approaching it from a self-care standpoint. Instead of looking at caring for my nails as a chore, I turned it into a treat by stocking up on everything I’d need for a great home manicure I could be proud of.
The first step to any successful project is to make sure you have all the supplies you need. Now you can go and pick up one of those wallet-sized manicure kits (that don’t really come with everything you need), or you can make your own with these four handy products.
1. Magique Cuticle Oil Pen
Where to buy: $10.94, Amazon
The first thing I picked up for my kit was a cuticle oil pen, like this one above from Magique. Made with a rich blend of vitamins A and E, this oil will soften your cuticles while indulging your nails in some much-needed nourishment.
2. Cuticle Pusher
Where to buy: $4.99, Amazon
Alongside the cuticle oil, I made sure to pick up a cuticle pusher. After saturating the nail with oil, specifically focusing on the cuticle area at the base of the nail, I gently push my cuticles back with the curved edge of the instrument. Make sure you never cut the cuticle as this can leave microscopic cuts on the skin around your nail, leading to infections.
3. OPI Crystal Nail File
Where to buy: $9.45, Amazon
The next item I made sure to pick up was a crystal nail file from OPI because after some proper cuticle care, its time to give your nails a good file. Why the crystal nail file? I prefer to use a crystal file over a traditional emory board because the file lasts longer, makes the nail shine more, and files down the nail in half the time.
4. L'Occitane "Amande" Hand Cream
Where to buy: $12, Amazon
The last item (and one of the most important) to make sure you add to your kit is a good hand cream. Once I'm done filing, I rinse my hands and apply some of my favorite hand cream to top off the experience. I’m a huge fan of the Amande hand cream from French beauty house L’Occitane because, while its rich and hydrating, it never leaves my hands greasy, something vital for the next step.
Step 5: Protect, Polish, and Preserve to Stop Biting Your Nails Fast
Now that your nails have been properly prepared, it’s time for the fun part, something I refer to as the three P’s: protect, polish, and preserve.
Nailtiques Formula 2 Plus Protein Base
Where to buy: $9.49, Target
Before you paint your nails, it’s important to apply a base coat to protect the nail bed and apply nutrients directly to the nails surface. My go-to from day one has been Formula 2 Plus from Nailtiques. Thanks to its hydrolyzed protein and keratin complexes, this polish strengthens nails, prevents splitting, and helps them grow in record time. If there’s one product I recommend the most on this list, it’s this one.
OPI "Thrill of Brazil" Red Nail Lacquer
Where to buy: $9.98, Amazon
Up next is the polish. When I first stopped biting my nails, I always opted for a red hue. It’s bright, it’s cheerful, and most importantly, it’s visible. Using a bright color will help deter you from biting your nails because you’ll feel less inclined to mess up a good job. If you do, it will painfully noticeable. My go-to was (and still is) “Thrill of Brazil” from OPI’s Nail Lacquer line, my favorite red and my favorite polish for its long-lasting quality and ease of application.
OPI Infinite Shine Top Coat
Where to buy: $12.35, Amazon
As with any good manicure, it’s important to seal it all in with a nice top coat. I personally use OPI’s Infinite Shine glossy top coat. It locks in the color fast, never dries out, and keeps my manicure shining like a diamond for weeks on end.
Step 6: Use Art as a Driving Force to Stop Biting Your Nails Forever
Where to buy: $11.99, Amazon
If you're anything like me, then you love a good DIY activity — so what better way to encourage you to break your nail biting habit than with the possibility of a fun art project? Once my nails got long enough, I wanted to experiment with nail designs. For years, I had admired the scores of beautiful manicures I had seen across Pinterest, dreaming of the day I could recreate them on my own nails. It was always something in the back of my mind, acting as another driving force to stop biting my nails. So the minute I was able to, I picked up this nail dotting design set from Benemo. With 14 dual-sided instruments, some with a brush end and some with a ball end, I was finally able to turn my beautiful, new nails into the canvas of my dreams, officially recreating the magical feeling from that “Sunday Night Spa Night” long ago.
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