How I Stopped Biting My Nails: A Guide to Healthy Nails

I was a nail biter for the longest time. I started biting my nails when I was around 7.  I think it was just a stupid habit I took on when my hands were idle. Basically any time my hands weren't being used for something else, they were being bitten! I never really chewed my nails down so much that it hurt, rather, I bit my cuticles until they bled (remember that scene in Black Swan?). If my nails had a crack or tear in them, I would try to even it out using my teeth. I knew it was a bad habit but it was exactly that, a habit. Time and again I would stop biting them but would soon begin once again. I had always loved the look of healthy long nails so thast was definitely a motivator to stop biting my nails. Anytime they would grow out a couple centimeters above my fingertip, I would get extremely excited, however this excitement was always overcome with the realization that my nails were so incredibly week that they would break break break. There were a few times where the tip of my nail literally ripped clean off while washing my hair. They were so weak, brittle, and nutrient deprived that sometimes I could bend the tip backwards like rubber. I thought that I had weak nails due to genetics and that I would never be able to have nice nails.

About a year and a half ago, I bought a beautiful shade of pink nail polish by Essie called French Affair. I had always eyed the creamy light colors by Essie at target but could never justify spending $8 on nail polish. When I first used this color, I fell in love! This specific color made me want to make my nails pretty and presentable. I soon began to take care of my nails; I was never one to cut my nails, but I always filed and cut my cuticles. Soon my fingers and my nails were looking better and better. Of course this whole process took over a year for me, however I can safely tell you right now that I will never bite my nails again. It feels awesome to actually know this.

What you need to know:

  • Weak nails can definitely be made stronger
  • You can stop biting your nails.
  • Nail biting is unhealthy:
    • We use our hands all day. All the germs stuck under our nails end up in our mouth when we bite our nails.
    • Biting your cuticles enough can permanently change the way they grow.
    • It's embarrassing! Not only is it embarrassing to have stubby nails and torn cuticles, but its also really embarrassing to be seen with fingers in our mouths!
What you need to do is make yourself a toolkit. Below are my favorite tools for taking care of my nails. All of the tools can be found at your local beauty supply, drugstore, and online. You can find vitamin E and castor oil at a health food store (Whole Foods, VP Discount Health Food) and also online.
    • A nail file - First,  I prefer filing my nails as opposed to using a nail clipper. I find that clippers result in uneven tips and splintering. I like my nail files to be very fine grained, I find that the finer they are, the less likely my nail is to splinter. In terms of the type of nail file, I switch between a stone file, a metal file, and an emery board. The metal ones tend to splinter, and the stone takes a long time so I usually stick a more professional emery board. I have yet to try a glass nail file however I have heard that that is a good option! Which is your favorite type of nail file?
    • Cuticle cutter - I actually don't cut my cuticles (more on why later) but this little guy is good to have when you have a hang nail, or a ripped cuticle.
    • Cuticle oil - Although you can buy oil specifically marketed towards cuticle use, I prefer using either vitamin E oil or castor oil, both of which are very beneficial for nail health.
    • Nail strengthener - This is optional however I have found it useful. Although nail strengthening polishes aren't my go-to for actually strengthening my weak nails, they definitely help because they make your nail physically harder when you apply them. This is helpful for anyone suffering from weak, rubbery nails. OPI's Nail Envy is a good option.
    • Nail polish - Buy yourself a brand spankin' new nail polish in a color you love! This will give you the motivation you need to work towards healthier nails.
    • Nail buffer - This is also a useful tool but must be used sparingly.
    • Nail cleaner - This is definitely something that I find necessary in my nail routine. Although you can substitute this with pretty much anything that can clean under your nails, I prefer this actual tool because its shape is made especially so that it doesn't harm your nail or finger.
    • Nail brush - These are super cheap and useful for cleaning your nails. I usually get mine at my local drugstore or beauty supply.
    Once you have your nail toolkit, you are ready to begin! Give yourself and adequate amount of time to take care of your nails. It may not seem especially necessary, but putting aside a bit of time each week will result in a huge improvement in your nails. Just put on a movie and get ready to give yourself a manicure!

    1. Filing and shaping - Making sure your hands are clean, shorten (if necessary) and shape your nails with your nail file. Some nails are naturally more square while others are round. Shape your nail into your desired shape, keeping in mind that rounder tips don't break as easily as more square ones do. While filing nails, make sure to only go in one direction as going back and forth can result in splintering. Use your buffer to gently buff the surface of your nail. Keep in mind that using a buffer is like sanding down your nail, so do this very sparingly. I don't recommend using the side of the nail buffer meant to shine your nails, it unnecessarily thins out your nail.
    2. Cuticles - Now you're going to massage your oil into your cuticles. If you have no oil, just use a hydrating and moisturizing lotion. Massage this well into your cuticles for about a minute. Next, treat any hang nails and safely trim torn skin from cuticles. I don't recommend trimming cuticles unless they are extremely dry and in need of being removed. Cuticles exist to protect our fragile nail bed therefore it is better to make them healthy then to cut them off.
    3. Cleaning - With your nail cleaner, clean any dirt underneath your nails and wipe off on a paper towel. Now take your nail brush and gently clean your finger nails in warm water and a bit of gentle soap.
    4. Strengthener - If you have weak and rubbery nails, I would recommend a strengthener because the added coat of polish will physically make your nails more durable. This will help in the growing process as it will keep your nails stronger and safer from breakage.
    5. Moisturize and Hydrate - It is SO important to keep your cuticles and hands moisturized. I use a very moisturizing hand cream after I wash my hands to ensure that they are never dry and chapped. I always use hand cream before bed as well, since a night of sleep gives adequate time for the cream to sink into our skin. It is also really important to stay properly hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water each day. On top of a boat load of other benefits, drinking water hydrates our skin and promotes healthy nails.
    After removing a gel manicure, weak and unhealthy.
    Two weeks after gel manicure, one coat of base coat.
    Current nails with OPI Nail Envy, snapped as I was writing this post :D

    Here are a few things to keep in mind when cutting out nail biting and growing your nails.
    • If you are like me and bite your nails because you need to keep your hands occupied, then get yourself a deck of cards, Chinese meditation balls, prayer beads, etc. Biting my nails was usually an activity reserved for times when my hands were not occupied, such as while watching a movie. To keep my hands busy without biting my nails, I got myself a deck of cards and would just shuffle the cards while watching a movie. This definitely helped me. I also have meditation balls which I also use to divert my attention away from biting my nails while still keeping my hands busy. Sometimes I even draw, doodle in my journal, or play a silly game on my phone.
    • Being positive is really important. I was a nail biter for over 10 years and I thought I would always be a nail biter, even though I hated it! The fact that my nails were so weak made me discouraged and unwilling to grow them because I always expected them to break. The moment I realized that I could actually have nice and strong nails, I began to take proper care of them. By focusing your attention not on nail biting, but on another outlet and putting time each week to care for your hands and nails, you will definitely see an improvement :)
    I know this was soooooo long... but I hope it was of some help to you! If you bite your nails, use this guide to QUIT! And if you don't bite your nails, use this guide to make them even healthier :D Keep a lookout for a post on nail treatments coming this week.

    Have a lovely day!


    1. i just recently stopped biting my nails. i started when i was 4 and stopped at the age of 28. i stopped for my son. i didnt want him picking up the habbit. i read this and loved it. it let me kow that everything that i was learning to do on my own was the right thing. my motivation for when i was at work was a picture of really pretty nails that i still look at all the time. it is my goal to have nails like the one in my picture. i enjoyed reading every bit of this. it gave me good ideas and confirmed things that i had been questioning on if i was doing it correctly or not. thank you so much for posting this.

      1. Aww! You know that totally made my night :) I am SOO glad you enjoyed reading this :) Its such a tough habit to kick but its so worthwhile! You just have to be consistent with it. I still find myself picking at my cuticles but for the most part I've stopped. For a while over the past year, my nails had been especially fragile, so I'd sort of stopped caring for them, bad idea! The moment I started giving myself manicures, I remembered just why I used to do it. It's hard to find time, but its definitely worthwhile :)

        Thank you for sharing your experience with me! :)