I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Every beauty editor feels like a bit of a phony sometimes. You see, the truth is beauty is just far too broad of a subject for any one editor to know every detail of every facet. Take, for example, the subject of skin. We know that we have to advise and inform others on products for all skin types, even when we can't relate. Just because my skin is naturally oily and sensitive, it doesn’t mean I don’t have to ever research and write about dryness and acne. Although us beauty eds are extremely well versed in such topics, it’s easy to feel like a bit of a fraud when we haven’t experienced something first-hand. For me, it has always been especially difficult to write about nails.
Why, you ask? Well because for the majority of my career, I haven't really had any. While other beauty journalists post save-worthy nail-art pics on Instagram, I have always made a conscious effort to keep my fingers curled into my knuckles whenever a camera is out because, for years, just like so many others, I bit my nails. While I was interviewing manicurists about nail health, I just couldn’t find a way to practise what I was preaching. However, while my job as a beauty editor did heighten my short-nail anxieties in many ways, it also acted as my saving grace. With countless nail experts just a phone call away, a couple of years ago, I made it my mission to put an end to my nasty habit.
And now, more so than ever, I’m so pleased I did. Award-winning beauty expert Leighton Denny, MBE, says, “Not only can nail-biting lead to infections, right now, the biggest risk is the act of hand-to-mouth touching. Even with frequent handwashing, the underside of nails can still hold bacteria, dirt, and grime. Nowadays, there is an even greater impetus to stop the bad habit.” How did I do it? It took some serious dedication and hard graft, but I can officially say my nail-biting days are far behind me. Keep scrolling for my expert-approved top tips.
It seems weird, I know, but keeping my nails short actually helped me grow them. The minute that nails start to get a little longer, they have a tendency to catch and irritate. As soon as mine started snagging, I’d want them off. Instead, keeping them short, but well preened, helped me distance myself from the need to nibble. “The shorter your nails are, the less satisfaction you get from biting them, which hopefully means you’ll do it less,” says Denny.
To avoid any hiccups, carry a file on you at all times. That way, whenever a nail becomes sharp or troublesome, you’ve got a way of dealing with it without feeling tempted to bite.
If you ask me, quite possibly, the most effective way to stop biting is to ensure your nails look their best at all times. One day, I managed to suck up the courage to go to a nail bar and get a gel manicure. My nails were teeny-tiny, and I could tell that the nail technician was probably struggling to find anything to work with, but it was worth it. Denny explains, “Manicures are a great way to help stop biting your nails. Why would anyone want to bite off a fresh mani?”
Personally, I find going for a gel mani is the best way to avoid mindless biting. Nibbling your way through gel requires some conscious effort, and the minute you do so, it will start to lift and peel, meaning it’s pretty much endgame. Wanting to maintain your glossy gels is the perfect incentive not to bite. Similarly, keeping your nails in tip-top condition can help things, too. “When you take pride in your nails and start to see improvements, it’s way less tempting to bite them. Take care of them with an at-home nailcare regimen and enjoy nurturing them back to good health,” says Denny.
You know how a red traffic light sends "stop" signals to our brain? It turns out red polish can do the same. “Give yourself a bright red manicure so that it’s obvious to you when your nails are near your face. Make a mental note that red means stop. Keep applying the red over your nails for 10 days. Then, remove it and see how much your nails have grown. This allows you to see how fast nails grow and how much healthier they look,” says Denny. While red might be best, any bright, eye-catching colour should do the trick!
The truth is nail-biting is so much more than just a mindless, bad beauty habit. Denny explains, “Biting your nails is usually a reflection of personal anxieties or nervousness. You can overcome the habit, but you should recognise the underlying reasons.” Every time you find yourself biting your nails, ask yourself what you were doing at the time. Identifying your biting triggers is key in helping to break the habit. “Set a goal for yourself, week by week, and within a few months, you will have beaten the problem. The reward will be beautiful, healthy nails,” says Denny.