Pretty Nails – I did it!

I was inspired by the Reluctant Femme and Zombies for Breakfast to try and stop chewing my nails. Again, for the hundredth time, after being nagged throughout my teenage years and childhood by friends, family member and teachers to do so.

And you know what? I’m actually doing it. It’s been about two months since I decided, fuck it, I’m doing this.

I was going to write some advice, based on what helped me, but meh. First, a pretty picture!

Woo, look at them grow!

Woo, look at them grow!

Alas, I don’t have a photo for comparison of how they’ve looked since primary school, but I am well proud of myself.

Oh and here’s a tip, don’t go looking for pictures in google. It made me feel sick seeing what some people have done to theirs. Srsly.

They’re not super long but that would be impractical for me any way. I tried, and I bent one back in Jiu Jitsu which was painful! So I chewed it off, and it took all my restraint not to strip it back. Also, even the length they are now is not great for rock climbing.

Things that have helped:

  1. Painting them. Clear varnish was what I started with, then a pale rose pink because I wanted something less obvious. I also have what I would call a dark bronze colour which calls itself Elegant Mauve from Max Factor. My favourite however is a peacock blue turquoise.
  2. Keeping them trimmed short. It took some setting used to, the feeling of having nails, and it still feels weird occasionally.
  3. Keeping the ends filed perfectly smooth and having an emery board on hand. Rough or sharp edges make me want to smooth them by chewing them off.
  4. Having an orange stick to fiddle with my cuticles and to clean under the nails when I needed something to distract me.
  5. Wearing plasters over my nails. For when I’m really desperate or have chewed them so much they hurt. I used this a lot as a teenager but haven’t used it this time round.
  6. Chipping the nail polish off. Again, a distraction technique. yeah, it’s gross and not quite as satisfying as chewing my nails but it’s close and takes longer.
  7. Realising in the moment when I’m feeling socially anxious or distracted and sitting with the feeling while saying soothing things to myself.
  8. Not beating myself up when I do feel anxious or bite a nail off. It’ll grow back, just don’t chew the others off right this second.

Thing one I discovered that I didn’t expect: one of the main triggers for wanting to chew is sensory – how my nails feel to me. Sharp, jagged, or rough bits and having peeling bits of skin all annoy me. I want things to feel smooth!

Thing two, I haven’t ruined my nails as much as I feared. I said to Kaitlin Marie of Zombies that twenty odd years of chewing and stripping my nails back had probably prevented me from having normal shaped nails, but it hasn’t really. The edges closest to my thumb of my index and middle fingers are flatter and wider than on my ring finger nails, which escaped the worst of the damage over the years, but unless they’re looking for it up close, no-one’s going to notice. And when they’re painted, even I hardly notice.

Thing three, deciding I wanted to do this *for myself* has been the key to breaking the habit. Let’s hope I keep this up!

Thing that has never, ever helped me: the bitter tasting nail dip. I stick my fingers in my mouth quite a bit for various reasons but I’d always forget I had the icky stuff on, and then my mouth would taste foul for ages when I hadn’t even being biting my nails. Seemed like the height of unfairness to me!

What about you? Do you still chew your nails off? Are you in the process of quitting? Have you done so already? Love.

6 thoughts on “Pretty Nails – I did it!

  1. So what I’m particularly interested in is the fact that your nailbeds have recovered! That was one thing I absolutely could not find any information on, and one thing I was particularly interested in. The only research literature I could find was actually a bit nail-biter-shame-y stuff directed at which nagging techniques work best to make people quit which was surprising to me, since (as you found on Google) extreme nailbiting approaches self-mutilation, which doesn’t seem to me like something that can be cured by people nagging you. Here’s a paper that stated that nagging doesn’t stop nailbiting

    So yes, it looks like we’ve demonstrated (n=2) that the nailbed does grow back!

    Congratulations, Nessie, your nails are AMAZING.

    • ALSO last year I tried the bitter nail paint (and Dr Glass used it too as moral support, which failed.)

      My in-laws gifted us with some dead pheasants which they had gotten somewhere, and a particularly beloved American friend said that she dearly desired to eat a pheasant, since she never had. So Dr Glass cooked up a pair of pheasants in port sauce and we laid the table and had candles, and he wrapped the pheasants in crispy bacon, and Lora and her lovely English partner came over to eat them.

      Dr Glass doesn’t like carving, especially on animals that had been running and playing in the fields a week before, so I carved them up. They were genuine game birds and fairly difficult to carve – not like an easy chicken all bursting with meat – so I really had to get my hands in there and dissecting them. We enjoyed the meal and I offhandedly mentioned how once again I was trying to stop biting my nails with the bitter stuff, and how I was so paranoid when cooking because I was worried that the bitter paint would transfer to the food.

      “Is THAT what that was?!” the Lovely English Partner blurted out.

      Yep. The bitter nail paint had transferred to the joint of pheasant I was carving. As you know, it tastes disgusting and it had spoiled the poor man’s meat, though he never would have said anything…. in fact he was pretending it was some sort of residue from the lead shot.

      It wasn’t in all the meat – most of it was fine – but it’s not something you’d serve to a friend. Especially when it’s bacon-y pheasants in port sauce.


    • Aww thanks. Looking at the photo makes me happy.

      Yeah, it’s been interesting to see the nailbeds have recovered. I couldn’t find any info on it either. That article is interesting too. People resort to nagging in all sorts of situations rather than dealing with the underlying cause and it rarely works. The CA archives are testament to that.

      I dunno, do people assumes you’re doing it for fun?! Also interesting to me that the incidence is much higher in adult men than women. I remember a journalist commenting that Gordon Brown’s nails were much, much worse after he got promoted to Prime Minister from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My supervisor’s nails are also a complete mess, worse than yours were in the squirrel picture. Going off the google pictures it’s a wonder extreme nail biting isn’t treated more seriously. It’s certainly an indicator of severe social stress.

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