Diary Of A Serial Nail Biter Who Broke The Habit


Alright, nail biters, gather 'round. If we haven’t met yet, hello. I’m here to tell you about how I nearly stopped a lifelong habit of cuticle-tearing and nail-biting. I bit when I was anxious, I bit when I was happy, I bit when I was bored. Do you know what it’s like to longingly gaze upon someone’s beautiful manicured hands—only to look back at your own swollen, red, fingers? Maddening! But that's all in the past now. Breaking the habit wasn’t easy, but it certainly was glamorous.

An upside is that my job at Glossier often puts me in the same room with beauty professionals, which is why a few months ago I got to chat with manicurist Natalie Pavlovski (she does all the nails for Glossier shoots). I told her all about my biting problem—that I’d tried it all and nothing worked. The bitter nail polish? Got used to the taste. Gel manicure? I picked it right off. Chew a straw for the oral fixation? Now that’s just silly. But then Natalie came through with a recommendation that really stuck: Why don’t I get a set of acrylic extensions (aka sculptured nails) for a month or so? They make it hard to bite the skin, and you won’t want to because they look so freaking beautiful. Once you take them off, your nails will have grown underneath so you can start with a fresh, clean slate. I was convinced—so, I booked a Saturday appointment at my neighborhood spot.

Day 1

At Vanity Projects, the whole process took about two hours. Watching Chiara mix and stir two chemical solutions together to create and build the nail made me feel like a bionic woman. My nails were growing before my very eyes. It was incredible! Once the formula set in the shape of a nail (with the help of a sticker mold), Chiara diligently buffed them into a dainty almond shape. I wanted them to be long, but not too long. I tap tap tap tap tap all day on my phone, so they needed to be sensible. That brought me to length #2, which is about a quarter of an inch longer than my real nails, and a sheer baby pink with delicate multi-colored glitter for the gel color. Girly!

Week 1

For the first week, I was so good. I diligently cared for my cuticles with Sally Hansen cuticle remover and a wooden cuticle pusher I picked up earlier in the week, and applied Balm Dotcom every morning and night so they stayed moisturized. So far so good.

Week 2

I came home from a late movie and realized that one of my pointer finger nails had mysteriously disappeared, into thin air! Went and got it fixed, and I'm still bite-free.

Week 3

Oh how my nails have grown! There’s about a quarter of an inch of new growth in between my cuticle and the base of the nail extensions. Time for a fill—booked an appointment for next week. The good news is that I haven’t bitten my cuticles and they are way less red.

Week 4

I’ve never gotten a fill before, but it sounded like a very quick, simple process in theory. Your nail has grown, there’s space at the bottom, now time to fill it in. Oh how I was wrong! They shave the entire nail down (which I love because then they are thin and crisp-looking), and then your nail is rebuilt before the manicurist paints on another coat of gel. I got cheery red holiday nails this time. God I love how this looks. I just feel so put together and fancy! But! This is getting expensive...

Week 6

I’m starting to think about how I will continue on in life as a Short Nail Person after I get the acrylics off. It’s a pricey and time-consuming activity that I soon need to give up. Which is hard because they look SO DAMN GOOD. And I’m still not picking at my cuticles! Points for me. And look below—someone I found on Twitter who gets me.

Eva Nail Story Tweet

The aftermath

The acrylics are off! I got a gel manicure on my natural nails, which is key because my they are very weak right now—but not for much longer, after I grow out the gel. And then I have to report a minor setback: I’ve been picking again (because I can), but I stop before it gets bad (progress!). I’m now doing my nails at home more regularly to maintain them, and am about a half-inch away from being THAT bitch.

—Eva Alt

Photos via the author