How to grow and maintain your bitten nails (for women and men)

This post will probably be of interest only to people who are habitual nail biters, like me. I started biting my nails when I was 6 or 7, and stopped less than a year ago, although I haven’t quite given up cuticle nibbling yet.

Stress makes me more likely to bite, as you’d expect; I have regularly bitten my nails below the quick, until they were sore or even bleeding around the edges. I thought I would never have decent looking nails, but I finally decided to do something about them when a particularly frenzied nibbling session left my fingertips so sore, I was unable to use a keyboard for two days.  I couldn’t manage the stress which had caused that particular bout of nibbling, so I tried to break the habit instead.

This post outlines what I did, and if there are any men reading this (unlikely; in fact, I doubt if anyone reads this blog), rest assured that the advice that follows is gender-neutral.  Men’s hands can be beautiful too, and after all, J.P. Prewitt, the world’s greatest hand model, was a man.


  • Anti-nail biting fluid.  This one from Boots (£4.20) tastes vile!
  • Small Leighton Denny crystal nail file (£12.50).  You might want to get two, one to carry with you, and one to keep at home.
  • Nail brush.  A simple plastic one will do (this one is only £1.49).  Don’t get a wooden one, they don’t dry well and go mouldy quickly.
  • Hand cream.  This will both soften and protect your cuticles, and the scent will remind you that you’re about to have a nibble the moment you raise your hand to your lips, but before you get a mouthful of anti-nail biting fluid.  I like this Molton Brown Hand Cream in Orange and Bergamot (£10), which has a pleasant unisex scent, and doesn’t leave a greasy residue.

Day 1

Wash your hands (d’uh!).  File any jagged bits on your nails, if necessary/possible, and then paint your nails, cuticles and your fingertips too (depending on the ferocity of your biting) with anti-nail biting fluid.  Finish with the hand cream.

Days 2 – 7

Reapply the anti-nail biting fluid every evening, immediately before bed, and (if you have time) in the morning too.  Clean under your nails (if you have any) with a small nail brush; don’t use an orange stick (or in fact anything except a nail brush) to clean under the nail to “emphasise” what’s grown so far.  If you’re a biter, you know what I mean.  This will cause the nail to curve upwards slightly as it grows, and you’ll end up with nails with an odd up-tilt, or a sideways bend.

Day 8-10ish

OPI Nail Envy in Matte - essential stuff!

OPI Nail Envy in Matte – essential stuff!

As soon as you have a reasonable sliver of nail (about 5 – 10 days for me), get a professional manicure, even though you will not have much to show at this point. Explain to the manicurist that you are trying to grow your nails, and you don’t want any polish, you just need to have your cuticles pushed back and trimmed, and any nail growth tidied.

The manicurist will file your nails into shape (if you have any nail), push down and remove the cuticles (wow! suddenly longer nails!) and make everything look neat.  It should take about 20 minutes.

Time to buy some more supplies:

  • OPI Nail Envy in Matte (c. £11), which has a natural, “newly-buffed” finish, so is suitable for men too.  I also use it as a base coat for coloured polish.  Don’t get the ordinary shiny one, get the matte one!
  • Nail polish remover.  I use this Cutex one (£2.15), but you could ask your manicurist to recommend one if you like.
  • Cotton pads for the nail polish remover. Trust me, it’s worth using these rather than tissue paper – they hold the product better, so you get more out of it.  Superdrug’s are 100 for £1.69.

When you get home, apply two thin, even layers of OPI Nail Envy in Matte to the clean, dry nails.  Try not to get it on the cuticles.  After it has dried, apply the anti-nail biting fluid and hand cream, as usual.

You are supposed to apply one coat of Nail Envy every other day for a week, and on the last day, clean it all off with nail polish remover and start again, with two coats (the instructions are on the back of the pack).  This worked for me.

Throughout the next two weeks, smooth any jagged bits with the nail file as they occur, but try not to shape the nails too much: you need to concentrate on growth at this point.

Day 20-ish

By now, you probably have about 3-5mm of nail, so it’s time to have another manicure/cuticle tidy.  Continue with the usual Nail Envy/ anti-nail biting fluid/hand cream routine for the rest of the month.

Day 30ish

Hopefully, by now you will have broken the nail-biting habit, and will have healthy cuticles and short, nicely-shaped nails.  It’s time to get a celebration manicure.  Go the whole hog – paraffin wraps, massage, everything.


I like the typical “squoval”, or squared-off oval shape, and fairly short nails: if you look at my hands from the palm side, the nails overlap the end of my fingertips by about 3-5mm.  Much longer and I find it difficult to type or use my hands, and I risk breaking the nails.

Nail Polish

I’ll do a separate post on coloured nail polish later, but while I’m here, I’d like to recommend the Dior and Guerlain nail polishes, which have excellent wide brushes that are very easy to use, and Yves Saint Laurent, which has beautiful colours and lasts really well.  Finish with Seche Vite topcoat (£9.85).

Final Comments

That’s about it.  I get a basic manicure once a month (cuticles, file and shape, polish), and push down my cuticles once a week, either with an orange stick, or with my own fingernails.  If I’m not wearing coloured nail polish, I wear OPI Nail Envy in Matte.

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