I’m a nail-biter. Not the occasional, stress-driven, I-have-anxiety-and-am-taking-it-out-on-my-cuticles kind of nail-biter. I am a nail-biter of the look-in-the-DSM-V next-to-compulsive-grooming-and-you’ll-find-my-picture variety.
I would like to make it clear that my brittle, cracked nail beds are in no way a “Freud thing.” I made it through my psychosexual stages of development just fine, thank you very much. I’m just a ride-or-die, compulsive chewer and that’s worked out just fine for the past 20-odd years.
Normally, I'm at peace with my oral fixation, but then my charming poet boyfriend (edit: fiancé, but that sounds so terribly bougie to me.) proposed.
Good news: My engagement ring is pure light-catching, vintage perfection.
Bad news: Flashing my ring around showcases my neurosis in a way I’m not entirely comfortable with.
Post engagement, I’ve joined the legions of folks who care about their nails, and I’ve got some tips and tricks for my fellow new arrivals.
But I do have some très lux products that I meticulously researched and then scored as an xoJane writer. Yes, these products came to me in glossy PR-firm bags, but I will splurge on them when my samples run out: Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle under my fingernails.
So my compulsive, orally fixated compatriots, here’s what’s what:
NAILS INC NailKale Superfood Base Coat, $15
Brace yourself for some nail-biter realness: My nails bend back horribly when I try to use them for basic functions like untangling necklaces, opening jars, and doing up the toggles on my twee but beloved Michael Kors winter coat. After about a week of swiping on this base coat every three days, my nails stopped snapping backward. Bonus: It dries in under two minutes, so if you rush through painting your nails (like I do), you’ll stay streak-free.
NAILS INC 45 Second Top Coat with Kensington Caviar, $15
I don’t regularly get manicures because I’m a twentysomething with an entry-level job and don’t have an expendable income for routine beauty maintenance. Even so, I’m more likely to leave my nails alone when they’re new-penny-shiny and glam. This top coat adds instant sheen to even the cheapest polish and smoothes out imperfections caused by careless self-polishers like myself, as it should, considering it costs $15 dollars and has the word caviar in its name.
Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover, $20
This coffee-creamer-looking gel comes with a tiny eyedropper and, unlike other cuticle removers, doesn’t feel like battery acid on tender, injured hands. The directions recommend using a few drops on each finger and pushing back your cuticles, but I like to trim off damaged parts as well.
I don’t recommend using any cuticle remover without a conditioning oil. I love Deborah Lippmann Oil (it’s like crack for dry nail beds, see below), but you can use almost anything — olive, coconut, and jojoba oils work particularly well.
Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil, $20
This smells so good (think coconuts, suntan lotion, and tropical drinks with tiny umbrellas) that I bust out the little vial and apply it throughout the day whenever my hands start to get dry, cold, or idle. It works wonders on the rough skin that most nail-biters deal with.
Caveat: This oil costs $20. If it’s not in your budget, find other ways to moisturize your hands. If you don’t want to spend stacks on stacks on stacks on an oil that you only use on your cuticles (no matter how good it smells), you can use cocoa butter, coconut oil, or jojoba oil as a replacement. Slip on a pair of cotton gloves ($6 at any drugstore worth its salt) when you go to bed at night after applying and awake with soft hands.
Deborah Lippmann The Cure, $24
This cream is silk in a fancy little pot. Have you ever pulled all the skin off your thumbs before a big event? Well, pull your shameful hands out of your pockets because there is a cure (Literally. It’s called “The Cure”)! Dab this onto your crime-scene fingers, and you’ve got silky smooth cuticles in under a minute. Really, it’s that good. It’s witchcraft. Is it better than the new-wave, goth rock band of the same name? Almost.
I’m compulsive, I fidget, and I spend a lot of time sitting at my computer, writing e-mails, and chewing on my fingers in a manner that exudes prolific creative energy and a teensy bit of mania. I don’t really care about hangnails or the occasional cracked and bleeding cuticle, but I do really care about my fiancé and the sparkly symbol of commitment he put on my finger.
So, I’m going to keep slathering my hands in oil, cream, and silky caviar polish, thereby tricking everyone into believing I have the nails of a healthy, calm adult who is mature enough to plan a wedding without jamming her fingers in her mouth.
Et tu, Brutus, are you a nail-biter? Twitchy? Fretful? Engaged? Leave a comment and tell me all about it.