I Successfully Rehabilitated My Nails After Years of Wearing Acrylics

Here's how I did it, in nine simple(ish) steps.

I said goodbye to my beloved acrylic nails a few months ago. I had just gotten a fresh, gorgeous set by my nail lady, Rachel, when a friend’s cat threw up on her carpet while I was housesitting. I took to scrubbing the vomit out of the carpet like a good housesitter would when, all of a sudden, I heard an alarming CRACK. Yep, it was the tip of my nail. My brand new, strong, and pointed, almond-shaped acrylic. It met its end in a pile of cat vomit.

As Frank Sinatra famously sang, “That’s life.”

I’m not proud of what I did next, but since there are no beauty secrets here on xoVain, I can safely share that, over the course of three episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, I destroyed my remaining nails with my teeth. I thought having acrylics for two years would have cured my desire to destroy my fingernails with my incisors, but apparently not.

The next morning, I surveyed the damage with remorse and fear. I’d have to tell Rachel what I had done to her work! But if I was being honest with myself, I was ready to say goodbye to my acrylics anyway. I’d noticed a lot of girls in Minneapolis getting nails similar to mine, and I don’t like to do what everyone else is doing. I suddenly had visions of super-short, super-red nails and longed for a day when I could play the piano without my nails clicking all over the keyboard.

So instead of visiting Rachel at the salon immediately the next day to have another set applied to my disgusting, thin, Crypt-Keeper nails, I decided it was time to go au naturel. As someone with a tendency to keep her hands in her mouth in times of stress and boredom, I knew this rehabbing wasn’t gonna be easy. However, almost four months after saying bye to my tips, I’ve basically fixed the damage and am conquering my biting habit.

Here’s how I did it.

1. Take a break from polish. I wanted to throw some gels on just so my nails looked pretty and not like a corpse’s, but I didn’t. I let them “breathe.” Can nails breathe?

2. Apply a hardcore strengthening top coat daily. There are tons of these on the market, so I took to Makeupalley and a Facebook beauty group for advice on which one would actually deliver. I like the classic powerhouse Nail Envy, which my mother has been using for ages, the best. I loaded up my naked nails with it once a day.

3. Eat better. I added more avocados, olive oil and salmon to my diet because they’re full of good fats, and avocados always seem to make my hair and nails grow faster.

4. File, file, file. When you’re post-acrylic, your nails are gonna split like crazy. In order for me to resist the temptation to shred them into stubs and rip them until they bled, I kept my nails filed really, really short. It wasn’t all that cute, but it worked.

5. Moisturize like hell. I’m not lying when I say my nails looked really ugly — all crackly and dry. I kept them moisturized with a few drops of Aveda Beautifying Composition oil or the Rescue Balm for Face + Body from The Estee Edit. These two products are full of the nourishing oils that my nails so desperately needed.

6. Get regular manicures. Once my nails were in OK shape, I started going back to see Rachel for manicures. It wasn’t a necessary expense, but I don’t have the patience to do my own nails and tend to peel regular polish off on day two. Every two weeks, I go visit her for a gel manicure. I know gels aren’t great for your natural nails, but I’m way less likely to bite and destroy my hands when my nails are shiny and manicured and cost me $40. Also, Rachel has become a personal friend and I love every minute I spend at her station.

7. Focus. I took plenty of tips from Alle’s classic “Stop biting your nails” story. I even tried the elastic-around-the-wrist trick. Whenever I got the urge to bite, I thought about long, pretty natural nails and stopped. OK, well, this is a work in progress. I'm focusing.

8. Think of the pros! Natural nails are cheaper than acrylics, and much less time-consuming. I used to sit in the salon chair for about 90 minutes per session, and now it’s less than an hour. I can also play the piano, pick my nose (sorry), and scrub my kitchen much more efficiently.

9. Be patient. It’s tempting to give up and put your acrylics back on after you’ve been scrolling through your phone looking at pictures of your formerly beautiful nails, but if you’re committed, you can do it!

My nails still aren’t perfect, and my no-bite journey will be a long one. Every time I find my hands traveling up towards my mouth, I have to remind myself that I’ve worked really hard to bring them back to life (cue Evanescence) and there’s no turning back now.

  • Have you said goodbye to acrylic nails before? How'd you get your nails back in shape?
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