5 Bad Nail Habits & How to Break Them

5 Bad Nail Habits & How to Break Them

Even if we don’t want to admit it, we all have at least one bad habit we’d like to quit. But stopping the behavior can be difficult, especially if you don’t even realize when you’re doing it!

Maybe you’re preparing for an important occasion when your nails will be in the spotlight, like a wedding or job interview. Maybe you’d really like to ‘gram your nail art but feel embarrassed about the state of your cuticles. Or maybe you’re just ready to have great-looking nails all the time.

Whatever the motivation, there’s no wrong reason or time to quit your bad habits and replace them with healthier rituals. Here are the five most common bad nail habits and how to break them.


1. Skipping base coat and top coat

When you’re in a hurry and want your nail polish to dry fast, it can be tempting to skip the base and top coats and go straight for the color. But you’re only wasting your time and your nail polish when you do! Base coat is important for protecting your nail from staining and helping the polish adhere to your nail. And top coat is essential for a shiny, long-lasting, chip-resistant manicure. If you want your nails to look great (and if you’re polishing them, you must), taking the extra few minutes for a base and top coat is always worth it.

If you struggle to find the motivation for every single manicure, try keeping your base and top coats easily accessible among your nail care supplies so you don’t give up searching and skip those steps. Or turn your manicures into their own relaxation ritual, when you can take your time and enjoy every step.

2. Picking off your polish

Why is it that a tiny little chip has the power to ruin an entire manicure? That’s how it can feel, anyway. And that’s usually the moment when the picking begins. But even if you can’t see the damage, picking off your polish can weaken your nails, because often the top layer of your nail comes off with the polish, resulting over time in nails that are thinner, weaker, and more prone to peeling. Suddenly a little chip doesn’t sound so bad.

If you simply can’t live with a chip, break the habit by carrying a packet of polish remover pads in your purse. Or, in lieu of removing your entire manicure, stash a bottle of glitter polish in your bag and cover up the chip with a glitter accent nail.

3. Over-buffing your nails

If you have problems with nail ridges or love to go au naturale with a shiny, no-polish nail look sometimes, buffing your nails is probably one of your favorite activities. But it’s really easy to overdo it. Buffing too much or too often can lead to thinner, weaker nails, and nobody wants that!

Only buff your nails when you absolutely have to, and when you do, use gentle pressure going in one direction with a fine grit buffer block. Try switching to a clear coat to get that shiny look without your buffer.

4. Picking at your cuticles and skin

Oh, the cuticle. One tiny sliver of skin can be the source of so many big nail problems. Picking at your cuticles and the skin around your nails, or cutting your cuticles too much or incorrectly, doesn’t just lead to unsightly fingertips; it also makes you more prone to bacteria and infection—and it can be incredibly painful! Because it’s largely compulsive, cuticle-picking can be a tough habit to break, so it’s important to become conscious of it and actively work to stop.

First, put down the cuticle nippers and leave cuticle cutting to the professionals. Instead, push your cuticles back with a cuticle pusher or orange stick. One common trigger for cuticle picking is actually cuticle dryness, so try replacing your bad habit with a good one: Bring a bottle of roll-on cuticle oil with you everywhere you go, and when you feel the urge to pick, apply the cuticle oil and massage it into your nail beds. You’ll get the same tactile satisfaction and make your cuticles healthier rather than damaging them.

5. Biting your nails

The worst habit of them all is also the most common and the toughest to quit. There are lots of methods out there to stop nail biting, but the first step is to realize your triggers—like boredom, stress, or anxiety—and catch yourself before you start biting unconsciously. Try substituting another tactile activity, like chewing gum, doodling, or squeezing a stress ball. Some people have seen results by snapping a rubber band on their wrist when they catch themselves biting. Others suggest choosing one nail that you won’t bite for a week, then gradually adding more “no-bite” nails as the weeks go on until you’ve weaned yourself off the habit.

Nail polish can also be a very effective tool to help stop nail biting. Lots of women can attest to the fact that, when you’ve just spent your hard-earned money and time on a great-looking manicure, you’re less likely to ruin it by biting your nails. Keeping your nails trimmed, groomed, and polished all the time could be the motivation you need to break the habit. Setting a goal or establishing a reward (“If I don’t bite my nails for a month, I’ll buy myself those shoes I really want!”) can also help.

With any bad habit, it’s important to remember that it’s an ongoing process, and stopping the cycle takes a lot of mental effort. If you slip up, don’t give up. And when you succeed, celebrate!