Let’s Talk: How to Stop Biting Your Nails

***Trigger warning: You saw the title of this post…you know what you’re in for.

I haven’t always bitten my nails. Well, I did start biting them as a kid, but have since stopped the habit at several points in my life.

And it would always return. Nail biting, like any other habit, is extremely difficult to break. It is a way anxious and stressful energy can manifest itself. But as we know, it is not a positive way to handle those feelings. We have all heard that nail-biting is bad, but why is that?

One of the possible long-term effects it can have is damage to your teeth. One of my bottom front teeth has already developed a ridge, sawed down by my nails. Although it is such a small detail (no one would really be able to see without being up close), it can be more severe depending on how long/often you have bitten your nails. Not to mention, it is just another physical mark this habit leaves. If you are really looking for reason to stop biting your nails, take a look at some of these nail-biter teeth pictures. I didn’t have the stomach to add any pictures of tooth damage and bacteria to this post, but you know where to find them.

Which leads to the next reason you should stop…bacteria. You use your hands to explore the world around you, and even though you wash your hands there is still leftover bacteria under your nails. Any viruses and bacteria that are under your nails when you’re biting can be transferred to your mouth and enter your body, leaving you more susceptible to illness.

And if you needed another reason, there is infection. When you break the skin around your nails, you create an entrance for germs to do damage to your body. In addition to the possibility of getting sick, the area that was bitten is also at risk of nasty infection.

Last, and probably the worst, there’s the physical appearance problem. Bitten nails and torn skin is not cute. It is something you always carry with you and can be embarrassing, especially if your nails leave you feeling self-conscious. Whenever my nails are not looking their best, it makes it hard to write, point to, or use my hands in any capacity in public, because I don’t want coworkers, strangers, and friends looking at my nails (or lack thereof). I even had a child come up to me one time and ask why my nails looked the way they did. Kids are very honest and when they say you’re weird-looking, it’s hard to argue…

With all that said, I have picked up a thing or two along the way that has helped me curb my habit. Yeah, I’m not perfect. My nails certainly aren’t perfect right now. But I have reached points in my life where I haven’t bitten my nails. When I’ve actually needed to trim them! When you’re a nail-biter, being able to trim your nails is an accomplishment.

So without further adieu, let’s put those old wives tales to rest with a few real strategies for curbing your nail-biting habit.

    • False Nails- Sure, just stick some plastic boards to my nails and no one will be the wiser. Great Plan. Actually in all seriousness, this can be a great way to stop biting your nails, especially if you are lacking in the self-control department. Because you are wearing the un-bitable plastic equivalent, it is physically impossible to bite your nails. The way I like to think of it is “if I can get through a month of not doing this, my habit will be broken”. With false nails, if you are using them for a similar period of time, you may actually no longer feel such a strong urge to bite your nails once they are gone. Plus, they look good. Now there are a couple of cons, one of which being the actual maintenance of false nails. They take getting used to and may need to be fixed time-to-time. Another con is sanitary concerns. If you have been biting your nails, going to a salon with broken skin is a big no-no, as you can get an infection. What I would recommend if going the false nails route is to get a few sets of the short press-on nails from the drugstore. You can use their glue, but I am a fan of the brush-on kind. Be sure any metal tools you reuse for manicures are cleaned after each use. Last, it may be tempting to keep replacing a nail after it has fallen off, but keep in mind that bacteria is your fragile nails’ enemy. Under the false nails is already a nice warm, moist environment for bacteria, so you don’t want to be adding more junk in there. Keep everything disinfected and you will be good to go.
    • Bitter Polish- In order for this option to work, you do need to put more conscious thought into not biting your nails. At some point, you will become desensitized to the taste, and you will power through it to indulge in your habit (that is, if you allow yourself to do so). Consider the bitter polish like an alarm system. When you taste that bitter taste, try to consciously think “ok, I’m biting my nails, I need to stop”. You may indulge in one of the replacement activities I will discuss a little later. With that being said, I’ve tried a few of these and one really stands out for me, which is Hoof’s Stop the Bite. This stuff tastes terrible…which is good. It also lingers on your taste buds, leaving everything tasting bitter for a little while.

  • Replacement Activities- As I mentioned previously, the nail-biting habit generally is related to feeling anxious or bored. By doing something that calms you or keeps you stimulated, you can help distract yourself from nail-biting. For me, I commonly bite my nails at home because, while I am a nail biter I am also a germaphobe. I also tend to bite my nails when I’m stressed out. In other words, sitting at my desk and working. Knowing this, I like to keep things by my desk I can use to distract if I find myself biting my nails. These things can include but are not limited to candy (such as a lollipop or hard candy), teething necklaces, play-dough, fidget cubes/spinners, etc.
  • Keep your nails at their best- This can be near impossible when your nails are at their worst, but is something to keep in mind as they heal. Any flaking, peeling, or uneven nail edges are going to make it near impossible to resist the temptation. As your nails are healing, use an emery board and other manicure tools to smooth edges, trim your cuticles, etc. Keep your hands moisturized. If you have very dry hands, consider using a thick lotion or salve (such as Aquaphor) on your hands every night and massage into your cuticles. You can use gloves to keep the lotion from getting on sheets, door handles, etc. Last, be sure to eat right and take care of your body. Some of the nutrients that can help nail growth include protein, zinc, iron, biotin, and nearly every vitamin.
  • Try Soothing activities There are a variety of reasons people can develop a nail-biting habit. Getting to the bottom of yours can help. For me, anxiety is a big contributor. Now I do think that it is important to mention here that anxiety does not have a “cure”. There is no way to just make it go away. I can go on and on with this subject, but for the purpose of this post, the point I want to get across is these are suggestions to make your life as comfortable as possible when you are feeling exceedingly stressed. These are not solutions for anxiety. Rather, they are tips to feeling the best you can and aiding you in your quest to stop chomping your nails. Addressing the root of anxiety is a whole other ball game.                                                                                        Back to the point of this section, some of the things you can do to help you feel as comfortable as possible include using fragrance oils (scented dough, diffuser necklaces, home diffusers, bath bombs, etc), exercising, tea or foods like ginger, meditation/ breathing exercises, creating routines, music, and reading. Find things that soothe you and make you feel good, and create routines for implanting these things in your hectic, daily life.
  • Have people nag you- Allow the people closest to you to nag you if they see you biting your nails.
  • Create a month chart…and forgive yourself if you slip up- Sorry to tell you so late…but there’s no easy way to stop biting your nails. Even when using false nails, you need to commit to replacing them, and not biting the surrounding glue/skin. If you are using a no-bite polish, you need to have the self-control to say no, even if that polish isn’t tasting so bad any more. When you have a larger goal, it is important to set mini goals and rewards for yourself, even if it means check off everyday you don’t bite your nails on a calendar. And of course, know you will likely slip up, and then love and forgive yourself. No one is perfect, and if you’re one of those people who beats themselves up over every mistake…just don’t. Please. There’s no need for that. Just get back up on the horse with your weird a** nails and start over.

And that’s it! See how easy it is? In all seriousness, these are tips that have helped me and that I hope help you as well. If you have any creative hacks for preventing nail-biting, I would love to hear them down in the comments below.

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