Nail biting is a tough habit to break. Before you realize what you're doing, the damage has already been done. Although it may seem like a harmless habit, chronic nail biting may lead to some serious nail and skin infections. If you're looking for ways to quit, keep reading for our top 9 tips to help stop nail biting for good!
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How Does A Nail Biting Habit Start?
Onychophagia, or nail biting, is a common habit that usually begins in childhood. Children may start biting their nails between the ages of 4-6, and it's more common in boys compared to girls.
It's often a way to cope with stress, anxiety, or boredom, and then becomes a mindless, unconscious behavior overtime. Many people feel a sense of comfort or calm when they bite their nails and skin.
Dangers Of Chronic Onychophagia
Besides ruining the aesthetics of your hands and nails, long-term nail biting can also cause:
9 Ways To Stop Biting Your Nails
Kicking a nail-biting habit can feel daunting especially if you've been doing it for many years. However, with the right information and strategies (like distraction techniques, and positive reinforcement), it's totally possible to overcome!
Wondering how to stop your bad habit? Here are our top 9 tips to stop biting nails:
#1. Keep A Journal To Find Your Triggers
Some people feel the urge to bite their nails without even knowing why. It's a bad habit they've been doing for years, and it just happens automatically. That's why it's important to figure out the exact reason why you're doing it.
To do this, make a note every time you catch yourself in the act, so you can identify your triggers. Here are 3 important things to log:
Once you've made a few journal entries, you might realize that there are patterns of when you're most likely to bite. For example, if you find that you tend to bite your nails while you're studying alone, it might be a good idea to change your study location to a public space instead.
If you find a pattern between your nail chewing and feeling stressed or anxious, your biting may be a sign of an emotional issue. Finding a way to deal with these emotions or avoiding these situations can help you stop biting your nails.
Biting your nails could also be a sign of a more serious psychological or emotional issue. If that's something you're concerned about, seek help from a therapist or mental health provider.
#2. Keep Your Nails Short
As suggested by dermatologists, trim your nails short regularly so there's less to nibble on. This also goes for hangnails, or dead, whitish colored flaps of skin around your nails. To do this, simply use a cuticle nipper and slide the blades under all the way to the part where it's attached to your finger. Live skin is pinkish because it has a blood supply, so be sure to only cut off the parts that are dried, and white in color.
Regular nail maintenance can also prevent nails from cracking or splitting, making you feel less compelled to bite them.
Check out our Natural Nail Care Guide for tips and tricks on how to keep your nails healthy and strong!
#3. Get Regular Manicures
If DIY nail maintenance seems like a chore to you, treat yourself by going to the nail salon! When we spend time and money on something, we are less likely to want to ruin it. Whether you're just getting your hands cleaned up with a natural manicure, or getting a set of gel or acrylic nails, the same idea applies.
Be sure to choose a reputable salon or nail technician that is experienced and knowledgeable with dealing with nail biters.
#4. Get Artificial Nails
If natural manicures aren't helping, artificial nails may be the key to help you finally stop biting your nails.
Artificial nails include soft gel, hard gel or acrylic, which are applied on top of your natural nails. This is one of the best ways to help you quit biting because the products fully cover your nails for at least 2 to 4 weeks at a time. Once your nails have grown out, you can go back to the salon for a refill or removal and new set.
A variety of colors, nail art and designs can also be applied to these types of nails. So you're more likely to be admiring the artistry instead of chewing your nails!
If you can't commit to having gel or acrylic nails because of work or your lifestyle, press-on nails are a great option. They come in many different designs and colors, and can be easily put on and removed from home.
A word of caution with trying to bite through artificial nails - it's possible, and you may bite through and do some major damage to your teeth! If the urge to bite is too strong, get your artificial nails removed by a professional immediately.
#5. Focus On One Nail At A Time
If you're having trouble with fixing all ten fingers at once, narrow down your focus to one finger at a time. To do this, pick one finger to start on, and move on to the next once you've trained yourself to avoid chewing on it. This method usually takes longer, but it could help if you feel overwhelmed about quitting cold turkey.
#6. Use Bitter Tasting Nail Polishes
Did you know that there are special nail polishes designed to help you stop nibbling on your hands and nails? These polishes contain ingredients that are safe to ingest, but taste extremely bitter. So every time you end up putting your fingers in your mouth, it'll make you think twice about engaging in the behavior again.
To help you kick the habit, be sure to choose a bitter nail product that is easy and convenient to use. We love Nail Quail's anti-biting product because it comes in a handy click pen brush format. This effective deterrent simply needs to be brushed on like a lacquer to the nails and surrounding skin. It's also odorless, dries completely invisible, and contains ingredients that soothe open sores.
#7. Keep Your Hands Busy
Some people are able to stop nail nibbling by keeping their hands busy and away from their mouths. It could be as simple as getting a fidget toy or ring, or stress ball. Others may feel less inclined to bite if they are immersed in a hands-on activity such as crafting or playing a sport. Try experimenting with different activities to find out what works best for you.
#8. Wear Gloves
If you find that you're biting your nails overnight, wearing a pair of gloves may be your solution. By covering your hands, you're less likely to damage the tissue on your hands while you're sleeping. If you're trying this out, find a pair of cotton gloves, so your skin can breathe while you sleep.
#9. Stay Consistent
No matter which method you choose, good habit formation is key. Keep a habit tracking journal to help you log your progress and success. Set short term and long term goals and reward yourself when you complete them - you've got this!
Why am I biting my nails so much?
Nail biting becomes a habit due to a variety of factors. In many cases, children start by putting their hands in their mouths to comfort themselves, which turns into chewing their nails and developing a habit that continues on to adulthood. That's why you may feel the urge to chomp on your fingers and nails when you're going through an especially stressful or anxious event.
Will my nails recover from years of biting?
Nail biting can cause both temporary and permanent damage to your nails and surrounding skin. There's no way to tell the extent of damage done until you try to stop biting. There are many ways to stop nail biting, but whichever you choose, consistency and patience is key. Since nails grow about 3.7 millimeters per month, avoid biting your nails for at least 2 to 3 months before you conclude how they've recovered. If you have any concerns, get it checked out by your healthcare provider or dermatologist.
Can I get fake nails if I bite my nails?
Getting acrylic or gel nails could be a great way to break the habit of biting nails. This is because artificial nails are applied over top of your nail plate, preventing you from chomping on your nails, and allowing for your nails to grow out. In addition, once you see your nails with a pretty color or design, you're less likely to want to ruin them.