Nail biting (aka onychophagia) is a common habit that’s usually triggered by stress. For longtime nail biters, kicking the habit can be tough AF. But don’t worry! Here are 10 tips to help you stop biting your nails. We also have the deets on why you might be nibbling your nails in the first place.
Short on time? Here’s a quick list of the 10 best ways to quit biting your nails:
Ready for the deets? Here’s a deep dive into the 10 best ways to quit biting nails.
1. Be patient with the process
For lots of folks, nail biting is a habit. Habits can become a mainstay in our daily lives, which is why they’re so hard to break. But be patient with the process and don’t give up even if you slip up. A 2020 study found that willpower wasn’t as important as consistency when trying to reach long-term goals.
2. Trim your nails on the reg
If your nails get too long, they can become tempting targets for your chompers. By keeping your nails trimmed short, there’s less for you to nibble on. Plus, it will help you replace a habit you don’t like with one that you do. Keeping your nails neat and tidy totes counts as self-care, and we’re here for it.
3. Make them too pretty to bite
You can DIY a dope manicure at home or head to your local salon. If your nails look great, you might be less inclined to bite them. Feeling fancy? Give gel a whirl. Gel or acrylic manicures are harder to bite through than your actual nail. Bonus: They also tend to last longer.
4. Use a nasty-tasting polish
There’s beacoup nail polish on the market that’s designed to taste nasty. The idea is that if your nails taste terrible, you won’t want to put them in your mouth. Simple apply the varnish like you would a regular polish, and voilà!
The downside is that some of these varnishes contain ingredients like formaldehyde, which is hella toxic when ingested. There’s also a chance it can do damage when applied topically. So, try to opt for a nontoxic brand. You’ll get the same results without the potential side effects.
5. Cover up your nails
Wrap your fingers with Band-Aids or wear some gloves. It might sound silly, but it creates an extra barrier between your nails and mouth. This buys you an extra moment to consider what you’re doing.
Just note that this approach isn’t foolproof. If the urge to bite is strong enough, you can easily remove your anti-bite gear. So, this method might work best when combined with another strategy, like the yucky tasting polish we just mentioned.
6. Distract yourself
Keeping your hands busy can keep your mind off nail biting. When you feel the urge to bite your nails, try to do something else instead. Maybe you can break out the old fidget spinner or try your hand at journaling. Sometimes even a stick of gum can do the trick. As long as it’s a healthy distraction, it might be helpful.
7. Take things one finger at a time
NGL, going cold turkey tends to be tough. You might be better off taking things one finger at a time. Start with your thumbnails, for example. Then, once you’ve gone a week without biting them, branch out to your pinkies. This can make quitting much more manageable.
8. Get to the root of the problem
Studies show that nail biting is often triggered by stress or anxiety. But it may also be the result of boredom or concentrating on a tough problem. Either way, understanding why you bite your nails can help you stop.
Make a list of situations where you feel the urge to bite. Then, think about what you can do to either avoid these situations or handle them more easily.
9. Give yourself time to quit
Nail biting can be a hard habit to break. That’s why it’s super important you give yourself a realistic timeline to stop. You might be able to kick the habit in a few days, but it could also take a few months… or longer. All of this is natural and is nothing to be ashamed of.
Reminder: Be patient and kind to yourself ❤️.
10. There’s an app for that
There are dozens (if not hundreds) of apps that can help you reevaluate your habits. Some are classic journal-style apps where you set your own milestones. Others are specific to individual needs and routines.
P.S. If you think stress is behind the bulk of your biting, you might like online therapy. There are oodles of decently priced options that can benefit your mental health without breaking your budget.
There’s no simple answer here. Obvi, there’s a psychological component, since nail biting is often linked to stress, anxiety, or boredom. But keep in mind, everyone’s different. Some folks might just like the way it feels, while others do it when they’re having a bad day. It usually boils down to your unique triggers.
BTW, nail biting is very common. According to a 2016 case study, up to 33 percent of kids and approximately 45 percent of teens bite their nails. And according to a research review from the same year, habitual nail biting affects up to 30 percent of the population across all age groups. So, if you’re an adult nail biter, you’re def not alone.
So, what are the short-term and long-term effects of biting your nails? Well, it’s generally considered harmless to nibble your nails once in a while. But problems can arise when nail biting becomes compulsive or chronic.
Common symptoms of long-term nail biting include:
Nail biting is a common habit that’s usually triggered by stress. It’s generally considered harmless if you only do it once in a while. But long-term or chronic nail biting can cause symptoms like inflamed gums, weak nails, and oral infections.
Just remember, habits don’t form overnight. So, be patient with yourself and don’t give up. It might take time, but eventually you can find the best method for your unique sitch.