Can’t stop biting nails whenever you’re anxious, stressed, or bored? You’re not alone. Nearly 20 to 30% of the population have the same disgusting habit, and the number is up to 50% among kids. It’s a tough habit to kick — especially since you’re doing it without realizing it – but we’ll kick it for good.
As with most people who can’t stop biting their nails, nail-biting started when I was a kid. Unfortunately, it has continued throughout my twenties. Still, I’ve managed to stop it, and now I want to help you leave that ugly nail-biting habit behind and grow out of it.
Biting your nails over and over damages the nail tissue that makes them grow. It makes the skin around them feel sore and leaves you with ugly nails and cut. Besides, you will ruin your smile by chipping or cracking your teeth. I don’t even talk about germs and bacteria hiding under your nails.
There are many natural and worthwhile reasons to stop. I stopped biting my nails by following a few tips, and so can you. One hint: putting food in your mouth as a substitute will not work well.
Before explaining ways to stop nail biting, let’s answer one crucial question.
Why do people bite their nails?
“Nail biting falls under a list of behaviors known as body-focused repetitive disorders (or BFRDs), which are those little habits we have (think hair pulling or skin picking) that, when done often enough, can cause harm. As SELF previously reported, it’s not entirely clear why some people have BFRDs, but there are known triggers,” SELF reports. We’ll talk more about it later.
For some people, nail biting may signify a more serious psychological or emotional problem. If you have tried to stop biting and the issue persists, or you’ve bitten your nails and developed a skin or nail infection, you should consult a doctor.
Before calling the doctor, let’s give it one more shot and get back to things you can try yourself first. Can’t stop biting nails? You can. Let’s change your mindset, and a reward in the form of beautiful nails will follow. Here are the tips that made it work for me.
Identify your triggers
First, you must figure out why you get the urge to bite your nails. Most of the time, I wouldn’t even be aware that I was doing it until it was too late when I had already massacred my hands. It was impulsive and chronic.
The biggest triggers for me were physical. The presence of hangnails, uneven nails, or stress combined with anxiety. Ironically, when I look at my rough and ugly nails, I would get the urge to ‘even them out,’ which would always look even worse. A taste, touch, sight, smell or hearing, posture or movement you make, or even certain places can all trigger you, so look for them.
Once again, you must figure out what causes you to bite your nails and how to avoid these situations. Then, find another way to cope. Being aware before I was about to do it, and reacting to it, was what helped me solve the problem.
Keep your nails short
As soon as the nail started growing, I wanted to bite them. Months after I stopped biting, I was still clipping them short. I figured I would touch the tips of the nails with my fingers without realizing it, and I was doing it too often. Buy a well-made clipper or nail scissors, and keep the nails short. You will have gorgeous nails with less or nothing to bite off. Short nails are also easier to maintain and more hygienic than long ones.
Get a manicure
Getting a manicure as a man for the first time felt awkward. The manicurist assured me that ‘there are more men than women doing it nowadays.’ Having a professional cut and style your nails right will make you less likely to want to ruin them again. You won’t bite them if you’ve spent money and effort to make them look so nice. It will also be easier to maintain in the long run. So please don’t feel ashamed; go for it.
Apply oil to your nails
Whenever I tell someone, I’ve stopped biting my nails, they ask if I’ve done it with bitter-tasting nail polish. No, I haven’t, but it also doesn’t mean you don’t have to try. I have used it once, and my experience with it was terrible. It made my nails yellowish, and it wasn’t even that bitter.
I’ve got another piece of advice – use olive or argan oil on your nails and cuticles. For the first couple of months, I applied it three times a day, and now I do it before sleep, and it works like a charm. The oils will hydrate and smoothen your skin and help the nails grow, but make sure to rub it in. You’ll again be sorry to bite them because your nails will look so much nicer.
Cover up your nails
Put band-aids, some sticky tape, or wear gloves over your nails. Whatever will physically remove you from getting to your nails with your mouth. It sounds silly, but it will be an extra barrier between your nails and mouth. This barrier will help you become aware of what you’re doing and, hopefully, stop it when you do.
Find something else to do
When you feel the urge to bite your nails, try to refocus your brain on something else. For me, the stressor was often something that made me nervous for a more extended period. I’m not a patient man, and waiting for prolonged periods is always hard. It’s even more complicated when I’m waiting on something important, and I can’t help but stress about what will happen. For example, when I was waiting for test results as a teenager, or now when I don’t know why my kid is sick and if it’s something serious or just the flu. It’s something that is eating you from the inside. So, refocus on something else. Check out our list of 22 hobbies for men. You’ll for sure find something that will help you focus on something else instead of nail biting.
Don’t give up
Nice nails don’t come overnight, especially if you’ve been biting them longer than you remember. The good thing, as you know, is that time heals everything, and nail-biting usually doesn’t cause any long-term damage.
Breaking such a habit is difficult, but so is being above average. Give yourself time, and all the patience and hard work will pay off in the end. If you’re having trouble quitting cold turkey, take one step at a time. Set small goals and keep going – you’ll get there.