How to Stop Biting Your Nails (For Good!)

Reviewed by
Date published
10/11/2021
Date last updated
08/11/2021
Length of read
6 Minutes

For the majority of people, the practice of nail biting often occurs in childhood – however it’s a habit that can continue long into adulthood. The habit often includes biting the area surrounding the nail too, which can result in painful and inflamed skin that can sometimes become infected.

Like most routines we become accustomed to, nail biting can become an action that we don’t even realise we’re doing because we’re so used to it, meaning that many people find the prospect of quitting impossible. Fortunately, though, there are helpful tips and tricks available to enable you to give up the habit. So, whether you bite your nails because of a compulsion disorder, anxiety or as a result of boredom, here’s how to stop for good.

The Consequences of Biting Your Nails

Like many damaging habits, although biting your nails may at first seem like a harmless action, it does in fact result in multiple side effects. From a cosmetic and development point of view, chronic nail biting can lead to permanently damaging the tissue that encases the nail, which then affects the way in which the nail grows.

Once this tissue has been damaged, the nails can develop and grow abnormally – which results in them looking unusual and irregular. Repeatedly biting your nails also increases the risk of toxic and harmful bacteria passing from your fingers to your mouth, which can lead to illnesses and infections.

One of the main side effects of biting your nails though, is that the skin around the nails can often become sore, swollen and tender to touch, due to damage of the nail bed. This includes the cuticle becoming red and painful, which can increase the risk of bacterial infections occurring – some of which include painful pus-filled blisters. Unfortunately, this results in most people having the desire to bite their nails even more, as a way of trying to ease the pain – which is why the sooner you can quit, the sooner your fingers will heal.

If you believe your nail biting is a sign of something more serious than a habit, it’s important you talk to your doctor or healthcare professional. For some people, nail biting could be a sign of a psychological or emotional problem, so it’s important to seek medical advice if you feel this relates to you.

How To Stop Biting Your Nails

Here are some tips to help you stop biting your nails for good, so that they can grow healthy, shiny and strong.

1. Identify What Triggers You To Bite

For the majority of people, a trigger will result in them feeling the urge to bite their nails. Whether these are emotional or mental triggers such as anxiety, stress, anger or boredom that leads to the urge, or physical triggers such as a hangnail or torn cuticle; knowing what forces you to bite can help you to better understand why you do it, and how you can stop. Many people are able to break a habit if they feel they’re in control of the situation, so just knowing when you’ll be tempted to start chewing can help you feel confident enough to avoid that situation in the future.

2. Keep Nails Trimmed Short, Neat and Tidy

It makes sense that if you want to bite your nails less, have less nail available to bite! By keeping your nails short and well-groomed, there will be less opportunity for you to bite and it’ll also be less tempting for you to do so. If you’re used to long, fake, extravagant nails coated in polish and art, you could use this as an incentive to stop – promise yourself you’ll only treat yourself to your favourite manicure once you’ve stopped biting your natural nails. For some people though, this incentive may work the opposite way. If you’re not somebody who often spends money on your nails, doing so may make you less inclined to chew them.

3. Take A Gradual Approach To Quit The Habit

Instead of going cold turkey, you may find that the slow and steady approach works better for you. This involves attempting to stop biting one set of nails at a time, gradually leaving them all alone. Your thumb nails may be a good place to start, and once you’ve got used to not biting them, move on to your index finger, and so on, until your pinky fingers are the last nails to stop biting. Alternatively, you could try stopping on one full hand, before no longer biting the other.

4. Try Wearing Foul-Tasting Polish On Your Nails

Many chemists and pharmacies sell bitter-tasting nail polish that helps people to stop biting their nails. Though safe and non-toxic, the varnish has a disgusting bitter taste which discourages you from wanting to chew or bite your nails.

5. Instead Of Breaking The Habit, Try Swapping It For A Harmless One

If you’re really struggling to quit biting your nails due to emotional triggers, you could try replacing the habit with a positive or harmless activity instead. The way in which this works is that every time you feel the urge bite, you pursue the other hobby instead so that your hands are kept busy and far away from your mouth to reduce temptation! The harmless habit should be something simple and easy to do on the go, such as squeezing a stress ball, playing with a Rubik’s cube, playing with putty or if you’re sitting, try doodling in a journal.