Self

16 Ways To Stop Biting Your Nails & Break Your Bad Habit For Good

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how to stop biting nails

If there’s one trait I'm known for, it’s my long nails. Straight up, they look like a cat’s claws. When people see them, they often assume they’re fake (they’re not!). They’re a source of pride for me, and because of it, I take a huge amount of pride in their upkeep.

With nails as long as mine, it’s not uncommon to hear people ask how I manage to keep my long nails intact. The biggest question I get? It’s asking how I don't bite my nails and let them grow out.

I'm here to tell you that it's entirely possible to learn how to stop biting your nails and kick your bad habit for good.

Why do people bite their nails?

Nail biting is often a way of coping with anxiety or stress. The repetition of biting nails helps those individuals deal with the emotions they can't quite overcome.

But nail biting can also be genetic. For example, if one parent or person in the household is a nail-biter, it's likely that their child will become a nail-biter as well, even if the parent stops biting their nails before the birth.

Another possible cause is boredom. Just like hair twirling, skin picking or touching your face, you may also bite your nails without actively realizing it or even thinking about it.

Though medication can cause nail-biting, it's extremely rare; be sure to talk to your doctor for medical advice if you have this issue.

What are the risks of biting your nails?

Though some people don't think nail-biting can be dangerous, this behavior does come with some eyebrow-raising risks.

By biting your nails, you damage the skin around the nail, which can increase the risk of contracting an infection. It can also spread germs from the fingers to the mouth, increasing the risk of colds or other illnesses.

The act of biting your nails can also harm your teeth, causing chips or cracks. Other side effects of nail biting include creating issues with the jaw or causing your nails to grow in improperly.

RELATED: 16 Struggles Only Chronic Nail-Biters Will Understand

Speaking as a nail person, there are great tips I can offer, especially for those who have a chronic nail-biting habit.

16 Ways To Stop Biting Your Nails

1. First, figure out what causes you to bite your nails.

Like any other habit, there’s often a reason why you started biting your nails in the first place. In many cases, getting rid of the habit’s cause will prevent you from continuing it.

Do you do it because you have an oral fixation, or because you’re nervous? By taking away triggers, you’ll find it easier to stop biting your nails. And according to the American Academy of Dermatology, finding your triggers is the best way to stop biting your nails.

2. Chew gum.

Keep your mouth busy and you’ll find yourself in a much better position. I’ve seen former nail biters chew up gum when they get the urge, and also give celery a nibble if they want to avoid biting down on their fingers.

3. Learn a little more about the effects of nail biting.

When you actually find out about all the infections and bacteria that come with nail biting, you’ll be shocked. It’s gross. Really gross.

If you’re the type of person who gets grossed out fairly easily, a good way to make yourself stop biting your nails is to just read up on that stuff.

4. Get (and use) a nail file.

Sometimes, it’s not necessarily the need to chew or quell anxiety that causes people to bite their nails. It could also be due to a texture issue — your nails keep snagging on something and you need to bite the rough parts to try to smooth things out.

A nail file can work wonders if this is the issue you have.

5. Use specialty nail polish.

Did you know they actually make bitter-tasting nail polish specifically for people who want to stop chewing their nails? It’s true, and it can help you quit the habit.

A single bottle of SuperNail Bite No More polish will cost about $4 at a local beauty supply store.

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6. Splurge on a nice manicure.

You know what helped my friend overcome her nail-biting habit? Going to the manicurist and getting gel nail polish manicures. It’s a splurge, but hear me out.

When you have to pay $25 dollars or more on your nails and will find yourself shelling out $10 to fix a broken one, you’ll really think twice about biting them. If you really want to avoid chewing up your nails, go for acrylics.

After one of those breaks, you’ll never want to bite down on your nails again, I promise you!

RELATED: 13 Small Things Anxiety Makes You Do

7. Wear gloves.

Another classic way to avoid chomping your claws away is to wear gloves whenever you can. It’s not necessarily the most realistic thing you can do, but it definitely can help during the fall and winter months.

8. Make a conscious effort to just say no.

You know how some people just have the willpower to say enough is enough? If you are the type of person who has that level of discipline, it may be wise for you to just tell yourself no whenever you start looking at your hands.

9. Try other ways to keep your hands busy.

When you’re trying to break a compulsive habit like nail-biting, distraction and diversion are your best friends. The more you distract yourself from those bad habits, the less you’ll even think of biting your nails.

I’d suggest getting a fidget toy, stress ball, or a puzzle to help you out if you’re really struggling to keep your hands busy.

10. Consider making an appointment with a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Believe it or not, nail-biting might not be as innocuous a habit as it appears to be. Some studies indicate that nail-biting could be indicative of a more serious underlying psychological condition, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

If you believe you might have an underlying condition that’s keeping you from a healthier lifestyle, it might be a wise idea to talk to a professional.

11. Dip your nails in salt.

This method gives the same effect as the foul-tasting nail polish.

Just dip your nails in water, then dip them in salt and dust off some of the excess salt. The salt is meant to leave a gross taste in your mouth when you bite your nails; however, doing this method frequently may be hard to keep up with.

12. Rub jalapeños on your nails.

This hack works a bit better than the salt one. You simply rub jalapeños on each of your nails, leaving the spicy juice to soak into it. But be warned: you cannot rub your eyes after doing this!

13. Snap a rubber band.

Snapping a rubber band on your wrist goes along with redirecting a habit and is a form of behavior therapy.

Every time you feel the urge to bite your nails, snap the band against your wrist instead. This correlates the pain of getting snapped with biting your nails and is a conditioning type of hack.

14. Take things one finger at a time.

Instead of stopping cold turkey, try taking it one nail at a time as a gradual approach. Start with a rule that you can't bite your thumbnails. Then after going a week without biting those nails, add on another finger and so on. This can make kicking the habit long-term easier to do.

15. Make them too pretty to bite.

If your nails are super-cute, you wouldn't want to ruin them. Why not paint them and give yourself a gorgeous manicure, something that others can envy? This could make it harder to bite your nails, as you wouldn't want to chip your polish.

16. If all else fails, cut your nails short.

If you really, truly can’t help the satisfying feeling of biting your nails and pulling, consider cutting your nails short. No long nails mean you won’t end up feeling as much satisfaction when you bite.

RELATED: 5 Worst Health Mistakes You Make (And How To Fix Them)

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of Red Bank, New Jersey whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others. Follow her on Twitter for more.

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