We know you’ve tried. We know it’s a hard habit to break. We know you probably do it without even thinking about it. But here’s how to actually stop, and stop for good. Follow our tips, and your nails will thank you…
Why do people bite their nails?
Ask someone who bites their nails this question, and the chances are they won’t be able to think of an answer. They’ll say “I don’t know” or “I’ve always done it” or “because they’re there”.
But the fact is we don’t habitually gnaw on other parts of our own anatomies, so biting your nails is - when you stop to think about it - an odd habit. Yet there are several reasons you might do it.
- Your parents did it. Biting your nails is thought to be a habit that’s often inherited from parents - and it’s not just an imitative behaviour. Even if they stopped before you were born, you might still pick it up from them.
- You’re bored. Like fiddling with your hair or even scrolling on your smartphone, there are some behaviours that just keep our hands busy, and you might turn to them without even consciously realising it.
- You’re feeling anxious. There’s a reason the phrase “nail-biting” is used by critics to describe tense dramas or action thrillers (although it’s strange praise when you think about it). Biting your nails might be a sign of anxiety or stress which the repetitive behaviour helps to alleviate.
- You’re hungry. Surely you can find something tastier to nibble on.
Is it bad to bite your nails?
Biting your nails doesn’t do the nails themselves much harm - not any more than clipping them (that’s as long as you don’t go too far and the nail bed stays intact). But it’s unhygienic and unlikely to be good for your health more broadly.
A lot of dirt and grime gathers underneath your fingernails, so you’re more likely to catch colds and other, more nasty, infections if you’re putting them in your mouth all the time.
What’s more, biting your nails can be bad for your teeth, and it can damage the skin around the nails too - further increasing the risk of infection.
How to stop biting your nails
So you’ve decided that biting your nails might not be a worthwhile habit to stay in. Here’s how to stop once and for all…
Trim your nails regularly
Start by buying a good set of nail clippers. Keep it somewhere visible in the bathroom so that you remember to use it as part of your grooming routine.
Trimming your nails regularly will mean they don’t get to a length where the urge to bite them is more likely to kick in - but you’re not going to start trimming them without reminding yourself.
Apply a bitter nail polish
It’s a tried-and-tested method which works for a lot of people - you can buy specially made nail polish that isn’t visible on your nails but tastes, frankly, horrible.
A layer of bitter nail polish every few days should be enough to put you off in the long term after you’ve recoiled in disgust a few times.
There are natural methods, too - where you simply soak your fingernails in an ingredient you don’t like - but you might not want to be someone whose fingers constantly smell of vinegar or garlic.
Treat yourself to manicures
Here’s an idea - make your nails look and feel great. Not only is the process of getting a manicure a wholly enjoyable one that feels like an indulgent bit of me-time every now and again, but if your nails are in tip-top condition you’re much less likely to want to ruin them by nibbling on them.
Distract yourself from your bad habit
We’re not talking about sticking the telly on or reading a book - as these are probably exactly the kind of things that cause you to bite your nails without thinking about it. But if you distract your hands - with a stress ball, a fidget spinner, a set of knitting needles - you might just find the habit falls away by itself.
Find what triggers you to bite your nails
Admittedly it’s not practical to just walk around knitting all the time - so you need to know the specific situations where you’re most likely to bite your nails, and most likely to need distraction.
So don’t try to stop immediately. Try to keep a note of when and where you bite your nails for a few weeks, so that you can see if there are any recurring patterns.
Think before you bite
It’s certainly no bad thing that we’ve all become a bit more aware of hand hygiene since the pandemic - and yet for many of us that hasn’t extended to biting our nails.
Next time you’re about to bite, stop for a moment and ask yourself when you last washed your hands. What have you touched since then? Door handles? The escalator rail at the train station? The change in your pocket? Thinking about those lurking germs for a few seconds is more than enough to put anyone off.
How long does it take to stop biting your nails?
How long is a piece of string? There’s no magic formula for stopping biting your nails, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another - it depends on your personality and how your brain works. Days, weeks, months… but one thing is for sure, and that’s that perseverance and repetition of the same techniques is most likely to get you out of the habit.
Don’t forget to explore our manicure collection for all the essential nail care tools to keep your nails strong and healthy.