Physical Health and Wellbeing

15 Effective Ways To Stop Biting Your Nails

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Are you a nail biter? I’ve been biting mine since I was a young child, and have never successfully been able to stop long-term, despite trying many different ways to stop biting your nails. I recently found out that habitual nail biting is an actual condition, called Onychophagia and it’s a type of body-focused repetitive behaviour (BFRB).

I’d like to start this post with a bit of a disclaimer. As already mentioned, nail biting is a chronic condition and I am not a medical professional, therefore nothing in this post is medical advice – I will just be sharing my own experience. I have never managed to fully stop biting my nails, however, I have sometimes been able to stop temporarily with the help of the techniques in this post. So, here are my 15 tried-and-tested ways to stop biting your nails.

15 Effective Ways To Stop Biting Your Nails

1. Paint your nails

This is one of the simpler and more obvious ways to stop biting your nails. By painting your nails, not only will the varnish physically deter you from biting your nails, you will also be less inclined to ruin your nicely painted nails.

2. Use an anti-bite nail polish

There are several different brands of anti-bite nail polish you can apply to your nails. They are clear in appearance so you can wear them directly on your nails or over the top of coloured varnish. They have a bitter taste which will deter you any time you start biting your nails. This is more effective than simply painting your nails especially if you often bite without realising you are doing it.

A woman's hand with nails painted in black and tortoiseshell colours.
Photo by Bryony Elena on Unsplash

3. Chew gum

Chewing gum keeps your teeth occupied so you are less likely to bite your nails. Nail biting often arises from a need for stimulation, so chewing gum also provides stimulation in an alternative form.

4. Use a fidget toy

Like chewing gum, a fidget toy will provide an alternative to biting your nails when you crave stimulation. You don’t necessarily have to buy a fancy fidget toy. Personally I keep a spiral hair band on my wrist and I find myself playing with that instead of biting my nails. Any kind of hair band or jewellery can do the trick and is easy to carry around with you as it is wearable.

5. Take up a hobby where you need long nails

If you are really committed to stopping biting your nails, and you have the spare time, you could consider taking up a hobby that requires you to have one or more long nails, for example, playing the guitar. This will provide an incentive for you to keep them long so that you can succeed in your hobby!

6. Get into nail art

If it interests you, why not take up nail art as a hobby? Give yourself beautiful manicures, even while your nails are still short. As well as dissuading you from biting your nails, this will also be an incentive to grow them long so you can experiment with more styles of nail art.

7. Make a reward chart

Reward charts can be valuable when trying to make and break habits. This approach may or may not work for nail biting because often it is a subconscious behaviour – you don’t always notice when you bite them. But if you think it might work for you, it’s worth a try! You could promise yourself a reward for every full day (or week, or month…) that you go without biting your nails.

8. Get to the root of the issue

Nail biting can often be a sign of stress. If you think this is you, try to find ways to reduce stress in your life, and/or try some relaxing activities such as meditation. If you have really bad stress or anxiety, you might want to look into remedies or see a doctor for medications.

Nail biting can also be a sign of boredom or lack of stimulation, so if this is you, try to find other ways to keep yourself stimulated such as playing with a fidget toy.

A woman standing among plants, with her eyes closed.
Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

9. Distract yourself by keeping busy

When I’m out exercising, shopping, seeing friends or doing pretty much any activity, I don’t bite my nails. I tend to only do it when I’m at home and alone. If this is true for you too, try to keep yourself busy and active so you just won’t have as much opportunity to bite your nails! Of course, it’s important to keep a balance of activity and rest in your life so that you don’t end up stressed.

10. Recognise when you bite your nails the most

Recognise the times and situations when you most often bite your nails. Then, provide an alternative you can do instead in those situations. For example, I often bite my nails when I am reading. Try to have something else at hand in those situations such as a fidget toy or chewing gum.

11. Get the support of others

Everything is easier when we have the support of our friends and family. Tell people close to you that you are trying to stop biting your nails, and ask them to remind you any time they see you biting your nails. With their help, you will repeatedly break the unconscious pattern and this will help you to eventually break the habit.

12. Wear gloves

Obviously it’s not practical to wear gloves all the time, and especially not in the summer. But during the colder seasons, try wearing thin gloves even indoors, at particular times or during particular activities when you often bite your nails. For example, if you are like me and you bite your nails while reading, try wearing gloves. You don’t need much dexterity in your hands for reading so why not make it a new habit to wear gloves when reading.

13. Use nail strength products and supplements

Try using nail growth or nail strengthening products on your nails. There are also supplements you can take by mouth, to help your nails grow stronger and faster. If you can get your nails to grow faster and healthier you will be less inclined to ‘ruin’ them by biting. They will also grow back faster from each time you bite them.

14. Wear lipstick or lipgloss

If you feel inclined, put some lipstick or lipgloss on. This way, you may be less likely to bite your nails as you won’t want to smudge or wipe off your lip products, or get them all over your hands.

A woman applying lipgloss to her lips.
Photo by Ashley Piszek on Unsplash

15. Remind yourself of the germs

When I have a cold or flu, I find I don’t bite my nails because it just feels gross. Then when I recover I find I have longer nails! The problem is I then go back to biting them. If you’re like me, try to remind yourself of the gross aspects of biting your nails, even when you are well. You are putting more germs in your mouth and on your hands. Try to gross yourself out or even do some research into why it’s unhygienic to bite your nails. See if that puts you off from biting them!

Which of these ways to stop biting your nails have you tried?

If you’re a nail nibbler like me, I’m sure you will have tried some of these methods before. Were any of them effective for you? Writing this post has inspired me to make a bigger effort to stop biting my nails – I’m going to try painting them, which I haven’t done for ages, and maybe I will use an anti-bite polish as well. I also plan to invest in a fidget toy or two, rather than just using a hair band. I hope this post has given you some ideas too! Do you know any other ways to stop biting your nails? Let’s talk in the comments.

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15 Effective Ways To Stop Biting Your Nails

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