photo of women s hands

Nail Biting: What You Need to Know to Stop

Nail Biting Is Not Pretty

Nail biting is an ugly habit. Literally! Plus, it is not pleasing to a captive audience forced to watch a nail-biter at work.

This nasty habit makes nails look ugly. And it’s also unhealthy.

But stopping this unattractive habit is difficult. It may take several attempts and still end up being unsuccessful.

So, what’s a person to do?

Keep reading to learn the answer.

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Why Do People Bite Their Nails?

Nail biting is often a sign of anxiety, stress, or feeling insecure. Some experts believe it is a form of self-soothing that can help the nail-biter cope.

Cedars-Sinai tells us nail biting is extremely common in today’s chaotic world.

The medical term for this particular habit is Onychophagia, making this painful habit a legitimate medical condition.

Boredom is also thought to play a role in the development of this behavior. Others believe it is the need to do some type of activity with our hands.

However, there are those who believe the habit actually comes from hunger!

Evidently, using nails to exercise teeth possibly stems from several different causes.

But the facts are this: Nail biting is irrevocably unattractive, and most people who are guilty of it want to end this behavior once and for all!

girl chewing on her nails

Why Is Nail Biting So Prevalent?

According to WebMD, about half of all kids and teens are addicted to nail biting. Studies show children with parents who bite (or bit their nails in the past and stopped the habit) are more likely to bite their nails.

And these kids and teens grow into adults who practice chewing on their nails. Then, they spread it to the next generation!

Thus, begins a vicious cycle.

This habit is also common in people with mental health conditions and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In addition, some medications are known to cause the behavior.

Most people chew on their nails without even realizing it. As a result, nail-biting becomes so ingrained that it is usually carried out mindlessly.

This alone makes stopping the behavior a very difficult nut to crack.

But there is hope.

nail biting is tough to crack

Is It Important to Stop My Nail Biting Habit?

A long-time habit of biting nails eventually causes them to grow abnormally, resulting in bent and misshapen nails. Of course, the visual effects of jagged, too-short nails are obvious to anyone who looks at your hands.

Therefore, nail-biters tend to hide the evidence of this habit when they worry someone will notice chewed and bitten nails. We keep them out of photos or tuck them into fists. This behavior can lead to a perception of angry or uptight body language.

Not only is the damage cosmetic, but nail biting also causes health issues for some.

One potential problem is the risk of harming teeth over time, as nails were not meant to be chewed or ingested.

In fact, fingernails head straight through the stomach and pass into the appendix, where they become trapped. As time passes, they build up and cause inflammation. This inflammation can lead to appendicitis, a dangerous medical crisis that requires emergency surgery.

Another issue with biting nails is putting hands in the mouth, which is quite unsanitary. If you could only see the millions of critters and pathogens crawling on your hands, you’d never want to put them in your mouth! Underneath one’s fingernails is one of the nastiest environments in the human body.

These germs, fungi, and viruses are one of the leading causes of infection. Think colds, worms, COVID-19, flu, and more.

Yes, worms!

For example, a child plays in the dirt. Worms live in the dirt and lay eggs. These eggs get stuck under the nails, and the child puts their hands in their mouth. The result is pinworms, a common parasite. These worms live in the digestive system until they are treated with medication.

Now that you’re thoroughly disgusted, let’s talk about how to stop this dirty habit.

Collage of nail biting

A collage of nail biting

What’s Your Nail Chewing Trigger?

Firstly, it’s important to recognize the triggers causing you to bite your nails. Is it hunger? Boredom? Nerves? Stress? Maybe when you’re feeling uncomfortable?

Once you understand your nail-biting triggers, you can develop a strategy for dealing with them.

Additionally, you must be mindful and present enough to recognize when you’re actively chewing your nails. Therefore, mindfulness is a skill you want to nurture to stop chewing your nails.

nail chewing woman

How Do I Stop Gnawing On My Nails?

The key to stopping nail biting is to have a strategy and be persistent.

If you fall off the wagon, remember everyone flinches once or twice. Simply accept that you’re human and climb right back up again.

Now, it’s time to get to the heart of the matter—to stop the pain.

9 Simple Strategies to Stop Nail Biting

Here are nine helpful guidelines for stopping the often painful and bad habit of nail-biting!

  1. Keep your nails at a length too short to chew.
  2. Use Psychology. Remind yourself fingernails are not edible and unhealthy to ingest. Or, think about the worms when you’re tempted.
  3. Apply safe, bitter-tasting polish to your nails every morning. Notably, the taste alone will cause you to avoid your nails until you are no longer tempted to chew on them.
  4. Keep your nails covered. If possible, wear gloves or fake nails. It removes the temptation of seeing and wanting to chew on your fingernails.
  5. Make an effort to get regular manicures. If you can’t tolerate false nails, ask for shorter ones that are easier to wear. Stylish, artificial nails remove the temptation to chew. Plus, you deserve to be pampered.
  6. Keep those hands busy! Hold onto a stretch ball or do artwork. Click a pen. Play sports. The point is to perform an activity involving your hands that removes the temptation for nail biting. Distraction works!
  7. Try chewing sugarless gum. Keeping your mouth busy can work very well.
  8. Replace nail-biting with positive behaviors. Such as good nail care, biweekly massages, or a new exercise routine.
  9. Some experts recommend gradually stopping a bad habit. Stop biting your pinkies first, then your thumbs. After that, work on the middle nails.

How Long Does It Take to Stop Nail-Biting

Maxwell Maltz claimed in The New Psycho-Cybernetics that breaking a habit takes approximately 21 days.

Unfortunately, if you’ve bitten your nails for a long time, they may never grow back the same. This permanent damage is called Onycholysis.

It is the separation of the fingernail from the nail bed.

However, the damage can be covered up with a nice manicure. Additionally, it still looks 100% better than bitten nails.

A Little Secret to Beautiful Nails

A trick to developing beautiful nails is to put whitening toothpaste on them.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Whitening toothpaste contains a natural ingredient that many believe lightens and brightens nails in just minutes. It’s said to bleach out certain stains!

But if your skin is easily irritated or inflamed, avoid this method, as it is not scientifically proven.

If you do want to try it, apply whitening toothpaste to your bare nails and leave for 10 -15 minutes. Then, thoroughly rinse with warm water using a toothbrush or nail brush.

Repeat once if the desired whitening has not yet been achieved.

stop nail biting now

Wrap It Up

Kicking the nail-biting habit to the curb not only improves your self-confidence but also improves your overall hygiene and health.

Your nails will look so much better that you’ll want to show them off instead of hiding them!

Sometimes, your budding nails may not grow out quite the way you want them to. In that case, there is always a manicure with your name on it! In the meantime, keep working with them.

Breaking this habit is well worthwhile and has many benefits.

Plus, it will make you happy! And your happiness is important.

It’s a no-brainer!

Now, you know everything you need in order to break this painfully irritating habit.

You can stop nail-biting! It’s entirely possible. Why not start working on it today?

stop nail biting and enjoy beautiful fingernails

You could be on your way to beautiful nails in 3-4 short weeks

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12 Comments

    1. Grandmothers can stop nail biting! I know because I am one! It is a hard habit to stop, but it can be done. Try showing her this article to see if it will motivate her to try to kick the habit.

  1. My son bites his nails only when he on the soccer field. I think I’m going to try the gum idea to see if that helps his anxiety! Thanks!

  2. #5 is what helped me! I bit my nails my whole life but once I started doing shellac polish on my nails I stopped. Regular polish didn’t work but the shellac did. I think because it was more thick? I ended up getting a light and I do them at home which saves a ton of money! Great tips! It really is so hard to kick this habit! It’s not like smoking where you can stop buying them, they’re always there!

    1. I love this comment! I’m so glad you kicked the habit and stopped nail biting! It only took me 58 years to do it! My daughter has the light too and it’s so worth it! She does my nails and I love looking at them!

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