7 Tips That Can Help End Your Nail Biting Habit

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You've probably heard some statistics about how long it takes to form a habit — While some say 21 days, a 2009 study by the European Journal of Social Psychology found that it can actually take anywhere from 18 to 254 days. This is because it mostly depends upon the individual person and the specific situation, and the more dedicated someone is, the faster they should be able to develop a practice. When it comes to breaking a bad habit, the findings are very similar, because breaking and developing routines are more interconnected than you might think. According to Professor Timothy Pychyl, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Carleton University, "breaking a habit really means establishing a new habit" (via Hopes&Fears). 


However, Pychyl estimates that most bad patterns cannot be broken in less than six months. Because breaking bad routines can be such a challenge, it's important to consider all your possible routes to getting rid of the habit that's worsening your life. Therefore, if you're a nail biter who's looking to quit, we've listed seven tips below. Keep in mind that these tricks may need to be followed for quite some time until the practice starts to break. 

Determine what's causing the biting

The first step is to determine what's causing you to partake in this bad practice. For some people, it's just the feeling or sight of a hangnail that makes them instinctively raise their hand to their mouth. Similarly, perhaps you hate when your nails appear jagged or uneven, so you bite them to remove the ends. However, while you may just be trying to bite off the broken portion of the nail, more is often ripped off, so this should be avoided.


For others, the urge to bite is caused by their emotions. Perhaps they raise their fingers to their mouth when they're anxious, stressed, or bored. If this is the case for you, determine when you most often feel these ways. For instance, maybe you're bored while watching television on the couch, or you're most stressed during certain times at work. Identifying these things will help you be more on guard to stop your bad habit.

Replace biting with trimming

If your trigger is uneven nails, jagged tips, or hangnails, you could try trimming instead of biting your nails. This could be beneficial for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that shorter fingernails are more difficult to bite. Further, if you always have the tools on hand that are necessary to cut off jagged ends or hangnails, you won't have to resort to biting them.


Another huge benefit of this is that most of the tools you need are very small and could easily fit inside a bag or a purse. And they can all be purchased from Amazon at cheap prices. For instance, you could carry around nail clippers, which cost about $8 for a pack of six on Amazon. Those who pick at their cuticles or the skin around their nails could purchase cuticle trimmers, which cost about $7 on Amazon. Finally, if jagged tips bother you, use a nail file, which costs about $5 for a pack of 10 on Amazon.

Keep your hands busy

If you've determined that you most often bite your nails because of a certain emotion, keeping your hands busy during these times may help you end your habit. For instance, instead of biting your nails while watching television, you could knit or do a puzzle. Or, those who discover that stress or anxiety are triggers could purchase a fidget toy, which could not only help you break the habit but may also ease some of your anxious thoughts. There are countless options to choose from, and many of them have multiple ways to keep you entertained, such as the 12-sided Fidget Dodecagon, which is available on Amazon for less than $10.


However, if these types of things don't seem to keep you entertained for long, consider replacing your bad routine with one that's more beneficial, like going on runs or cooking most of your meals. This will not only distract you from nail biting but also improve your life overall.

Try bitter nail polish

One of the easiest ways to keep yourself from biting your nails out of habit is by applying bitter-tasting nail polish. This will deter you because the taste will be quite shocking at first and, of course, you won't want to continue biting.


If you're looking for one to purchase, Target sells a bottle of the ORLY brand for $13. This product could either be applied to your natural nails or over polish, so you can use it all the time. However, to really make this product work for you, you'll need to make sure you reapply regularly, as it could be easy to let the bitter taste dissipate enough so that you can bite again. The hope is that you'll begin to associate biting your nails with a bitter taste, which will eventually lead you to break the habit for good without having to apply the polish anymore.

Take frequent trips to the salon

Another way you could potentially deter yourself from biting your nails is by always keeping them in pristine condition. To do this, take more trips to the salon. If you chose to regularly paint your natural nails, this could help you want to keep them well maintained and looking their best, but you could also cover them with gel polish or acrylic nail tips, which would inhibit your ability to bite.


If you don't have the money or the time to take frequent trips to the salon, consider learning how to do your nails at home. Investing in salon tools could not only help you better maintain your fingernails but could also keep your hands busy, which would help you fight the habit. For instance, instead of biting your nails while watching television, you could paint them. If you want the salon experience at home, consider purchasing a gel nail polish kit from Amazon for about $25.

Wrap bandages around your nails

Wrapping bandages around all of your fingernails obviously isn't the best look, but it could deter you from biting them. If you try out this method, you'll hopefully be able to break the pattern soon and not have to wear the bandages for too long. When applying them, make sure that you cover your nails completely. It may also be beneficial to cover the whole tip of each of your fingers. While you don't want the bandages to be too tight, they also shouldn't allow you to push them down and reach the end of your nails, as this would defeat the purpose of wearing them. You should also change them out frequently, at least every day, as they can get quite dirty.


Bandages could also benefit those who bite the skin around their nails or their cuticles, as they could help these areas heal faster. To speed up the healing process, add a small amount of antibiotic ointment underneath each one. 

Consider what's underneath your nails

If all else fails, take the time to research the types of things that are most likely underneath your nails. According to The Herald-Times, things like dead skin cells, dirt, bacteria, germs, and diseases could be stuck there. Therefore, every time you bite them, you're inviting these germs into your mouth, which could make you sick. "Your fingernails are almost twice as dirty as your fingers," Michael Shapiro, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Vanguard Dermatology in New York City, told Shape. "Bacteria often gets stuck under the nails, and can be transferred to the mouth, causing infections of the gums and throat." Additionally, washing your hands isn't sufficient enough to remove these things, and since germs and diseases are invisible, it's not enough just to keep the dirt out from underneath your nails. 


Whenever you get the urge to bite, remind yourself of all the things that could be hiding underneath your fingernails. Making a conscious effort to be mindful of this may be just what you need to stop your bad habit.