How to Stop Biting Your Nails

6 tips to end the habit once and for all

Woman biting her nails
 LWA-Dann Tardif/Getty Images

Chronic nail biting affects up to 30% of the general population, leaving many people wondering how to stop biting their nails.

While it might seem like a harmless habit, nail biting could be keeping you from feeling your best. Along with wreaking havoc on your nails, repeated nail biting can damage the tissue that promotes nail growth, put you at risk for a chipped tooth, trigger painful jaw issues, and transmit bacteria and viruses from your nails to your mouth.

How do you stop biting your nails? Here are a six tips and at-home remedies to stop biting your nails once and for all.

Manage Stress

Everyday stress is one of the biggest factors in chronic nail biting. To ease your stress—and alleviate anxiety—try taking up techniques like meditation, yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction, deep breathing, or guided imagery.

Helpful in knocking out your nail-biting habit, such techniques may also enhance your overall well-being. For example, a study published in the journal Mindfulness found that practicing brief sessions of hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation can significantly improve brain function and energy levels.

Eliminate Triggers 

In a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, researchers determined that people who are easily bored, frustrated, and/or impatient are more likely to engage in compulsive behaviors like chronic nail biting and skin-picking.

To find out what’s feeding your habit, try keeping a journal and making a note of your mental state whenever you feel the urge to bite your nails. Once you’ve identified a pattern, change your circumstances by taking action against your triggers. For example, if you tend to bite your nails when you’re zoning out in front of the TV, try going for a walk or picking up a book instead.

Focus on Nail Hygiene

If you keep your nails trimmed and filed short, there will be less to latch onto, possibly making the nail biting habit less satisfying.

Similarly, getting regular manicures and keeping your nails in top shape could serve as a deterrent. (You may not want to ruin how they look.)

Until you’ve fully busted your nail biting habit, stay safe and healthy by washing your hands as often as possible, taking care to get rid of any grime underneath your nails.

Dab Your Nails with Something Bitter

For some people, applying bitter-tasting nail polish, which you can buy over-the-counter at most drugstores, can be a deterrent to nail biting.

As an alternative to applying bitter-tasting nail polish, you may prefer to coat your nails with a natural substance, such as neem oil. Sourced from the seeds of an evergreen tree native to India, neem oil offers the added benefit of supplying skin-nourishing fatty acids like oleic acid and linoleic acid.

Chew Sugar-Free Gum

Chewing gum made with natural sugar substitutes, such as xylitol, might help you stop biting your nails by giving your mouth another activity to engage in.

Sip Calming Teas

Many teas contain herbs that could help lessen your stress and leave you less likely to nibble on your nails. For help in winding down, try sipping tea made with soothing herbs like chamomile, passion flower, and lemon balm.

A Word From Verywell

While home remedies are beneficial for many chronic nail-biters, some people may require more comprehensive treatment. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) warns that nail biting may signal a more serious psychological or emotional issue in some cases. If you’re struggling in your efforts to quit biting your nails, talk with your doctor.

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