5 Tips to Stop Biting Your Nails

End nail biting once and for all

Woman biting her nails
 LWA-Dann Tardif/Getty Images

Biting your nails might seem like a harmless habit, but it’s most likely keeping you from feeling your best. Along with wreaking havoc on your nails, repeated nail biting can damage the tissue that promotes nail growth, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Nail biting might also be bad news for your oral health, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

In addition to putting you at risk for a chipped tooth, it could trigger painful jaw issues. As the ADA explains, the protruding position associated with nail biting can place too much pressure on the joint, and ultimately lead to jaw dysfunction.

What’s more, the AAD warns that biting your nails can transmit bacteria and viruses from your nails to your mouth and, in turn, increase your risk of illness and infection. 

Statistics show that chronic nail biting affects up to 30 percent of the general population. Read on to learn how to replace your nail biting with healthy behaviors once and for all.

Home Remedies to Stop Biting Your Nails

For chronic nail biters, there’s no shortage of recommendations on how to kick the habit and stop biting your nails. The AAD suggests such practices as keeping your nails trimmed short, painting your nails with a bitter-tasting polish, and wearing gloves to prevent biting.

If you’re looking for a home remedy for chronic nail biting, a number of simple strategies could help you out. 

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, and guided imagery.

Not only helpful in knocking out your nail-biting habit, such techniques may also enhance your overall wellbeing. 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.

Sip Calming Teas

Many teas contain herbs that could help lessen your stress and leave you less likely to chomp on your nails. For help in winding down, try sipping tea made with soothing herbs like chamomile, passion flower, and lemon balm. Learn more about herbs that are said to have stress-fighting effects. 

Eliminate Triggers 

Stress isn’t the only psychological issue linked to chronic nail biting. 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 that nail biting urge kicks in. Once you’ve identified a pattern, change your circumstances by taking action against your triggers.

If you tend to bite your nails when you’re zoning out in front of the TV, for instance, try going for a walk or picking up a book instead.

Dab Your Nails with Neem Oil

As an alternative to applying bitter-tasting nail polish, some nail-biters prefer to treat their nails with natural substances 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.

However, it should be noted that gum chewing isn’t an ideal strategy for those who suffer from conditions like temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMJ). In such individuals, excessive chewing can aggravate TMJ pain.  

Should You Use Home Remedies to Stop Biting Your Nails?

While home remedies are beneficial for many chronic nail-biters, some people may require more comprehensive treatment. In fact, the 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 nail-biting, make sure to consult your doctor as soon as possible.

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

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