How To Stop Nail Biting

Woman biting her nails

If you bite your nails, you're not alone. Lots of people share this habit for many different reasons, such as stress, boredom or a need for comfort. Some people even find themselves biting their nails when the nail grows too long, or gnawing at dead skin around their cuticles.

It's very important to stop biting your nails and cuticles. Not only do chewed-off nails look disgusting and unkempt, but also they can negatively affect the impression you give to a potential employer or client - or mate! Gnawed nails can also promote harmful infections. As a first step, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Stop Your Nail Biting - this popular guide has proven tips that can help anyone stop biting her nails!

Here are some tricks to try:

  1. Decide that you are going to stop. No tactic or strategy will help you if you don't make a decision to quit, and commit to it.
  2. Pick a day to quit. Circle it in red on your calendar. Remind yourself often, in the days leading up to it, that this is the day you're going to stop biting your nails.
  3. The day before your Quit Day, splurge on a professional manicure. If you can't afford one, do it yourself with these steps:

  • Remove any polish with a non-acetone polish remover.
  • Carefully push back cuticles - do not cut them!
  • Use a body scrub mixed with bath gel for a do-it-yourself hand-polishing scrub. Massage the mixture into your skin, paying careful attention to the area immediately around the nail-bed.
  • Rinse with warm water, and gently pat off the excess water.
  • While the hands are still damp, rub a thick body cream or body butter into your hands and cuticles. Wipe off the excess with a soft towel.
  • After the cream is absorbed, and your hands are completely dry, use a soft emery board to gently shape the nails in your preferred shape.
  • Apply a pale polish, if you like. Otherwise, use a buffer to impart a nice sheen to your nails.

The first few days after Quit Day, it might be difficult to keep your hands from your mouth. You have to remind yourself continually that you no longer bite your nails. Either say it quietly or silently to yourself, or out loud, but do it often at first. Soon, it will become "second nature." Here are some other tricks to try:

  1. Keep a small tube of moisturizing cream and a soft emery board in your purse or desk, and a separate set in your car and at home. Use the cream several times a day to keep your skin soft and prevent cuticle tears (which might lead to nibbling) and the emery board to smooth out any rough spots (which could also induce you to chew them away - even though you know that never works).
  2. Make a list of all the reasons you must quit biting your nails. Be as specific as possible, and don't pull any punches. Instead of writing, "It doesn't look nice," try jotting down, "Chewed nails look HORRIBLE and make people think that I completely lack self control." Be sure to include in your list all of the benefits you will enjoy upon succeeding, such as the ability to show off those beautiful rings on your beautiful fingers.
  3. Use visual cues. One trick that worked for me was a clipped magazine picture of the late Princess Diana, after she received her engagement ring from Prince Charles. Remember that? She couldn't show off her ring properly because she bit her nails, so she had to clench her hand into a fist in order to let the photographers get a good look.
  4. Explore the possibility of using a reward system. Attach small purchases to the length of time you've gone without nibbling. Before your quit date, brainstorm a list of little pleasures - anything from a glossy new fashion magazine or tube of expensive lip gloss to a professional manicure or even a massage. List as many potential rewards as possible. Then rank them in order of magnitude or expense, with the less expensive rewards first. Circle four that really appeal to you, and assign a different "milestone" to each one. For your first full day without nail biting, you may reward yourself with the new issue of W or French Vogue. For the first full week, you could buy the new Dior lip gloss. Maybe the first successful month earns you a massage at the local day spa, and six months equates to a full day of treatments. These are merely examples; the key to successful use of rewards is to pick rewards that make your heart beat a little faster.
  5. Ask for help! Don't be afraid to enlist your relatives and good friends or coworkers in your effort to achieve healthy nails. Tell them what you're doing and the date you plan to quit, and then ask them to call your attention to nibbling when they catch you with hands in your mouth. Ask your significant other or roommate to praise you when you resist the temptation of biting nails or when your nails get longer and healthier.
  6. If all else fails, there are nasty-tasting products you can apply to your nails to discourage chewing. You can pick up these products in any drugstore.
  7. Finally, if you're a loved one or friend of a nail-biter, consider how you will urge him or her to stop. Berating and nagging definitely won't work, and may cause damage to your relationship. Instead, talk honestly about the negative impact nail-biting has on your loved one's power to make a good impression. Encourage him to consider the health aspects. It's difficult to think about abandoning such an ingrained habit; you can help increase the nail-biter's motivation by talking about a time in your life (or better yet, in the nail-biter's life) when another habit was successfully overcome. Be supportive, lighthearted, and positive in your approach, and offer to help - perhaps with "code words" if you see her start to nibble in public, or even by providing a reward.

Follow these tips, and keep your commitment strong. Soon enough, you'll have healthy, beautiful nails.


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