How to Stop Biting Nails [5 Ways to Get Rid of the Habit]


If you’re one of the many people that bite their nails, then you’ve probably thought about how to stop biting nails at one point or another. Nail-biting is a nervous habit that’s very commonly seen in children and adults alike.

Even though many people think of it as harmless, it can be very detrimental to your health. Read on to find out about all the risks associated with nail-biting and how to stop once and for all.

Is Biting Your Nails Bad?

Chronic nail-biting, known as onychophagia, can cause significant damage to the nails and the skin around them if left untreated for long periods of time. The nails play an important role in the body – they protect your fingers so you can handle things with your hands more easily. They can serve as indicators of other underlying medical issues, so it’s important that you keep them in good condition.

Like other addictive behaviors, nail-biting can be a facade for coping with some mental afflictions; many people are biting nails out of anxiety or when they’re trying to cope with a lot of stress, or in some cases, it can be an indication of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Nail-biting people are at a higher risk of infection and can develop abnormal-looking nails. Not to mention the overall untidy look of the hands – aesthetics matter too!

In a word, biting your fingernails is bad for you and you should focus on getting rid of this unhealthy habit.

DID YOU KNOW: It’s estimated that 20% to 30% of the US population are nail biters, showing that it is a common habit (and problem) across all age groups.

How to Stop Biting Nails?

You may have already decided that you want to stop biting your nails, but you don’t know how to go about it. Don’t worry, we’ve compiled a list of tips that will help you definitively give up nail nibbling.

Cut Them Short

The first thing you need to do when you’re trying to give up nail-biting is to cut them short. This way you’ll ensure that you’ll be having less nail surface to bite, and hopefully, this will turn you away.

Coat Them With Something Bad-Tasting

If you want to stop biting nails, it’s recommended that you make them taste bad.

  • Apply bitter-tasting nail polish – there is a specifically designed anti-biting polish that has a bitter taste, so when you try to bite your nails, you’ll be disgusted by the unpleasant taste.
  • Apply vinegar – make a solution of water and vinegar and dip your fingers into it; you can use wine or apple cider vinegar, whatever lowers your nail-biting drive.
  • Apply garlic and olive oil – mix some garlic and olive oil and put it on your fingertips; the olive oil will moisturize your skin, and the smell of garlic will prevent you from putting your fingers in your mouth.

Splurge on Manicures

One of the best ways to stop biting nails is to get regular manicures. If you have healthy, good-looking nails, you won’t be inclined to ruin them. Getting pointy nails can be a good idea since they’re more difficult to nibble on and they’re definitely better looking than nubby nails.

Psychological Triggers

If you want to get to the root of the problem, you need to identify what triggers you to do it. Your nail-biting might happen when you’re anxious, stressed, or just bored. Once you know when it’s likely to happen, you can avoid biting nails in these situations. It’s even better if you can prevent some of the nail-biting triggers and fix the causes behind the nail-biting habit. For example, if you’re anxious, you could try using crystals to help you cope with anxiety.

Wear Gloves or Mittens

You can wear either gloves or mittens to cover your fingers, removing access to your nails and making biting physically impossible. If the weather is warm, however, it’s impractical to cover your hands.

Above we’ve listed some of the ways to stop biting nails, but in some more severe cases where the underlying psychological causes are serious, these strategies may not suffice. In these cases, it’s best to consult a medical professional, since therapy may be needed to resolve the issue. There are some excellent online therapy sites you can try if you’re uncomfortable visiting a therapist in person.

Meditation is also a good way to relieve some of the stress that’s causing nail-biting, and there are plenty of tools for meditation available that can help you with the process.

How Long Does It Take to Stop Biting Nails?

There’s no specific length of time you’ll need to stop biting your fingernails, although some experts agree that you should be able to kick the habit in 21 days. However, don’t be disappointed if you need more time than 3 weeks; every individual is different and we all need different amounts of time to overcome our bad habits.

It’s also good to remember that the longer you’ve had the habit, the harder it is to kick. So if you’ve been a nail-biter since childhood, prepare yourself for a long ride.

Why Should You Stop Biting Nails?

We’ve already established that nail-biting is an unhealthy habit, but what are the exact reasons why you should stop biting your fingernails? Below we’ve listed some of the consequences of pathological nail-biting, so you know exactly what you’re at risk of the next time you put your fingers in your mouth.

  • Nails Grow Weird

When you bite your nails, you increase the risk of getting hangnails or forming ingrown nails. Even if this doesn’t happen, you can damage the nail beds which will result in the growth of abnormal-looking nails.

  • Damage the Cuticles

If you also like to nibble on the skin around your nails, you can tear off the cuticles, which can be very painful and increase the risk of skin and nail infection. An infected finger from biting nails is not a pretty sight – and it can be dangerous too!

  • Break Your Teeth

When you bite your nails too hard, you risk breaking your teeth. Even if you don’t break them, the continual pressure from everyday biting is very likely to cause damage to the teeths’ structure and they may start chipping.

  • Bad Breath

Besides tooth damage, you also risk getting bad breath or halitosis from the bacteria you might introduce into your mouth from the nails.

  • Make You Sick

One of the things to help you stop biting your nails is realizing the impending risk of infection.

    • Paronychia – or infection of the nail is always a risk, and it’s a very painful condition.
    • Other illnesses – even if you’re an avid hand-washer, you can’t remove all the bacteria and viruses (hepatitis, for example) living on your hands, and once you put them in your mouth, the chances of becoming ill are much bigger.
  • Risk of Poisoning

In case you’ve applied nail or gel polish and you still nibble on your nails, you’re at risk of toxic poisoning. Gels and polishes usually contain chemicals that are harmful when ingested, and even though you may not see signs of poisoning right away, there may be long-term consequences.

  • Lip Warts

The easiest way to stop biting nails is to think about lip warts; if you have warts on your fingers, which are usually caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), you can easily transfer them to your lips and your face and develop warts.

Now that you’re aware of all the terrible consequences that can arise from nail-biting, you may be more motivated to stop the biting and redirect your nail-biting energy to something healthier and more productive.

DID YOU KNOW: People that bite their nails on a regular basis are more likely to develop bruxism, more commonly known as teeth grinding. This usually occurs at night, while the person is asleep; the urge is uncontrollable and can lead to permanent dental damage. Luckily, there are some anti-snoring devices that can prove helpful from bruxism, too.

What to Do Instead of Biting Nails?

We’ve already established that nail-biting is an unhealthy habit and it can lead to many more serious health issues. So, once you’ve decided to get rid of your nail-biting habit you may find yourself wondering what to do instead. We’ve compiled a few tips to help you fight the biting urges that are bound to happen.

  • Replace the Habit

It’s always a good idea to replace one habit with another, healthier one. So instead of biting your nails, try chewing gum, eating healthy snacks, or keeping your hands busy with a stress ball or a fidget spinner.

  • Make Gradual Changes

One of the best tips to stop biting nails is to do it gradually. You can set a goal to stop biting just your thumbnails, then you can extend the ban to your pinky nails. If you say a finger is off-limits, don’t nibble on it. Once you’ll see the change, it’ll be easier to stop altogether.

  • Try a Mouthguard

If you’re bad at fighting your urges, you can wear a mouthguard that will prevent you from using your teeth, thus making it impossible to bite your nails.

  • Experiment With Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is one of the useful tricks to stop biting nails, as it can be very helpful if you want to calm down and relax. You can get one of the amazing aromatherapy diffusers to which you can add essential oils, or you can always light an aromatherapy candle. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll find yourself feeling better and calmer.

We hope that these tips will help you overcome your habit, leading to healthier nails and better overall health.

Key Takeaways

Onychophagia, or chronic nail-biting, can cause severe damage to the nail and the surrounding skin.
Cutting the nails short and coating them with a bad-tasting polish are the two most common strategies to quit biting nails.
Identifying what causes the fingernail biting and addressing the problem can be key to getting rid of the habit altogether.
Nail-biting comes with some serious risks to your overall health, such as infections, poisoning, lip warts, and weird-looking nails.
Replacing the nail-biting habit with a healthier habit is advisable when you’re trying to stop the biting.

Wrap Up

Nail-biting can be a crippling habit and although there is no one best way to stop biting nails, there are several ways you can go about getting rid of this habit.

Remember that you need to be determined to stop and identify and address any factors that may be causing you to bite your nails. Be patient and you’ll get there. We wish you luck!


Can biting nails damage the teeth?

Continual nail-biting can lead to chipping of the teeth, or in more extreme cases, fracture of the front teeth. There’s even the possibility of the teeth falling out if they have been weakened by the constant pressure they endure.

How long does it take for nails to grow back after biting them?

Nails, especially infected nails from biting, may never grow back in the same shape and form. Even if you’ve refrained from biting for a certain period of time, there still may be visible damage to fingernails and you’ll need to work on getting them back in shape.

How to grow out nails after biting?

A good way to grow out your fingernails is to soak your hands in hot water mixed with dish soap for at least 5 minutes every day. Daily filing is also recommended and you can apply a new coat of protective nail polish every couple of days.

How to fix your nails after biting them?

Once you’ve figured out how to stop biting nails, you can work on fixing them. It’s important that you regularly moisturize your hands and nails, and apply antibiotic cream overnight to protect yourself from skin infections that can damage the nail even if you’re not biting it.


I've loved writing since I can remember, and back in high school, I started loving psychology as well. So I majored in it while dabbling in spirituality and yoga on the side.

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