How Do You Stop Biting Your Nails?

January 28, 2014 | By | Comments (28)

girl-nail-biting-ictcrop_300As I write this post, I am home with a sick kid—worrying about her, my upcoming deadlines, and the errands that won’t get done today. Needless to say, I’m stressed. And often when I’m stressed, I bite my nails. I’ve had this bad habit ever since I can remember (though I have mysteriously quit from time to time).

Here’s what I’ve tried in an attempt to stop: Bad-tasting polish, snapping a rubber band I wear around my wrist every time I notice I’m biting, bribery (I’ll buy myself a bag if I can just grow out my nails), regular manicures, hypnosis (yes, really). I even tried making deals with my kids: If they stop thumb-sucking, I’ll stop nail biting. They stopped, I didn’t.

I know how I judge people with bitten nails when mine are grown out. I see them as insecure or, worse, as hot messes. Neither of which I consider myself to be.

So, I turn to you all, surely there’s a real simple way to kick the habit. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Have a different bad habit? Here, advice on how to tackle it.


  1. Megan M

    Therapy! Seriously. It’s not a quick fix, but it helped me. I didn’t start going in order to stop biting my nails, but that was a positive side effect. I couldn’t stop biting my nails for years, and then I started therapy and explored how and why I hold stress in my body. My nails are long and healthy now.

    January 28, 2014 at 1:18 pm
  2. Megan K

    I have battled nail-biting my entire life as well. The only way I can seem to keep from doing it is to keep my nails pristine and polished. If my polish is chipping, my cuticles are peeling, or my nails have a rough spot, I will automatically relapse. I now carry a nail file at all times and do my nails weekly. Even a clear coat seems to keep me from messing with them. I’ve also worked over the years to deal with my anxiety, which I’m sure has helped.

    January 28, 2014 at 2:20 pm
  3. Emily C.

    When I notice that I’m biting my nails (and, worse, picking at the skin around them), I try to fold my hands, exhale, and tell myself to relax. (“Relax” seems better than “Stop” because it’s an invitation rather than an accusation!)

    January 28, 2014 at 9:38 pm
  4. Mimi

    The best solution I came across was pick ONE finger you won’t bite for a week or two. Then after that, pick another finger and so on until you’ve stopped biting all ten nails. Worked like a charm for me.

    January 29, 2014 at 11:46 am
  5. Dorisforce

    I tell myself that if I put my fingers in my mouth I will possibly catch a stomach virus or other illness (not unlikely esp. in public due to touching germy door handles etc.). It takes away almost all of the desire and cured me after doing it since childhood. It’s also really NOT sexy.. :)

    January 30, 2014 at 11:57 am
  6. Laren

    It helped me to make certain I took my hair/nail/skin vitamin daily and keep clear polish on at all times! Cuticle oil and file in bag at all times to treat my rough spots instead of adding them to my list of fret-worthy worries. And once my nails were all a decent length, manicures. For me, putting money into something made me want to protect that investment.

    January 30, 2014 at 12:05 pm
  7. Nailbitter too

    You have an underlying anxiety issue you have learned to cope with using nail bite to expend the additional energy and allow for stress release. You should look into what triggers your anxiety and nail biting habit. I tend to do in the car when I am driving and thinking of all the things I need to do. When I understand my trigger and thinking that makes me want to go to that coping action..then you may be able interact with the behavior and address your underlying emotions instead using the nail biting to self sooth.

    January 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm
  8. Lisa Miller

    I finally stopped when I was 42. I realized that I chewed my nails when stressed or worried but the real problem was that the nail beds actually itched and messing with them provided relief. So I replaced that habit with carrying hand lotion with me at all times and using it whenever I noticed my hands creeping toward my mouth. Pressing on and massaging the nail itself provided the same relief as chewing and gave me nice strong nails and attractive hands in the process.

    Keep in mind I’m very allergic to most cosmetics, nail products and polish make my nails itch and react more, not less. Nowadays I look more to physical rather than hokey, old ‘psychological’ reasons for persistent habits, and it’s working out. Perhaps this, along with all the great advice above, will help.

    January 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm
  9. Jenn

    I’ve noticed that when I can’t see the flaws in my nails (peeling/chips etc.) it’s helpful, although I haven’t been able to quit yet. I have taken to using nail shields from Jamberry. They’re a nail polish sticker that stays on your nails for a week or so and has great patterns/colors. It keeps me from picking and when I’m ready to change my design I magically have “white” ends to my nails! Good luck!!

    January 30, 2014 at 12:51 pm
  10. Pam Hughes

    I used to bite until my nails bled. So….. as a guitar player, I filed them down until they hurt. Also put vinegar on my cuticles. You’ll have to find something else to self sooth. Smoking and eating helped me. Then….. I gave up smoking (having learned will power from the non-biting) gave myself manicures and started exercising. All because of nail biting. It’s so hard. Thump a pencil on your head….. anything harmless and repetitious.

    January 30, 2014 at 1:37 pm
  11. Nancy

    Bit mine my entire life. In my 50s I put on glue on nails and used them for a few yrs nonstop. When I finally took them off and kept them off I realized after about a week, that I was no longer biting! Yay! It’s been about 10 years…have great nails! Good luck!

    January 30, 2014 at 2:07 pm
  12. Brian

    If you’re a germaphobe, don’t wash your hands or work in the food industry. But seriously, I’ve been having the same struggle as long as I can remember, and the only times I made any headway on the matter was when I was a waiter. I was in a situation where my being employed depended upon not biting. Unfortunately I had to keep up that mentality for a long long time and I knew I was doing so. So as soon as I was off work or I got a different job and I wasn’t in that mindset anymore, it came back. I can’t seem to commit myself to being in that mode without actually being in a situation like that. I’ve tried the same things you have to no avail either. Just keep trying. If the best you can do is a week without biting and you relapse after a couple of days without realizing it, don’t quit trying. They say 21 days is what you need to break a habit, so just keep working towards fending off the urge. Put yourself in a mental state of “I can’t do this now” or “I’m handling other people’s food” or “Don’t let my kids see me do it so they catch it too.” Maybe you’ll scare yourself long enough to go another 2 weeks.

    January 30, 2014 at 3:05 pm
  13. Michelle

    think of all the bacteria that you are putting in your mouth :(

    January 31, 2014 at 11:42 am
  14. Annette

    Bit my nails for a long time, now they peel. Have stopped biting, need help now to have pretty nails, help…..

    February 11, 2014 at 12:45 pm
  15. georg

    Learning to calm down and breathe was the best help for me plus I married a man who made me feel so good about myself.

    February 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm
  16. Linda

    I too bit until they bled for all of my childhood and up until I was about 29. Then I stopped – I applied clear coat to them and when it started to wear off, I kept applying it so I would not bite them. Now I get a manicure every two weeks and never – ever – went back to biting them.

    February 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm
  17. Sally

    I avoided biting 1 nail ,letting it grow slightly,. Then another, I kept a nail file with a pointed tip with me @ all times & cleaned under new nails instead of biting them. I would also buff them as a subsutute for biting. It will take time to change an old habit but you CAN do it & you’ll have clean shiny nails !!!! Then you can paint them when they grow out the same length. The real trick is finding something to do instead of biting them that works for you. Mabe a marble or something in your pocket to roll around in your fingers when you get nervous.

    February 11, 2014 at 2:56 pm
  18. desi

    I started putting nail polish on my nails when I was 18 and haven’t looked back! Once a week I give myself a manicure. You would never know that I was a nail biter – I seriously have some gorgeous nails! The polish helps discourage you because your nails will look even worse and scrappy nail polish will really draw the wrong kind of attention to you. Once you start growing your nails (they really do grow quickly) and getting compliments, you’ll forget all about biting them! And if you really need motivation – just think of all the bacteria, germs and who knows what else you are putting in your mouth!!! Eww!

    February 11, 2014 at 3:00 pm
  19. Carol

    Most of my life I would bite my nails until 10 years ago, my nails would be constantly sore . Suddenly I stopped and thought today is the day I stop biteing my nails for good.I brought several bottles of different shades of nail polish and that helped. Make up your mind that you can stop and just know that you can stop difficult as it may be to break a bad habit. Only yourself has the power to break a habit and believe me you will succeed. Good luck!

    February 11, 2014 at 3:21 pm
  20. Anna Nowack

    I don’t hire my nails but I do pick aft my cuticles. It’s a horrible absent-minded habit I have had all my life. And it’s getting to be really gross. My cuticles. are so dry and cracked. Not only is it gross but painful! It’s also embarrassing when I’m bleeding and putting my fingers on my mouth. Please help. I’ve tried lotions, oils, gloves, vitamins, and going to the nail salon. Nothing keeps them hydrated. The only thing that works is going to the nail salon every week or so, but it’s so expensive!

    February 11, 2014 at 6:38 pm
  21. Catherine Fox (@cfoxtc)

    A friend of mine keeps a box of toothpicks with him and chews those whenever he wants to chew his nails.

    February 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm
  22. Cheryl

    I used to bite my fingernails and toenails. I mostly stopped in high school, almost never since I got married. Keep a nail file or board with you at all times.

    February 11, 2014 at 6:50 pm
  23. Elizabeth Sheehy

    My dad gave me a nail clipper when I was a teen biter. I would clip the raggedy edges, and rough cuticles, and use the little file attatchment to smooth them. (In this more paranoid day and age, a kid might have to make do with a disposable emery board as metal clippers wold be considered a weapon in many schools) Just be sure NOT to clip/file at the table – duck into the rest room – be discreet. It’s all about paying attention; substitute positive attention for the negative.

    February 11, 2014 at 7:43 pm
  24. Judy Goodwin

    I far back as I can remember At times I bit my nails till they hurt. Finally, from the drugstore I got a bottle of liquid that guaranteed “stop bitting your nails”. It wasn’t a nail polish. But you put it on once per day and the it tasted so bad that the taste stayed with you for about 15 minutes. I went through all my teen years and was tired of hiding my hands. It did not wash off. So it left me no choice to leave my nails alone and it worked. Can’t remember the name of it. Sorry . But it was just a clear liquid like water. And I faithfully put it on every morning. I wish you luck. Try it. It truly works.

    February 11, 2014 at 9:00 pm
  25. Jean Aragon

    At age 10 I started nail-biting when my family went through a lot of major changes in short order, including my parents’ divorce and all that entailed. Then my 5th-grade teacher told the class about a man she knew who had been a nail biter. The man’s habit had become so bad that it would make his fingers bleed. He was embarrassed when various persons at a large dinner party asked him what was wrong with his fingers. This motivated him to stop biting his nails, and hearing his story motivated me to stop biting mine.

    February 11, 2014 at 9:13 pm
  26. Jean H

    I am a “nail picker” in my 60’s. Know exactly that I do it when I get stressed. Duriing calm times, they are never the best. Am currently starting once more of keeping on top of taking good care of them.

    February 13, 2014 at 10:56 am
  27. Carol

    Try Biotin helps strengthen nails also keep your hands busy when you think about biteing your fingernails.I take Biotin daily, 5000mg. Also great for the skin and hair.Biotin can be purchased at Walmart, Target, K Mart etc.

    February 13, 2014 at 2:49 pm
  28. PSS

    Biotin did it for me too. Having harder nails that don’t flex so much makes it easier to want a pretty coat of polish, and the nails hurt when you chew them. I take 5ooo units daily .
    I stopped a lifelong habit of biting when I was pregnant with my first child because I wanted my pictures of holding him to look nice!

    February 24, 2014 at 4:27 pm

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