From as far back as I can remember, my New Year’s Resolutions list has always included:
Stop Biting My Nails!!! (Exclamation points included.)
It’s taken me almost two decades but last year I finally, fiiiiinally managed to (almost) completely stop. Hurrah!
Nail-biting has officially been one of my hardest habits to break. Even now, this very week, I woke up after a tipsy night out with one nail bitten right down to the quick (darn you Long Island Iced Teas!).
It’s not a nice habit., but it’s not a destructive one either. Usually its unconscious movement, one that happens when I’m distracted or nervous.
So how do you stop biting your nails?
I’ve tried a million (ish) ways of stopping.
That vile-tasting polish that supposedly is meant to put you off nibbling? Totally pointless. Your tastebuds are on your tongue, so unless you lick your finger before you bite, you’re not going to taste the horrid stuff until it’s too late.
I’ve tried applying false nails, but they just ripped off and left my actual nails in a worse condition than when I’d started. I know they’ve worked for other people, but they’re just not for me.
The thing with quitting a bad habit is, it’s not as easy as just stopping. Think of it the same way as you would if you were trying to losing weight: will power just ISN’T ENOUGH. You need a plan. A strategy.
So that’s what I did!
And here’s what worked for me. It might not help you. After all, everyone’s stories and circumstances are different.
But hopefully it will give you some ideas on how to start your journey and stop biting your nails.
1.WHY ARE YOU BITING?
First step: figure out the root cause.
Do you bite when you’re nervous? Or when you’re bored?
In the past, I’ve actually managed to stop biting for months at a time and then I’d relapse and be back where I started. For me, it was a totally unconscious habit. And it took me aaaages to become properly aware of when my hands were even near my face.
Once I did start to become mindful of it, I noticed that I was most likely to bite my nails when I was both anxious and distracted: usually when I was watching a tense film or TV show (yeah Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you), or thinking about stressful things like my finances or my complete lack of direction in life.
I remember coming out of the cinema after seeing Toy Story 3 and being in absolute agony cos I’d bitten my nails right down until they were red and sore (if you tell me you weren’t also on the edge of your seat when they’re sliding down into the fiery pit, then you, sir, are LYING).
I’d been concentrating so hard, that I hadn’t even noticed my hands drifting towards my mouth.
I also figured out that I’m much more likely to bite if I’ve caught my nail on something and the edges are rough.
There’s just something about that that drives me nuts!
2. FIND PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS TO YOUR “TRIGGERS”
For my film-watching problem, I started out by wearing gloves to the cinema (not fun in mid-August!)
Then I met Gary and now, when we go to the cinema together, I make him hold my hands. Or I’ll tuck mine underneath his, so that I physically can’t get to them. I also asked him to please help by telling me if I start biting when we watch TV.
For my issue with rough edges, I bought a massive multipack of nail files. Then I stuck one in every single handbag I own. I also have one in every coat pocket, one in my purse, one in my pen pot at work and a couple in my makeup bag.
There is literally NO excuse for me to rip my nails apart when I can tidy up a rough edge in a matter of seconds with a file.
3. LOOK AFTER YOUR HANDS
Healthy nails are MUCH less likely to split and break, and if you’ve been biting for years then your nails are going to be weak and brittle enough as it is.
So my next suggestion is to invest in a good quality hand cream and use it several times a day.
My favourite is this Vaseline Intensive Care for Healthy Hands and Stronger Nails. Super cheap but very very good. It has keratin in it, which helps strengthen nails, the smell is nice but not obtrusive and (most importantly for me) it’s not greasy and it sinks in super quickly.
I’ve got a tube of this in my handbag, one on my desk, one on my bedside table and one on my bedside table at Gary’s house.
I also make sure I leave at least 24h between taking my nail polish off and re-applying, so that my nails get some proper oxygen and have a chance to soak up the cream.
4. PAINT YOUR NAILS A PRETTY COLOUR
Yes, I know they’re “too short”. I know you don’t want to really draw attention to them. It’s probably going to look messy and not very nice for a while.
But hear me out.
For me, buying nail polishes and painting my nails a pretty colour was a MASSIVE incentive to stop biting.
Firstly, the sudden flash of bright colour in my eye-line was a huge help in making me mindful of when my hands were getting too close to my mouth.
Secondly, and this won’t help everyone, but I HATE peeling nail polish off. The thought of it alone makes me want to cry. So, unless they get severely chipped, I’m much less likely to nibble at my nails if they’re covered in green glossy paint.
And thirdly, once my nails started to grow, I could see a massive difference in how my hands looked. The process of properly caring for my hands made me look at them much more closely, and really really WANT to stop.
It’s like when I get into an exercising groove. Once I see how well it’s working, and the results are THERE, I don’t want to give up. I want to keep seeing those results.
5. INSIDE OUT
Healthy nails = less breakages = less rough spots = less of me tearing my nails apart…
At the moment I’m trying to get back into my breakfast protein shakes (RIP Christmas pudding), which I find always helps a massive amount in the growth rate of both my nails AND my hair. Double whammy.
Vitamin D is also a big part in helping your nails grow strong, so make sure you get at least half an hour of sun a day if you can, and for those of us who can’t (Rain. Sob.) then maybe look into getting supplements.
I have to be honest here, I’m not sure if any of this will help anyone.
Habits, in general, are hard to break and people’s journeys and circumstances are always different. What worked for me, might not work for someone else.
But I always think that the best thing to do is read as many stories and tips and articles as possible, and then pick and choose until you find what works FOR YOU. So I guess this is just me sharing my tips and (sort of) story.
Hopefully one or some of you will find at least parts of it useful :)