From as far back as I can remember, my New Year’s Resolutions list has always started with:
1. Stop Biting My Nails!!!
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 and/or anxious.
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? A complete waste of money. 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 real 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 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 help you stop biting your nails!
1. WHEN DO YOU BITE YOUR NAILS?
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’s a totally unconscious habit. And it’s taken me aaaages to become really aware of when my hands are anywhere 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. It’s especially bad when watch a tense film or TV show (yeah Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you), or thinking about stressful things like my finances.
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’ve also realised that I’m much more likely to bite if I’ve caught my nail on something and the edges are rough.
It’s something I also really struggle with on my skin: I need things to be smooth. If I can feel even the slightest hint of roughness, then I’ll pick and bite until it’s smooth again, even if that means biting my nails down to the knuckle.
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
Distraction is the best defence!
You might feel like your nails are “too short” to paint, or that you don’t want to draw attention to them. And yes, they’ll probably look a little messy and not very polished (pun intended) 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 them.
Firstly, the sudden pop 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. You can’t really ignore a flash of fuchsia when it’s right in front of your face! It’s like a big stop sign.
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 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. TREAT YOUR NAILS FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Healthy nails = less breakages = less rough spots = less of me tearing my nails apart… You see where this is going right?
At the moment I’m trying to get back into my breakfast protein shakes, 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 (yay rain!) 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 hopefully some of you will find this useful to help stop biting your nails!