For a dude like me who once battled with nail-biting, I can tell you that it is easy to stop biting your nails. I must admit, my nails were always looking dwarfy, with the fleshy nail bed always appearing whitish just above the short nail. Nails are supposed to cover the tip of the fingers but in my own case, the fingertips were always looking bare and naked.
For a moment, you might begin to wonder, what is it about nail-biting that makes it so difficult to stop despite the obvious defacement it causes to your fingers? Nail-biting not only defaces your fingers, but also poses a risk to several infections including typhoid enteritis, worm infestations, cholera, and so on. All of these make it imperative that you actively look for a way to stop biting your nails.
You are probably here because you have seen the need to stop your nail-biting habit and that’s exactly what you are going to learn shortly.
Steps On How To Stop Biting Your Nails
1. Identify your triggers
Nail biting is a habit that is developed from infancy and childhood most likely triggered by hunger in the growing child. Sucking and crying are the first things everyone one us learned since we were born and it sounds interesting to suck on your fingers or anything you lay your hands on when a hungry 5-month-old ‘you’ didn’t have a nipple to suckle on.
But as nail biting became a habit, more triggers were included and if you need to stop biting your nails, you are going to have to first identify these triggers and avoid or control them. Some of the triggers for nail biting that you may have encountered include:
- Hard tests or exams.
- High mental activity/thinking/worrying.
- Uncomfortably long nails.
Once you know what your nail-biting triggers are, you are a step ahead in finding how to stop the habit of biting your nails.
2. Understand the consequences
As simple as this may sound, understanding the disadvantages of biting your nails can help you stay motivated to discontinue the habit. Just like every other habit, re-orienting your mind about nail-biting can go a long way in helping you stop the habit.
Here are some consequences you need to be aware of as far as nail-biting is concerned:
- Biting your nails make them aesthetically disgusting and unappealing. Of course, badly bitten nails do not look great. Hence, you need to stop biting your nails.
- Nail-biting increases your chances of contracting infections that require the oral route. The mouth is the dirtiest part of the body, experts have said. But the hand is also on the top of the list of the dirtiest parts of the body. Placing your hand unwashed into your mouth increases your chances of contracting several infections, including faecal-oral infections.
- Also, being a habitual nail-biter can make you lose your social esteem. Your friends may have started mocking you about it. And coupled with how unsightly your nails currently look, you might begin to feel less confident about yourself and your body image.
3. Apply nail-biting repellants to your nails
Nail-biting repellants are substances that taste bad or harshly in the mouth and can deter you from putting your hands into your mouth. Applying these substances to your nails can help you to stop biting your nails. Some of these methods are briefly discussed below.
a. Neem oil, bitter leaf or bitter gourd paste
Extracts of neem, bitter leaf and gourd have a naturally bitter taste. They are non-toxic and not poisonous but their bitter taste can deter you from biting your nails when placed directly into your mouth.
The way these work in stopping the habit of biting your nails is similar to what you see in punishing a child for doing something wrong. As you keep having a bitter taste experience each time you try to bite your fingers, the habit begins to wear off gradually.
To use this method, gently soak a small cotton ball in neem oil and apply it to your nails. Then, allow it to dry. For bitter leaf or bitter gourd, make a paste from the broad leaves of a bitter leaf plant or from the pulp of a bitter gourd and apply it to your nails. You can alternatively sieve out the juices and apply them to your fingers.
Neem oil has also been found to have some antiseptic properties that can keep your fingers germ-free.
b. Garlic oil or paste
Garlic oil and paste are effective in stopping the habit of biting your nails especially if you absolutely detest the smell of garlic. Garlic is a natural spice with a very pungent smell and spicy taste. These properties of garlic have made it an excellent spice for cooking tasty meals but they can also be harnessed when trying to stop the habit of nail-biting.
To use, cut a clove of garlic into halves and run each half-piece over your nails until it has been well applied. Leave for a few minutes and then, wash off the residues. The lingering garlic taste will remind you to drop your hands each time you want to put them into your mouth.
Garlic oil can be used instead and they are available for sale in the markets.
Garlic may have some antiseptic properties too.
c. Nail-biting polish
if you feel that the nail-biting deterrent methods above are too cumbersome to prepare or you do not have access to them, a nail-biting polish will help you achieve the same effects. They come as a regular glossy nail polish that people apply to their nails to make them look more attractive but they also come with a non-toxic chemical with an unpleasant taste.
Mavala nail-biting deterrent polish is an effective product that can help you stop biting your nails. Alternatively, using dark-coloured nail polish can motivate you to quit nail-biting because dark-coloured nail polishes make your nails appear very ugly when you chip off an edge when biting your nails.
To use Mavala nail-biting polish or similar products, simply apply a coat of the polish over your nails at night and allow them to dry. Use a nail varnish to remove the remnants and reapply every evening. Repeat the process for a minimum of 21 days and watch out for the magic.
The only shortcoming of these methods is that you are still in control of using them or not. Habits are formed from experiences you enjoy and thus, being able to discontinue a habit such as nail-biting will require your commitment especially when you can easily wash them off your fingers at will.
4. Adhesive bandage or plaster
Covering the tip of your fingers can prevent you from biting your nails when you want to. This is where an adhesive bandage or plaster comes into the picture. There are special adhesive bandages and plaster on the market, but any adhesive bandage applied at the tip of your fingers would do the trick.
Simply reel out and cut a piece of a self-adhesive bandage or plaster and circle it around the tips of your fingers until it is totally covered. Cut a bigger piece if you need to while ensuring that it is firm enough to resist pulling off. You may remove them at night when you are about to sleep or you could just leave them on at all times until they become wet or dirty or due for replacement.
5. Wear hand gloves
Hand gloves similar to those often worn by Michael Jackson when he is performing on stage can also help you in your quest to stop biting your nails. They work just like adhesive bandages or plaster by discouraging you from putting your hands into your mouth when you try to.
6. Get a manicure regularly
Many people have testified that using an artificial nail prevents them from biting their nails. In this case, getting artificial nails for a period of no less than 21 days could help you stop the habit of nail biting.
Also, when you go for a manicure, a professional manicurist will further educate you on the importance of keeping your nails neat and beautiful. This can be an extra motivation to stop nail biting, particularly when your motivation level is already dropping.
7. Cut your nail with a nail clipper
While trying to get over the habit of nail-biting, this is the single hack I find most effective. I still use it to the present day. Cutting your nails with a nail clipper not only makes them clean-short but also helps to keep the margins of your nails straight and even. From experience, ragged nail edges make it easier for you to nib on your nails.
Badly bitten nails look over-short and unappealing but putting a nail clipper to the job makes them both short, straight and attractive. However, even if your nails are already short as a result of your nail-biting habit, you should still trim the edges with a nail clipper so the nail can grow up proportionately.
Thereafter, continue using a nail clipper when you feel like your nails are getting too long and uncomfortable. ensure that you are using a clean personal nail clipper. To buy one now, check here.
It is not difficult to use a nail clipper. Just raise the lever, place the teeth around the nail you want to clip off, and press both levers gently against each other. If done well, you should be able to go all year long without biting your nails.
Can nail-biting be an obsessive mental condition?
Yes, nail biting can be an obsessive mental condition. Obsessive mental conditions also known as obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCDs) are a category of psychiatric illness when someone uncontrollably performs an act or makes a gesture or noise despite the obvious need to stop.
OCD can include a variety of activities, but while habitually biting your nails could be one of such activities that can be seen in OCDs, most nail-biting cases are in fact a simple habit that needs no mental health evaluation.
If the condition is perceived as a mental health disorder, especially if none of the interventions above and those elsewhere did not prove effective, you might need to see a psychiatrist for further assistance.
Note that, the potential benefits of trying to stop nail-biting overwhelm the stress you might be going through in the process. The benefits of not biting your nails include having beautiful fingers, a feeling of self-worth and self-discipline, and prevention of the spread of infections. The opposite is true if you are in the habit of biting your nails.
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