Everything You Need to Quit Biting Your Nails
I've tried to stop biting my nails for years, unsuccessfully. Finally, at the age of 30 I figured it. Here are my best tips:
One of my first memories in school was of a teacher holding my hand during a lecture in class.
She clasped my hand in one hand and rubbed the top of my hand with her other hand.
I felt so special.
I can't remember the lesson, I think it might have been about the book we were reading, a biography of Helen Keller.
It was second grade, I really loved that teacher.
Her name was Mrs. Ouimet, and she was always so kind and warm towards her students, and I was drawn to her.
“Ew. You shouldn't hold her hand, she bites her hands, and that's disgusting”
I was disgusting.
Tears welled up in my eyes, and I removed my hand from my kind teacher's loving hands.
I rose from my seat, went out into the hallway, and sobbed. I can remember how deeply I felt that pain. My chest burned while I tried to regain control of my breathing.
Today, I can see I was filled with shame.
This shame follows me to this day.
For years, I would hide my hands. I avoiding painting my nails because I hated bringing attention to them.
My parents tried everything to help me stop, and I tried, too.
My hands were always in my mouth. Especially when I was feeling anxious.
When something made me nervous, I'd chew on my fingers and nails.
I couldn't stop.
I would chew on my hands until they were bleeding.
Then I would feel ashamed of myself and hide my hands from everyone for weeks.
When I finally started painting my nails, it would hurt because of all the open wounds around my hands.
Forget nail polish remover. The pain would make it unbearable.
I can't fully explain how much shame this brought me, and how disgusted I felt with myself.
Even now I am seeing the habits I created because of this shame. I still find myself slipping my hands under my knees while sitting close to people who COULD see my hands.
What is wrong with me?
I have tried to quit for my entire life.
I put bitter apple spray — the stuff you spray on your things so your dog won't chew on them — on my fingertips, and it would deter me for a small amount of time, but eventually, I was so anxious the bad taste stopped bothering me.
Then, I tried painting my nails more, and it led to my nails always being chipped and having nail polish flakes in my teeth. Add more shame.
Imagine someone noticing you have some odd color on your front tooth. My eyes would sting with embarrassment.
How could I tell my sons to keep their hands out of their mouth if I couldn't do it myself?
I had to quit. I HAD to be successful this time.
But where do you start?
How do you stop doing something you've been doing your entire life?
How to Stop Biting Your Nails
First, I tried to find what was the core issue. I knew I was chewing my hands and nails, but I didn't know why. Without knowing the trigger, I would just be putting a band-aid on. Not fixing the problem.
This is where journaling is great. When I let out what is bothering me, or what I was hurting about that day. I could find what the problem was rather quickly.
For me, it's driving to a new place — heck even just driving in general, and interacting with people in a new place. It will probably be something different for you.
Anything can cause someone's anxiety or worry, it's all about what you perceive to be a danger in your life.
What Finally Works
I don't think they're a reliable source normally — I've seen segments from them about how to lose 20 pounds in one week . . . EYEROLL. But I found this one to be very helpful.
Find something else to do with your hands. If your hands are busy, you won't be able to put them in your mouth.
I like something you can mindlessly play with.
This makes it very similar to when you mindlessly chew on your nails.
Fidget Spinners for women, as I like to call them. Here are a few on Amazon you might like.
It's important to have something always available for your hands to gravitate towards. If it's always available there is no excuse for your hands to mindlessly drift to your mouth.
An extra bracelet in the car might help if driving or car time is a time when you tend to falter.
These are some cute examples. The first allows you to put a drop of essential oil on it, which could help with anxiety too.
If you're interested in essential oils for anxiety, here is a great post I made just for you. Click here!
I love keeping a bracelet in my car. One time I couldn't find mine, but my daughter had a mermaid charm bracelet in the car, so I used that. It actually worked the best of all the bracelets I have tried because there are so many things for my hands to fiddle with.
It doesn't matter if it's pretty, or you love it. Its sole purpose is to provide your hands with something to do during your high anxiety times in the car.
Maybe you don't generally wear lipstick. I never did. Usually, because I would always peel it off or mess with my hands enough it would just look terrible.
This time I tried something that didn't come off easily. An example is LipSense, but that's not what I did. I found this bright red lipstick. There are different colors if you'd prefer.
You apply it in two steps, so it should stay all day. Unless of course, you're chewing on your hands.
It's okay if you're not successful the first day. It's important just to try.
It's not important how quickly you stop. What's important is trying again. And trying again. And trying again.
There will be times when you fail, and chew on your hands. It's okay.
Get back up on that saddle and keep going.
Drink More Water
I really don't know if this helped at all, but it gave me something to do with my hands.
Plus, is there any negative to drinking more water? Heck no. Just do it.
Learn to Take Care of Your Nails
You're right. I should have put this higher up on the list.
I never learned how to properly take care of my nails when I was growing up because my nails were never long enough to clip. I had always chewed them down as far as I could.
So here I am. 30 years old. Trying to learn how to take care of my nails.
Are there YouTube videos? Probably. But I went it alone this time.
Get yourself a manicure kit. Maybe you already have one, maybe not. The important part here is you have to take care of your nails.
Right now you're probably doing that with your mouth and your teeth. Let's try a different tactic, and use the right tools to properly care for your hands. This way you don't HAVE to use your teeth.
Here are a few I found that would work:
This is what I did. It might look different for you, so do what you think you need.
First things first, wash your hands. Warm water with soap. Make sure you clean out underneath your nails. Here is a nice nail brush you can use to help get dirt out from underneath your nails.
I used the biggest nail clippers first, to clip where it was too long. I tried to maintain a straight line at the end of my nail. It just seems like that's what people with long nails do? And it's the easiest to do yourself. If you like something else, by all means go for it.
Tip: Trim them while they're still damp for an easier cut.
Next you'll want to use a file to keep the end of your nail smooth, so it won't catch on anything. Remember to always go in one direction.
Here is where you'll apply lotion and cuticle oil, if that suits your fancy. I notice my cuticles (the little skin that grows over your nail at the base) stays nice and soft when I use a cuticle oil. What is cuticle oil?
I use Jojoba (pronounced ho-ho-bah) oil. You can find Jojoba Oil on Amazon here. You'll love this oil because it softens your cuticles, but you can also use it on your face and hands.
And bam! You'll have nice healthy nails in no time.
How Often Do I Need to Take Care of My Nails?
Every day is ideal, but we live in the real world. Once or twice a week should be fine. Try to wash your nails every day.
Have you successfully stopped biting your nails? How did you do it?
Leave a comment below!
I'm so glad I never got into the nail biting habit, it seems so tough to break free from! Great tips on redirection!
Thank you! It really is awful!
When I saw my son put his hands in his mouth I KNEW I had to fix it immediately!
I have a toddler who just started doing this and I'm trying to figure out why. What does he have to be so nervous about? I mean, I pay the mortgage…
Haha I wonder if that's what my parents thought when I started! 🙂
I have been a life long nail biter! I go through phases where I don't and that's generally if I'm not stressed out. Will try some of your tips!
One of my kids always puts things in his mouth and chews on them. It's a sensory thing, but I think he chewed the erasers off of all his pencils last year. Around the house… it's a lego tire. I have wondered if part of his issue is anxiety as well. For his birthday, I got him some very male looking chewable necklaces in the shape of a shark tooth. I never considered it something life altering, or that he was gross. I just thought it was one of those little quirks. I didn't realize how much habits like that can be linked to anxiety until I read this. Thank you for sharing and for shedding light on it.
I'm glad you find this helpful! I wish you luck in your venture towards being a former nail biter. 🙂
I always imagine boys are wired differently. When I hear something like "you're disgusting" it haunts me for weeks or years, but when my husband hears it, he just brushes it off.
Perhaps your son will never believe he's gross, or abnormal. 🙂
Great strategies! It's important to feel calm and find something to do with our hands and mouths to quit biting our nails.
Love this practical post! I have a son who has chewed his nails and fingers for years. These suggestions are wonderful. He even has a masculine bracelet he can wear. The nail kit is genius. I know if my nails are in good condition I leave them alone. Thank you for writing this. I wasn't aware of the tooth issues.