How To Break Your Nail Biting Habit Once And For All

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Did you know that approximately 30% of the U.S. population bites their nails? Sometimes referred to as onychophagia, nail biting is a chronic condition that can develop because stress, and easily become a bad habit or compulsion. If that's you, fear not — nail biting is extremely common, and there are many actionable ways to get rid of the habit.

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If we haven't motivated you to stop yet, nail biting is also a direct way to infect your body with bacteria from the outside world. By constantly putting your fingers in your mouth, you're inviting millions of germs into your body. According to dermatology research director at Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, "Nail biting can cause open or raw skin and those areas are exposed to bacteria in the mouth, potentially leading to skin infections," he explained to Good Housekeeping. Nail biting can also damage the skin tissue near your nails by repeatedly being picked apart. If that sounds like something you'd like to avoid, you've come to the right place. 

Whether it's using press-on nails for beginners or cuticle oil to help your nails, there are tons of ways to combat nail biting. Breaking any habit is not easy, but most habits that are developed through our own repetitive actions can be undone. Although breaking the habit will require intentional effort, it is possible — and we've got your back to provide the best tips and resources to grow those nails long and undamaged.

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Make time for a weekly at-home manicure

A simple act of self care could help break your nail-biting habit. With an at-home manicure set, you can avoid spending exorbitant amounts of money at the salon, while also wearing a non-chip polish you can't bite. It will encourage you to keep those nails trimmed, leaving you with very little wiggle room to bite. Besides, who wants to ruin a fresh manicure? There are a ton of options to maintain a daily manicure routine, from low-priced kits like Sephora's Manicure Tool Kit ($24) to more high-end products like Suzanne Somer's At Home Manicure Kit ($105).

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Putting effort into nail care also allows you to see its benefits, like buffing away any dirt or cleaning up your cuticles. You may be less likely to pick at those pesky hangnails or bite off nail growth when you realize how good your nails look from oiling the cuticles, trimming nails, and applying a strengthening base and top coat. Search for a color that resonates with you, which might keep your urges at bay when you see how lovely they look after some care. You can also make it a party by inviting friends over for a manicure extravaganza! 

Write down your triggers

Compulsive habits are often a result of emotional triggers. If you're someone who quickly turns to a physical compulsion in moments of stress, keeping a running list of triggers and urges can help you monitor your nail biting more efficiently. For those of us with high-functioning mental illness, compulsions can be an especially common and quick-fix coping mechanism. While it may provide you a sense of comfort for the time being, using physically detrimental habits to cope will end up leaving you burnt out. Just like most things in life, identifying the triggers that lead you to nail biting won't be comfortable at first — but it will be entirely worth it.

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According to postdoctoral fellow Dr. Meghan McMackin, "Taking a moment to log your nail-biting requires you to break the rhythm of the nail-biting and reflect on the behavior," she explained to Good Housekeeping. "After doing so, many people are able to skip biting their nails in that specific moment, gradually targeting the habit." What is likely to start as an intentional method of coping will soon turn into a new and healthy habit. To kill two birds with one stone, it will also help you identify a helpful mechanism for handling any overwhelming feelings moving forward.

Bitter nail polish

Did you know there's a polish specifically designed to help nail biters? It may sound too good to be true, but it is. Just like the name states, bitter nail polish provides an odd-tasting touch to your nail polish that can only be understood by incessant nail biters. The taste of bitter nail polish is enough to surprise you and stop your biting in its tracks, while not lingering in your mouth for too long. It can be used as a top coat rather than a standard polish, so you can use it as a last step in your manicuring routine. Be sure to reapply bitter polish every few days, as the taste tends to fade after a couple of days.

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Bitter nail polishes are also typically made sustainably, so you're not inhaling toxic ingredients if you accidentally bite into your nails. One of the most top-rated bitter nail polishes is Ella+Mila's No More Biting ($11), which provides a bitter taste without containing acetone, sulfates, parabens, or any other commonly used ingredients. If you want a solid resolution to quit nail biting, bitter nail polishes are your best bet, ideally used alongside other self-care habits. If you follow all the steps above, you'll be sure to have long and healthy nails soon enough.

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