10 Items To Help Stop Fingernail Biting

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It’s unknown why exactly someone bites their nails but it could be due to stress, boredom, anxiety, depression or simply a compulsive behavior that developed over time for reasons unknown.

ImageIs it serious? In many cases no but there can be permanent nail deformity, dental issues and even infections. Once the habit is established, it’s difficult to break so the best bet is to nip it in the bud when it’s first noticed.

Here are several different treatments to try, the idea is to make the taste of chewing so repulsive that the desire to nibble is weakened and eventually lost altogether. Do they work? For some people, yes…for others, not so much.

If the behavior is stubbornly clung to and hard to break, ask a doctor about testing for calcium or vitamin deficiencies…some believe the impulse could be from the body’s desire for nutrients its lacking.

Remedies (apply daily or as needed):

  1. Soak twice daily in oil (such as olive, castor, cod liver)…for 20 minutes at a time
  2. Hot pepper sauce, Tabasco
  3. Tea tree
  4. Aloe vera gel
  5. Cayenne pepper
  6. Chili powder
  7. Vinegar (soak for about 5 minutes)
  8. Lemon juice (soak for about 5 minutes)
  9. Garlic powder or clove (peel clove then rub all over)
  10. Wrap each finger tip with tape, bandaids or wear gloves

Notes:

  • The oils listed at top can strengthen nails so they’re healthier and less tempting to nibble on, but if you mix them first with something strong like onion juice, garlic powder, cayenne pepper or infuse them with cloves or hot peppers, this will also add an extra deterrent because the taste will be awful.
  • Keep in mind that a young child may rub her eyes, avoid using anything that will burn them.
  • Keep them cut short and well groomed, if there are no ragged edges or torn cuticles to nibble on, the temptation can be minimized.
  • Keeping the fridge stocked with a ready supply of raw carrots, celery sticks and crushed ice to munch on can curb temptation during tough moments.
  • Vinegar and lemon juice can also be beneficial for fighting infection.
  • If cuticles and surrounding skin are raw and sore, the topical treatments listed above will likely burn. Try olive oil and bandaid wraps first until they’re healed then either continue with that or if something more is needed, proceed with rubbing in the nasty tasting items.

Good luck and if I missed your tried-and-true, please feel free to share it with everyone in the section below.

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Published: January 18, 2012

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10 Comments to “10 Items To Help Stop Fingernail Biting”
  1. Regina Farmer says:

    I am one who chews and picks at the skin around the nail until it bleeds. I have been this since I was very young. I have been embarassed about my ugly picked at fingers all of my life. My mother tried putting awful tasting things on my fingers to make me stop but I did it anyway with a bad taste in my mouth. Several years back I tried a new thing which was to get “solar” nails which involves the manicurist layering gel which produces a very strong nail. The procedure can be expensive and you must maintain it every couple of weeks but it totally stopped my picking and chewing at my nails and it is the first time in my life where I proudly display my hands. I even have others compliment my fingers. I have mentioned this at the nail salon to others and many have replied that they have the same result. Once I decided to take a “breather” from the nails and I immediately starting chewing them once again so I quickly put them back on. I found out through a Dr. Phil show something was related and found the reason for my chewing which was always a mystery to me. I knew that it was more often in times of stress or just stressful thinking. He had a young man that was constantly slapping his face in a hidden room. His diagnosis was that by slapping his face it distracted the pain from his mind to his face so that he wouldn’t feel it in his mind. What a revelation to realize this was the same thing that I had been doing. When trying to pick at my nails, the gel nails had not feeling and it just didn’t work. I still have my nails and proudly display my non-chewed fingers. I hope by sharing my story that I can help others with this awful disorder.

  2. Steph says:

    I started biting my nails when my parents divorced when I was three years old. I’m twenty-six now and have still not completely kicked the habit. My parents tried putting gross-tasting things on my nails, but I’d just bite anyways despite the bad taste. I also tried the method of wearing a rubber band around my wrist and snapping it every time I caught myself chewing, so I would associate the pain with the chewing and stop. But that didn’t work either. I’d stop biting until the sting eased, then carry on, until my wrists were all bruised.

    I’m getting better, mostly now by my husband’s encouragement. I don’t bite as often anymore and don’t bite until I bleed anymore. But when I feel that I have a hang nail or my nails are uneven or too long, it’s easier for me to bite them than to clip them. I feel like I do a better job of making the nails even and rounded by biting. It’s really gross and I’m trying to get better with clippers and a nail file to make it stop altogether.

    I despise vinegar. The smell is just wretched, I won’t even use it in the house unless I have no other options. So maybe I’ll try the vinegar method listed above to get my biting stopped completely.

  3. Marie says:

    Nothing at all has worked for me either. I hate the look of it. I had thought I kicked the habit months ago and my nails were beautiful. All of a sudden I got anxious an bit them all again last week. They look wretched.

    • Nibbles says:

      Hey Marie, these comments aren’t timestamped so I don’t know where you’re at now, but for Marie and everyone else out there – don’t give up!

      I bit my nails continuously all my life (19 years old now). At the peak intensity I was peeling the nail layers off if there was no length left to bite. However, since I was about 16, I’ve been going through “cycles” of biting and not biting. I also remember having an isolated one of these non-biting spates at 10, and a vague memory of one before that. This has been associated with a greatly reduced intensity, even when I’m in the “biting” phase, and gradually longer and longer breaks between biting. Hopefully this is a gradual process toward not biting at all!

      So don’t give up just because it didn’t work the first time! “Months” is a long time to go without biting – way longer than I’ve ever managed!. If you’ve only bitten them once, or only for a week, they’ll still be longer than they were when you were biting continuously, so they’ll look better pretty fast!

      Come to think of it, even the nails of intense biters will look significantly better after just a week or two of not biting. If we can hold out that long, the improved appearance will be a great incentive to keep going!

  4. Rosi from Quebec says:

    I bit my nails from childhood (3 years old) until I was in my mid 20′s. I used to bite, chew, and pick until they bled and eventually got infected. I almost always had one finger that was red and hot and oozing pus. Disgusting, especially since I am a female! I tried putting on bad tasting oils and nail polish, but I always continued biting.

    What changed was that after university I started working in a lab that analyzed human blood samples, so I had gloves on my hands all day long and I became accustomed to not putting my hands on my face. I wasn’t trying to stop biting my nails, I was just trying not to contaminate myself with someone else’s blood. For the first time in my life my nails grew and my fingers didn’t hurt! It was revelation! I was cured!! Well, mostly cured. In times of extreme stress I will bite them, but I am able to stop once the stress is gone (usually lasts a week or two, in one rare case it lasted 3 months). What helps to prevent me from starting during stressful times is if I have nicely manicured nails, so I invested in manicure tools and high quality nail polishes. It has been 15 years since I stopped and today my nails look fabulous, and more importantly, I am not ashamed to show my hands.

  5. Emily says:

    My grandfather used to bite his nails until they would bleed, & just recently stopped. I bite my nails & his method for stopping is to focus on one nail. So, you choose one nail (I choose my left hand pinkie) & forget about biting the rest. Then sooner or later you forget about biting that one too. It is working for me so far!

  6. Catie says:

    I use to be a nail chewy up until about middle school. It was a habit I had picked up and did not like the feel of my raggedly nails. I noticed that the nail polish taste deterred my habit. Nowadays my chewing is reduced to the occasional hang nail and mock gnaws where the nail rests in-between the teeth vertically while my jaw moves.

  7. Sydney says:

    I’ve been biting my nails since the age of two. I try to paint my nails often, so I feel the need to keep them looking nice and clean. But as soon as they start chipping, I’ll be in class, and I’ll start biting. Then they’ll be uneven, and I’ll have to pick and bite them off all together. All my friends go to the salon and get their long gorgeous nails done, and I have stubs. They’ll get long, but then the top layer will peel off, and then they get weak. :|
    I’m trying my hardest to quit. :S

  8. Gloria says:

    I have bitten my nails all my life,my mother told me”it was a mind over matter situation.” I told her “I just couldn.t get my mind over that matter to save my life!” I ware pink & whites (artificial nails) and I never put my hands in my mouth-if I loose one-I bite it just as soon as I get the stub off.- so….. I ware my nails and my hands are beautiful.

  9. Brooke says:

    I’ve been biting my nails for as long as I could remember and have tried everything. Thanks for the advice, the Tabasco sauce sounds best for me because I hate spicy foods. What worked for my friend is choosing one finger to bite, and when you have the urge to bite your nails just bite that one finger. I hear there is also a polish you can use that tastes terrible.


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