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You do it while watching the television, waiting for the microwave, or when you’re next in line to present at a meeting. You know it’s unsightly and gross but it’s hard to stop. Nail biting is such a common habit that it seems harmless enough to ignore. However, your nail biting habit may have deeper implications than you assumed! Read on to find out more about the habit, as well as tips on how to stop biting your nails.

What is nail biting?

Scientifically known as Onychophagia, nail biting is a grooming disorder that’s associated with obsessive compulsive and related disorders (OCD). It’s easy to spot nail biters, as this habit leaves you with short and unsightly nails that are mostly jagged on the edges. On top of that, some may also end up biting the skin around the nails, causing blisters and in worse cases, infections as a result.

Why do we bite our nails?

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There are many ways to explain the development of a nail biting habit. It may be a genetically inherited behaviour, or a coping mechanism developed to deal with stressful and tense situations. Some people may even bite their nails when they feel bored, lonely or hungry.

More often than not, kids pick up nail biting habits from their parents. Also, young children may replace their finger sucking habits with nail biting. In more serious cases, nail biting can be a symptom of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), separation anxiety, or other mental health issues.

Consequences of nail biting


Aside from the short and ugly nails that scream, “I am a nail biter!”, this habit could also result in unnecessary guilt, shame and self-consciousness. More negatively, nail biting could pose detrimental consequences on your body. This is because our nails harbour a multitude of germs that can pose potential health risks. Among them, the bacteria known as Enterobacteriaceae thrives in the crevices underneath our nails, and can cause gastrointestinal infections such as diarrhoea when consumed orally.

Chronic nail biters may also experience paronychia, a kind of infection that causes swelling and puss under the nails. This happens when yeast and bacteria find their way under your nails through the tears and abrasions formed during the nail biting process. Severe infections may require surgical processes to help drain complications underneath the nails.

Nail biting not only affects the area around your fingers, but also your oral health. Biting your nails for a prolonged period of time can cause dental occlusion, where your teeth shift out of position and transform into odd shapes. It can also cause bruxism, the unintentional grinding or clenching of teeth which in turn leads to jaw pain, sore muscles, chronic headaches and sensitive teeth. If you’re experiencing any of these oral symptoms, consult your dentist immediately.

How do we ditch our nail biting habits?

There are several tips to help those eager to learn how to stop biting their nails. However, depending on the severity of your nail biting habit, some of these tips here may not work as effectively for you. Nonetheless, with the right mindset and attitude, you’ll definitely be able to kick the habit with these easy steps!

1. Keep your nails short


Before you go into a nail biting frenzy, trim your nails short. They should be at a length where you won’t be able to bite them. Without the sense of satisfaction you usually get from biting your nails, you’ll more likely be discouraged from keeping up with the habit.

2. Apply bitter-tasting nail polish

Mavala stop nail biting deterrent

(Source: Shopee)

Ever heard of nail polishes formulated with a bitter taste? Such products can be an effective solution for those wondering how to stop biting their nails. However, you need to be self-disciplined and avoid peeling off the coat of polish.

After trimming your nails short, apply a coat of bitter-tasting nail polish to discourage your nail biting habit. Eventually, as your nails grow longer, you may want to re-apply the polish to ensure all areas are covered for maximum effectiveness. Keep this up for about 1 to 2 weeks to achieve longer, healthier nails.

DV Recommends: Try the Mavala Stop Nail Biting Deterrent which boasts an orally safe formula with a bitter taste to help effectively halt the uncontrollable urge to nibble at your nails. In addition, Mavala Stop helps to improve and strengthen the nails’ condition.

3. Do gel manicures

Purple manicure orchid

If you find yourself chewing away at the coat of bitter nail polish, maybe your nails need some reinforcement! Splurge on a gel manicure session, complete with a set of fanciful nail art design. Gel manicures are usually thicker and stronger, making them great at withstanding your nibbly advances. In addition, you would be more reluctant to ruin your beautiful (and costly) manicure!

4. Wear gloves to sleep

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Gloves are a necessity if you tend to bite your nails while asleep. As this is done subconsciously, it may be hard to control yourself. To avoid waking up with bleeding fingers, the best bet is to wear a pair of gloves to sleep.

DV Tip: Lather on hand cream and cuticle oil on your hands and fingers. Massage the product into the skin, nails and cuticles to ensure all the goodness is absorbed. Put on your gloves and go to bed! Doing this every night not only prevents you from nail biting, but also helps to speed up your nails’ recovery process, leaving you with well-moisturised and beautiful hands!

5. Use a mouth guard

Mouth guard bruxism nail bitng

(Source: Shopee)

As mentioned above, nail biting greatly impacts your oral health. If you’re not keen on wearing gloves to bed, you need to at least put on a mouth guard.

This rubbery teeth and gum protection prevents successful nail biting attempts. In addition, mouth guards are useful for those who suffer from bruxism. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

6. Stay busy

fidget cube keep busy nail biting

(Source: Shopee)

With delicate care day and night, your nails should be looking much better by now! However, your nail biting habit may relapse when you’re idling. Keep your hands and mouth busy to avoid the habitual nail biting!

For example, when you’re commuting, occupy your hands with a mobile game or get a fidget cube. When you’re brainstorming for ideas at school or work, keep your mouth moving with crunchy snacks instead of biting your nails!

Removing all possible nail biting opportunities help to greatly diminish the chances of a relapse. Always remind yourself that even the tiniest nibble would send all your efforts down the drain!

7. Cope with your triggers

When learning how to stop biting your nails, one important point many people miss out is that nail biting may actually be a coping mechanism. To truly ditch the habit, you need to find out what triggers this behaviour.

If you start biting your nails when you’re in a stressful situation, find alternative ways to cope with your emotions. Perhaps loud noises trigger your nail biting habit. In that case, put on your earphones and tune in to soothing music instead of gnawing at your nails!

If you can’t seem to find a better solution to cope with your triggers, consider seeking professional help from a psychologist. Resolving any mental or emotional issues not only helps to kick your nail biting habit, but also improves your overall well-being.

8. Be patient and stick to the routine

clean french manicure

When it comes to ditching a chronic habit, don’t expect to see results overnight. Your nails and skin need time to recover, and the whole process can span from a week to a few months, depending on the severity of the condition.

While you exercise some patience, ensure to follow the steps above religiously for the best results. All your efforts will be worthwhile when you no longer have to feel embarrassed about your nails during the next important handshake!

With these eight steps on how to stop biting your nails, you’ll be on your way to sporting beautiful and healthy nails! Keep your nails well-groomed, and put on a fresh coat of manicure! It’s time to show off your flawless, healthy nails to the world!

This article was produced by Shopee.