How to stop biting your nails

January 1st marks a great opportunity to step back and set goals for yourself for the year. While many people make a plan to set new habits, such as eating healthier or exercising more regularly, the new year can also give you a chance to break old habits.

One common habit that children and adults perform is nail biting. It is often associated with anxiety, and people may also bite their nails when they feel bored or frustrated. Nail biting is a fairly nondestructive behavior, and usually only produces a cosmetic concern. Over time, it can become a more severe problem as it causes damage to the skin around the nails, is bad for your teeth, and can weaken your nails.

Here are a few ways to break your nail biting habit going into the new year. 

Keep them short

Having long nails makes it much easier to bite them. It’s less tempting to bite your nails when they’re short because there’s less to bite.

Use clear nail polish

One way to break your nail biting habit is to make your nails completely unappetizing. Many convenience stores carry over-the-counter, safe-to-use nail polish that coats your nails with a bitter taste.

Identify circumstances that cause nail biting

The triggers that cause nail biting may be physical, like hangnails or keeping your nails long. There may also be underlying emotional causes, such as nervousness or stress. When you catch yourself biting your nails, think about your current circumstances, and whether they may be making you uneasy. Once you figure out a potential cause, try to avoid that situation or do something else to relieve your stress,

Play with a stress ball

Instead of biting your nails, it can be helpful to find something else to play with or to keep your hands busy. Many people use stress balls or play with putty or a fidget toy, distracting themselves and replacing a bad habit with a good one.

Reward progress

Give yourself incentives to start breaking your nail biting habit. This could include treating yourself a manicure once your nails are long enough, or jewelry that you can wear on your hands to remind you of your positive progress.

Overall, don’t get discouraged if you continue to struggle with nail biting, as breaking long-term habits is a gradual process.

Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussion about medical, cosmetic, mohs, and surgical dermatology. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed dermatologist or other health care worker.