Biting your nails is a tough habit to break. Unfortunately, it also leads to damaged, unsightly nails that hurt—a lot (and yet, you still keep biting). Anxiety and stress are common reasons why people turn to nail biting—but, bitten nails can also cause stress and anxiety, especially in social situations. It's a never-ending loop.
We asked psychologist Mary Lamia, Ph.D, dermatologist Chris Adigun, MD, member of the Dermelect Board of Advisors, and Dermelect's colour curator and celebrity manicurist Elle Gerstein to give us their top tips for kicking this habit for good.
(And once you stop, be sure to try out one of these gorgeous polishes—your fingers will be so happy.)
Keep reading to see tips for quitting nail biting once and for all.
"For most nail biters, simply counseling the nail biter on the adverse effects of nail biting may be enough to encourage them to stop," Dr. Adigun says. "Many people do not know of the risks of nail biting, and think the habit is harmless." But that's far from the truth. Persistent nail biting can lead to infections, pain, and both temporary and permanent disfigurement. Meaning: the mindless habit you thought was relatively harmless could give your nails ridges, depressions, and bumps that don’t go away. Not to mention, nail biting puts you at a higher risk for being infected by bacteria, viruses, and fungi, Dr. Adigun says.
If you’re a mild nail biter who is just very persistent, Dr. Adigun recommends an over-the-counter bad-tasting polish, like SuperNail Bite No More ($4), which can be enough to break the habit in less severe cases.
Quitting nail biting may take some commitment—from both you and your wallet. Gerstein recommends getting weekly manicures so you can see how pretty your nails look. "After spending that amount and liking your nails, it may make you want to quit," she says. And look into gel manicures, as well. While a bit more expensive than a regular mani, a gel manicure can help keep the urge to nibble at bay because the polish doesn't chip or flake.
Pictured: Dermelect ME Peptide Infused Nail Lacquer ($13)
Gerstein says it has to be a "really conscious habit" to stop nail biting. She recommends keeping your hands busy with a Kush ball, stress ball, or other object (rings, a hair tie around your wrist, etc.) instead, to distract yourself from the urge to bite.
Pictured: Twistband Hair Ties
Gerstein even says that spraying a perfume on your hands (yes, it can be one that smells good) can work, because the smell will remind you that you don't want to be nibbling on your nails. "It’s definitely something you have to constantly think about," Gerstien says.
Pictured: Balenciaga Rosabotanica ($100)
Sometimes, all the perfume and bad tasting polish in the world isn't enough to keep you from biting your nails. If you're a really persistent biter, Dr. Adigun recommends covering your wounds and tender fingertips with antibiotic ointment and a Band-Aid. "These band-aids will not only facilitate healing of the damaged skin and nails, but will protect the wounds from further biting," Dr. Adigun says.
So, you may have to walk around with Frankenstein-monster-fingertips for a few days, but once you see improvement and your nails have grown out a bit, try keeping your nails manicured. Sometimes all it takes is a little extra push to get you to your end goal.
Pictured: Band-Aid Bandages by Cynthia Rowley