With nail biting recently being identified as a form of OCD, it’s easy to understand why this bad habit is so hard to break. For lifetime biters, the act is comforting, automatic, stress-relieving, and seemingly impossible to quit. But with the popularity of nail art stronger than ever and the countless products to put and keep your nails in rehab, it’s time to quit for good — here's how to do it.
Identify Your Triggers
Nail biters have all tried the popular treatments: nail polish that discourages biting by leaving a bad taste in your mouth, sitting on your hands, chewing gum instead of chewing your nails. Been there, done that, still biting your nails? Pay attention to what makes you start gnawing. Did you notice a hangnail? Is it an uneven ridge that you just have to file down with your teeth until it’s even? Does it happen when you're anxious during suspenseful movies or bored during long drives? Figure out what makes you start biting, and deal with that first.
Essentially, you’re going to need to “replace” your bad habit with a good one. Carry a travel-sized manicure kit with you wherever you go. Keep one in your car, in your purse, and at your desk so when the urge to bite hits, you can handle it properly. If you see a snag on your nail, file it down with your emery board. There’s no shame in excusing yourself to the ladies room to file your nail to prevent yourself from biting until you bleed. When your cuticles start looking dry (and hence, make you want to pick at them), moisturize them. Sally Hansen's Salon Manicure Cuticle Eraser + Balm travels well (no chance of liquid spillage in your purse), smells good, and keeps ragged cuticles at bay. If you prefer your products au naturel, our editors are fond of Lush's Lemony Flutter all-natural cuticle butter.
Invest & Camouflage
Your nails are going to be wrecked from years of abuse — ridged, peeling, weak, inflexible — so be sure to use a treatment that deals with your specific problem. Nail Tek’s Hydration Therapy line is formaldehyde-free and comes in 4 different formulations to help speed recovery. Acrylic nails may help curb the habit due to the price and their illusion of perfection, but in our experience, they just give you more to gnaw at. That said, spending money on your nails does make you less likely to bite them. Invest in weekly polish changes at a salon – glitter and textured polishes will mask triggering imperfections on your nails, and the money you’re handing over will make you think twice about gnawing. If you can swing it, get some 3D nail art appliquéd during your mani; it basically prevents you from getting close enough to your nail to bite it.
As with any other addiction, quitting cold turkey is difficult. You will find yourself in situations where you’re picking or biting without realizing it. Don’t use it as an excuse to have a free-for-all on your nails. If you fail, keep trying. It takes time, effort, and a lot of chipped manis to quit for good.
Photographed by Nina Westervelt/MCV Photo