How To Kick Your Nail-Biting Habit Once & For All

Photo: Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez
We’re all pretty familiar with how gross biting your nails can be, but it's worse than just skeeving out your fellow subway riders. This seemingly benign oral fixation can cause physical harm, and more than just raw and bloodied fingertips. When you're nibbling on your nails, you're also ingesting all the germs your hands have collected throughout the day.
As Lauren Ploch, MD, MEd, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist explained, “Usually, our salivary enzymes and peptic (stomach) acids may break down the bacteria so they’re less likely to harm us. However, some bacteria can cause gastrointestinal issues (i.e. vomiting and diarrhea).”
Germs aren't the only concern. According to Dr. Shari Lipner, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the Weill Cornell Medical College at Cornell University, nail biting may lead to permanent brown-black lines on the nails, as well as a shortened nail caused by deformation in the nail bed. And the habit could potentially “lead to gum swelling and abscesses, as [in] TMJ syndrome,” she said.
If you're ready to kick your nail biting addiction, there are a few solutions you can try that don’t require snapping a rubber band around your wrist or walking around with rubber gloves (unless that’s a new look you want to try). For ideas, we asked manicure masters like Jin Soon Choi, Deborah Lippmann, and Miss Pop to share their favorite prevention and treatment options.
But remember, these are just suggestions and it’s best to talk to your doctor about your options — after all, what might work for one person might not work for another, and it’s all about finding the right fit for you. Check out some tried-and-trued cures, ahead.