It’s true what they say, old habits die hard. This is especially true with nail biting or onychophagia, the clinical term for it. Nail biting often starts in childhood and can be a result of stress, anxiety, or even concentration to name a few.
Some kids grow out of this habit, but some take it with them well into adulthood (me included). It doesn’t help when people start to comment on your habit – I grew up with my family yelling at me to stop biting.
Long story short, it got pretty bad and I’ve had a few failed attempts to stop. Fortunately, I’m happy to say that I’ve been bite-free for about 4 months now and my nails have since grown over half a centimeter.
Whether you are trying to stop biting your nails or you want to embrace the long nail life, this is the year we successfully grow out our nails and this is how.
How to Stop Biting Your Nails
If you have a long way to go to grow your nails, it’s important to get that initial growth started.
When I was biting my nails, they were nubs. If I had to estimate how short they were, I’d say maybe a fourth centimeter from the tip of my finger. It was as low as my nail bed would allow, and after years of nail biting, it was quite low.
The first step for growing out your nails is to get that first bit of length. It’s easy to feel disheartened by the length of your nails, so seeing that little bit of growth can really motivate you to keep going.
That said, here are a few top tips and tricks to stop biting your nails and getting your nail growth started.
Paint Your Nails
This is how I started. When I look back to when I started growing out my nails, it started when my sister did a gel manicure on me. It was nothing fancy, just a kit from Amazon, but it was the very first step.
It gave me something to focus on. I didn’t want to ruin the manicure, so it kept me from biting my nails. On top of that, it protects your nails so if you are not starting from nothing, you can protect your current nails from any damage.
Whether you go fancy with a professional gel manicure or you just pick up a nice color at the drugstore, having that polish on your nail can really snowball into something great.
Note: A professional manicure can help break your nail-biting habit because, when you spend a decent amount of money on a nice manicure, you don’t want to ruin it and waste the money. So, this might be worth giving a shot.
Try Acrylics/Press Ons
If gel polish was the initial step, fake nails were what really helped me grow out my real ones. This is when my nails really started to get some time to grow.
With fake nails, I couldn’t get to my real nails to bite them. This happened time and time again. From when I got professional acrylics to just putting on a set of press ons, fake nails created a layer to keep me from biting my nails.
If simple nail polish can’t stop you from biting your nails, maybe it’s time to try something you simply can’t bite through.
Note: Press on nails fall off a lot more easily than acrylics, so you might want to splurge on some professional acrylics to play it safe. Don’t go for extremely long acrylics – these will break easier.
Block Your Nails
If you don’t want to get acrylics or try your hand at press ons, you can use other things to block your nails.
An easy option is wearing gloves. Not the most practical option, but it does keep you away from your nails and gives them a chance to grow.
There are also ways to cover just your nails so your whole hand is not affected. You can grab some bandages and cover your nails, or I’ve even seen people use nail rings as a way to cover their nails. You can also find single-finger gloves that cover your nails.
It doesn’t really matter what you use as long as it keeps you away from them, so get creative and see what works for you.
This one is a classic. It has worked for many people as a way to kick their habit. I mean, it makes sense, it pretty much forces you to stop biting.
This is just a clear nail polish that tastes awful (Mavala is one of the top products, but there are a lot of other options on Amazon as well). It is one of the most disgusting things you’ll ever taste and it will make you think twice about even putting your nails in your mouth, let alone biting them.
Note: Most brands start to come off after a few days, so make sure to reapply every couple of days!
If you don’t want to buy the polish, some people recommend rubbing Jalapeños on your nails.
Replace the Habit
It can be very easy to go back to biting your nails when trying to grow them out because you can still feel that itch. Even now, I still feel it. If time and time again, you can’t stop biting, try to find something that you can replace it with.
For example, you can wear a hair tie or a rubber band on your wrist and snap it every time you feel the urge. This was a tip I got from a doctor, so it’s definitely worth trying.
Some people will chew gum or toothpicks to keep their mouths busy, both I’ve tried and they both help. You can even use a fidget toy or a stress ball.
Two habits that I’ve personally developed (one bad and one good) have been biting my skin instead of the nail and peeling off my nail polish. Now, biting your skin is very bad, but the reason I consider peeling off my nail polish as good is because it stops me from biting my nails and no damage is done.
There are so many options out there that you’re bound to find one that will work for you.
Set a Reward
Another way to inspire yourself to stop biting your nails is to set some type of reward for when you stop biting for x number of days. Popular habit-related books have stated it takes 21 days to break a habit, but some sources show that it takes longer for some people (especially if you’re dealing with a pleasure-based habit).
To play it safe, pick a longer number of days that seems like it would work best for you – 60 or 90 days could be a good number!
As for the reward, make it something amazing reward that you will truly want to break the habit for, like a $500 shopping spree to your favorite store.
And finally, getting extra inspired to stop biting your nails can help you reach that end goal. If you dream of long nails that are always on-point, create a Pinterest board of how you envision your dream nails.
Or, even better, create a physical vision board for nails and put it somewhere you will see it everyday. You can just print out your favorite nail photos and paste them onto a canvas or board, then hang on the wall.
How to Maintain Your Nails
Congratulations, you stopped biting your nails! Unfortunately, the process doesn’t stop there – now that you have longer nails, it’s important to start taking care of them and keeping them healthy. Most importantly, you want to do your best to make sure they don’t break.
This maintenance comes in many ways, from nail care to changing the way you do small tasks in your day to day life. It takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be forming some great habits.
Like your hair and skin, your nails and cuticles need some hydration to be the healthiest they can be. They go through a lot, so make sure you treat them right with some nail oil. They help ensure your nails are strong, but flexible so they can grow as long as you like.
You can pick up some good nail oils and pens to hydrate your nails on-the-go, or you can pick up a large bottle. Some ingredients to look out for are jojoba oil and vitamin E. These are great for your nails and you’ll start to see a difference in their hydration.
File Nails to an Almond Shape
Early on, I noticed that my nail would get small breaks in the sides. One way I would prevent this was filing them to an almond shape. I noticed that fake nails I would wear were sturier when they had a curved almond shape instead of a square shape, so the same is true for my real nails now.
Another way to prevent breaks is to make sure your nails are flexible so they bend, not break. One easy way to do this is to avoid nail hardeners. You don’t want your nails to be stiff, you want them flexible.
Trim Nails Regularly
Being a nail biter for however many number of years, you may have forgotten that you’re actually supposed to cut your nails (or file them down) when they’re getting long to prevent painful breaks that can set your progress back significantly.
Luckily, this is super simple – just make sure to have a pair of nail clippers or a file easily accessible for when you need to trim them down.
Be Careful With Everyday Tasks
You also want to perform daily tasks that involve your nails more carefully. Your nails are strong, but they aren’t invincible. It takes some getting used to, but you’ll be better off.
This can range from pushing buttons with your knuckle instead of your finger, opening cans with a fork, using gloves when washing dishes so you don’t drown your nails, and other tasks that protect your nails from potential breakage.
Optional: Take Biotin
Our final *huge* tip to help prevent breakage is to take a biotin supplement. It’s not necessary, but we highly recommend it if you don’t already.
If you have weak or brittle nails, breaks can happen easily. For many people, regularly taking biotin results in quicker nail growth and stronger nails (it also does this for the hair as well).
Now that you have the tips and tricks to stop biting nails and to start growing them out, start creating your dream nails!
Remember that growth will take a bit of time, so you’ll need to be patient and stick it through until the end. It can take weeks for you to start seeing progress and that’s okay. Just stick with your routine and you’ll have the beautiful nails you want.
Also, keep in mind that slip ups happen. If you accidentally bite your nails or if one breaks, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t beat yourself up and most importantly, don’t give up. It takes a long time to break a habit and everyone slips from time to time.
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