Onychophagia is a compulsive habit of nail biting. This disorder is the most common in kids but, luckily, the majority of them grow out of this nasty habit. Yet, there is approximately 15% of adults who keep biting their nails regularly. Why? The reasons are various: anxiety, fear, hyperactivity and low self-esteem. Few know that nail biting isn’t just an aesthetic problem but also a mental one. Before telling you how to take care of bitten nails, I’ll list the hazards connected with this nasty habit. Also, I’ll do my best to help start controlling yourself – and I know what I’m talking about because I used to bite my nails for a few long years! Here are my methods of breaking the nail biting habit.
Bitten nails: Hazards
Ugly-looking hands – the obvious result of nail biting – is noticed at first sight, yet this problem is way more complex than just the aesthetic issue that it’s commonly associated with. Nail biting may cause problems with teeth, or malocclusion, some jaw deformities as well as inflammation of teeth and their relocation. Other hazards include gastrointestinal infections, fungal infections and parasitic diseases such as pinworms, tapeworm or roundworm. Sounds incredible? Perhaps it does but there is a reason for that – the space between your nails and fingertips makes a perfect environment for bacteria to multiply, and their number – I mean population – is mind-blowing. Moreover, as a consequence of long nail biting (and by saying ‘long’ I mean that it’s been lasting for a few years), your nail plate may be irreparably damaged, and even it may disappear completely. Anything else that you should worry about? Well, how about the risk of deformation and inflammation of bone marrow of phalanx?
Nail biting: How to break this habit? The methods I tried
I’ve seen it for myself that there is no universal method of breaking away from nail biting. Yet there are many tricks that may help you deal with this problem.
- Nail biting polish
Once you apply nail biting polish, your nails should become really bitter in taste, which is supposed to discourage you from putting your fingers into the mouth. I have to admit that this DIDN’T work out for me – I got used to this bitterness so with time I couldn’t even sense it 😀
- Nail biting and the change of a habit
However, if you have to keep doing something with your nails, perhaps you should consider taking care of them instead of biting. I can’t leave home without my pocket manicure kit. Therefore, anytime I felt like biting the nails, I reached for a file. Furthermore, I did my best to improve the state of the cuticles and dry skin patches that provoked me to bite them off – I keep treating them with ready-made conditioners or natural oils.
- Distraction of attention and nail biting
Many people would advise me to try replacing my fingers with literally anything else, like for example with chewing gums. And I tried! Any time I felt this urgent feeling of putting the fingers into my mouth, I reached for dried fruit, sunflower seeds and many other healthy snacks. Also, I tried occupying my hands with some items like a stress ball, a pocket puzzle that I bought on my summer holiday and things like that. Well, it didn’t work out for me.
- Nail biting and nail extensions
I also give gel and acrylic manicure a try. It’s true that both types of nail extensions damage nail plate but on the flip side they impede biting. To be honest, I was saved by my own cheeseparing: when I thought how much money had I spent on nail extensions, which I would bite pretty soon after leaving the beauty salon, I almost fainted! And this is when I got over my nasty affliction.
How to condition bitten nails?
Bitten nails are very weak therefore they require time to recover. If this nasty habit lasts long, I’m sure that you’ve already noticed the nails changing their shape and even color. And this is why they require being exposed to the tailored care, so to say.
- Cutting and filing the nails
Throughout the first month of your nail biting rehab, you should keep the nails short. Cut it and file regularly. This will help you make them stronger.
- Nail conditioners and natural oils
What are other products that could help you reinforce damaged nail plates? I won’t surprise you if I advise you to reach for advanced nail care products. For example, nail conditioners – which you can buy in any drugstore – should be applied every other day. After a week, you can introduce a colorless nail polish. Another good idea is – obviously – applying natural oils to the nails. This beauty ritual will help your nails get harder, more elastic, more shiny and brightened up.
- Cuticle care
Cuticles are as important as the nails themselves. In order to soften them, you can make use of special personal care products designed to handle this particular task. Cuticles should be well-hydrated therefore don’t forget to carry a hand cream always with you. Twice a month treat your hands with a rich hand cream. Apply it at bedtime and put on special gloves. When it comes to removing the cuticles from the nail plate, the easiest way would be to, first, apply a special product responsible for softening the cuticles and then push them back using a special wooden cuticle stick. And the last thing to mention, when you apply a nail polish, try not to spread it to the cuticles because this makes them dehydrated.
- Nail regeneration and diet
The way our nails look is also determined by the food we consume. If you want to help your weakened nails recover, it’s a good idea to enrich your diet with products rich in magnesium (e.g. grains, diary products, green vegetable leaves), zinc (fish, seafood, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds) and B-group vitamins (e.g. eggs, yeast, fish and potatoes).
In my case, I won this battle with nail biting habit thanks to nail extension procedure, or its cost to be more precise 🙂 Anyway, I wholeheartedly encourage you to give all the above-mentioned methods a go because what worked out for me, might not serve you, and the other way round.
Now a question to those of you who managed to break the habit of nail biting: How did to get out of this nasty habit of yours? 🙂