How I stopped biting my nails

How I stopped biting my nails and learned to respect my hands

6 minute read

Intro

About a month ago I managed to stop biting my nails. Overnight!

Since then, there’s been no biting, and the temptation to bite has gone. I had a little scrape of a nail on my teeth the other day, then instead reached for a nail file, smoothed off the rough bit and thought no more about it.

And here’s how they look today:

nails

I’ve bitten my nails my whole life and have never been able to stop, so how did I do it?

The process that worked for me

Here’s how I managed it:

  • I started with two weeks of manicures
    I didn’t have much left in way of nails, but ladies at the nail bar did a great job – and it was the head start I needed

  • Keeping them smooth at all times
    I keep a nail file handy and smooth any rough nails immediately I notice them – so I’m not tempted to use my teeth

  • Clipping long nails immediately I notice them
    Having long nails can get in the way of typing and tempt you to bite – so I simply make sure it doesn’t

  • Being mindful of putting my fingers near my mouth
    Absent-minded biting was always my downfall – one lapse of concentration and it was back to square one

  • Developing a nail care routine
    I think of it as an investment in my body – like brushing my teeth, going for a run, or eating healthy food (see below)

But the thing that really opened the door was going for a manicure.

Whereas before – like some kind of keratin based-Tinder – there would always be at least one raggedy nail to lavish my attention on, one trip to the nail bar and suddenly all my nails were perfectly smooth and pretty and I didn’t want to put them near my mouth, let alone ruin them.

It was this period of learning to really appreciate my hands that provided the buffer I needed to abstain from daily biting, like an amazing head start to win the race against myself.

Where I am now

Without doubt, conquering this habit after all this time – and putting the processes in place to keep it conquered – feels like a major life achievement.

The long-term pleasure of having good nails is infinitely greater than the momentary satisfaction of biting them

If I was to list the benefits, they’d be:

  • Enjoying how great my nails feel
    Just rubbing my nails against the tips of my other fingers, or rapping them loudly on the desk!

  • Seeing how great my nails look
    Not just the nails, but the surrounding skin, the cuticles, etc

  • Being able to do things with them
    Like peel a label, scratch an itch, or run my nails through my girlfriend’s hair

  • Not having sore fingers or nails
    I used to hate it when I damaged my fingers because I’d bitten or ripped them so far it hurt or bled

  • Having a huge sense of pride having conquered this
    To have gone just a month without biting and knowing it’s now a thing of the past is an amazing feeling

  • Seeing biting as a silly, self-harming act of sabotage
    This permanent shift in mindset has been surprisingly-obtainable now my habit isn’t running me

The only downside to having stopped is that longer nails are not great for coding; having them clatter on the keys makes it harder to type and is annoying, so now I’m up-and-running, staying on track with a good nail care routine is key.

Nail care routine

Caring for your nails takes around 5 minutes, once every week or so.

When I have tried to cut or clip my nails in the past they have always ended up quite uneven, so after watching my manicurist and various videos on YouTube, I find the following works for me…

Use the right tools

To cut the nail

  • Push the clippers flat against the end of each finger tip, with the cutting surfaces above and below the nail
  • In a gentle, clean squeeze, cut straight across the end of the nail to the desired length
  • Clip the corners at an angle of around 30-45°, making sure to judge the cuts by their overall symmetry

To smooth the nail

  • Use the emery board to grind down the sharp angles to create a smooth join between the three edges
  • It can help to place an opposing digit against the target digit and wedge the board against it as you file
  • Ignore the advice “not to saw”; it doesn’t seem to make any difference for short nails and is much easier!
  • Finish by filing the top edges of all cuts lightly with an emery board

Afterwards

  • Wash your hands
  • Moisturise the tips of your fingers

And you’re done!

Staying on the wagon

Keeping your nails at a length where they’re attractive – but not distracting – is key.

As well as sticking to a routine, I keep emery boards by my desk and in my bag, so I can take care of rough edges as and when they come up. I’m also going to continue with occasional manicures; they’re inexpensive at around £12, and you get a hand massage at the end!

If you’re a biter, and you want to see if this works for you, I’d suggest simply walking into your closest nail bar this afternoon and just getting it done. If you’re impressed with the result, hit the local chemist and pick up some clippers and emery boards, then follow the steps above.

If after a couple of weeks nothing comes of it… well… at least you enjoyed the free hand massage!

So...