Several years ago, I was working as a customer service representative for a furniture retailer. A woman approached my desk and all I could see were her long, gleaming, glorious fingernails. Being a guilty-as-charged nail-biter, I was filled with longing and envy as I glanced down at my own raw, whittled nubs. Before getting down to business, I had to pay homage to these feats of manicured splendor that she was flashing, to which she returned a very gracious "Thank you," and relayed her tale of nail-biting recovery. Turns out she had once been a pretty serious biter, so serious that she contracted a nasty infection and was subsequently hospitalized. All turned out well in the end and she was given the strength of conviction to swear off nail-biting for good.
Case in point, Onychophagia, or nail-biting (not to mention its close cousin Dermatillomania, or skin-picking), is no joke. It's behavior that, at its most severe, qualifies as a form of self-harm, and which can negatively impact your health among other things. While the methodologies of overcoming nail-biting are complex and vast, at the end of the day no one knows best how to stop biting your nails but you, and with the help of a few failsafe products and tricks of the trade, you can absolutely nip the habit in the bud.
Investigate causes and triggers
If your nail-biting is problematic enough to disrupt your everyday life, it's worth discussing with your health care practitioner. He or she might recommend a vitamin supplement or changes to your diet that will promote stronger, healthier nails. If stress, anxiety or other psychological factors are at the root of the problem, they can be identified and better managed. Pinpointing your personal panacea will pave the way for a victorious battle against biting and can also have a holistic effect on your overall wellbeing.
Find a good moisturizer (and use it regularly)
So greasing up with creams and lotions isn't totally your thing. At the risk of sounding bossy, you should really consider making it your thing. Determine your pet problem area and commence your search there. For example, a fast-absorbing moisturizer is probably ideal if you're oft on the go, versus a formula that's a bit more rich and intensive. Force yourself in moments of downtime (like watching the new GOT, or on a lunch break), and immediately following extended exposure to water (soaking in the tub, washing dishes) to lay that stuff on thick. In that same vein, why not moisturize while you sleep? An overnight treatment will leave you waking with hydrated hands and won't disrupt your daily grind. Be sure to use these treatments as directed, as with over-use your skin can actually become accustomed to their effects and lose some of its ability to self-heal.
Start with a strengthening base coat
Here again you'll want to determine your main source of complaint. Are your fingernails ridged? Are they prone to peeling? Slap a coat of polish on those puppies without delay. If your fingernails are in pretty poor shape and short enough that it seems a silly canvas to work with, don't worry: just getting a coat or two on and working will encourage the growth and rehabilitation process. Wait a few days and apply another coat.
Treat yourself to regular manis
...at home! Given the opportunity, a real-deal pampering from a professional is a good way to relax and let someone else do the driving, although not always feasible. A suitable substitute can take place in the comfort of home, while you Netflix and chill, or listen to your favorite album, wait for laundry to dry, whatever. The effort you put into manicuring your own fingernails will come to mind when next you might feel inclined to bite, and the resulting destruction will hardly seem worth it.
Don't let your hands idle
Products and psychology aside, an important thing to put into practice in the early days of purging your nail-biting demons is keeping busy. Is there something you love to do, like draw, or paint, or crochet, or play music? Do it. In abundance. Don't give yourself access to your hands. By utilizing the interplay of mindfully manicuring as your new comfort zone and refocusing your attention away from your fingers, you'll be more likely, after a fashion, not only to forget to bite your fingernails, but to find it utterly unenjoyable.
Posted by Katy Kirkpatrick