Onychophagia, or nail biting, is a compulsive habit that can damage your nails, nail beds, and even your teeth. Biting your nails can cause them to split and tear, and even rip the surrounding skin, which could lead to infection. There are well-known methods for overcoming this destructive habit.

Apply Sour, Bitter, or Spicy Solutions to the Nails

  • Lemon juice or vinegar: soak your nails in lemon juice or vinegar for a few minutes. The sour taste may deter you from biting them.
  • Pepper sauce: the compounds found in spicy peppers may deter you from putting your nails in your mouth.

The limitations of this approach are that these solutions have a powerful smell, which may be uncomfortable and embarrassing; and lemon juice, vinegar, and pepper sauce may be irritating if they inadvertently get into the eyes.

Cover Your Nails

Try using gloves to cover your nails or wrap adhesive bandage around the tip of each nail. This will physically block you from biting your nails and, after a while, may eradicate the habit.

Find a Surrogate

Sometimes replacing one oral habit with another less damaging oral habit can curb your compulsion. Here are a few options:

  • Chew gum
  • Suck on a lozenge (cough drop, hard candy, etc.)
  • Wear a rubber band around your wrist. Every time you start to bite your nails snap it. The negative reinforcement may help deter your from future nail chewing.

Clip Your Nails

Keep your nails trimmed and properly filed or get regular manicures. Manicures will not only help keep your nails short, but they may look so much better that you won’t want to ruin them by biting them.