Your fingernails are nearly twice as dirty as your fingers. And your keyboard has more germs festering on it than your toilet. So if you typed our URL into the address bar and then bit your nails while waiting for the site to load, man is your mouth totally gross.
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Biting your nails — or onychophagia — not only transfers a sh*tload of bacteria, fungus, and other microorganisms from your fingers to your mouth, it can also wear down your teeth, contribute to skin and cuticle infections, and increase your risk of getting sick. Plus, it’s super unattractive. So if you don’t have the sheer willpower to quit gnawing on your nails, we hope these techniques help you stop biting nails. And if they don’t work, please stay far, far away from us. We’re all germaphobes here.
1. APPLY PRODUCTS
Mavala Stop ($14 @ Amazon.com) and Control It! ($22 for a 2-pack @ Amazon.com) are two products that’ll help. Control It! is an odorless, colorless all-natural cream that you apply to your nails. Mavala Stop is a liquid you paint onto your nails. Both taste bitter and will give you an unpleasant reminder that you’re a very bad boy each time you go in for a chew.
2. KEEP YOUR NAILS GROOMED
We don’t expect you to carry a nail file around saw away during happy hour with coworkers, but clipping your nails regularly and smoothing any jagged edges may be enough to keep your OCD about “fixing” your nails with your teeth at bay.
This 9-in1 nail grooming kit from No. 2 Warehouse ($18 @ Amazon.com) should have all you need. Best of all, if you’re a mani guy, you’ll now own the tools to pull it off and a perfect excuse if your buddies call you out. “Oh, I don’t give myself manicures. Don’t be ridiculous. I’m trying not to bite my nails, dick.”
3. DISTRACT YOURSELF
Idle hands can help fuel your nail-biting habit, so reduce the chance that you’ll go to town on your nails by keeping your hands busy and your mind distracted with a stress ball, Silly Putty, or Red Fox grip strengthener ($25 @ Amazon.com). Other forms of distractions include chewing gum or eating mints.
Just be careful about chewing gum. Yeah, it’ll help your rancid breath, but it can also lead to weight gain — even the sugarless varieties. Without getting too into it, your body starts to prep for food because you’re chewing and digestive juices are flowing. Then no food comes and it hunkers down and preserves fat.
4. MANAGE STRESS AND ANXIETY
Stress, anxiety, frustration, and fear are common nail-biting causes. So whether you’re feeling uneasy about work, your relationship, or Michael Meyers moving in next door, pinpointing what’s plaguing you can help keep your nails out of your mouth.
Since you probably won’t meditate even though it’s proven to help manage stress, try Suntheanine ($20 @ Amazon.com). It’s green tea extract that improves focus and relieves tension without hindering sleep.
5. PUNISH YOURSELF
No need to go all S&M on yourself as punishment if you bite your nails, but try putting a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it when you get the urge. The negative physical response will gradually help lessen your desire to bite.
6. SEE A DOCTOR
Your nail biting may be part of a bigger obsessive-compulsive issue. If you think you have OCD, make a doctor’s appointment and get diagnosed. You can also opt for hypnosis — it’s the same method smokers use — or ask a doctor about cognitive-behavioral therapy or habit-reversal training. The former will help you work on relaxation methods while the latter focuses on identifying repetitive behaviors and finding healthier replacements.