I’ve been a chronic nail-biter for most of my life. Ever since about the age of three, I remember my mom telling me to “quit that nasty habit.” Finally, in adulthood, I managed to drop nail-biting for longer periods of time, although I always seem to start again during a particularly stressful period.
After learning these facts, though, I think I’ll stop for good. It turns out biting your nails can have some seriously disgusting, painful, unattractive, and even fatal consequences.
Read on to find out why quitting your nail-biting habit should be a top priority, as well as some tried-and-true strategies to make it happen.
You can get a deadly infection
The top reason to stop biting your nails is because it could actually kill you! Underneath your nails is the perfect place for nasty bacteria to hide and thrive. Not only is it vital for you to wash your hands when you’ve been in public places, used the restroom, handled food, etcetera, you must also keep your hands out of your mouth! This means nail-biting is a huge no-no.
For disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, the little spaces beneath your nails is the perfect place to live. There could even be more dangerous bacteria lurking underneath your nails, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
You can poison yourself
Most nail polish contains formaldehyde, which is super toxic to the human body. Gel nail polishes are even more dangerous since they contain strong chemicals that are only intended for topical application. Ingesting these chemicals over time can be highly toxic.
You can spread warts
If you have warts on your fingers, or any version of the very common human papillomavirus (HPV), it can spread to your face, mouth or lips when you bite your nails.
You can get nail fungus
Got paronychia? You might if you bite your nails! It’s a nasty fungus that grows around the nails when they are constantly in your mouth. Other yeast and microorganisms can also find a home there if you’re not careful.
You can cause the nails to become deformed or never grow back
Biting the nails down too far can damage the source of the nail. This can cause nails to grow back in a bumpy or ridged shape. When they are too short, they may never grow back and remain stumps forever! This is because damage to the nail bed can result in an environment where a new nail can no longer take hold and grow.
Hangnails and ingrown nails
More painful conditions that can be caused by nail-biting include hangnails and ingrown nails. A hangnail is when the nail gets ripped down too far, to the point where it becomes painful. Ingrown nails can occur when the nail is too short and then grows into the flesh of the nail bed. These conditions are not only painful, but may require surgery to rectify.
You can ruin your teeth
Nail-biting can cause teeth to move out of place, or interfere with the way the upper and lower teeth should overlap. It can also leave teeth worn down or chipped. Those who bite their nails are also more likely to grind their teeth at night, according to studies. The tension created in the jaw from the unusual movements required to bite your nails can leave you with jaw pain and headaches.
You can send subconscious messages to others
People bite their nails for various emotional reasons: to ease stress, anxiety, boredom, or self-consciousness, for example. However, this seemingly insignificant habit can determine how others view you and interact with you.
Not only is it kind of gross to be standing near someone who is making smacking and cracking noises from their mouth as they pull off their fingernails, it also sends a subconscious message that the person is insecure or anxious.
Some people even become depressed or isolated because of embarrassment over the appearance of their fingers from biting their nails.
It can cultivate bad breath
Nail-biters may be more prone to halitosis, or bad breath. This association may be due to the higher levels of bacteria that are introduced to the mouth via the fingers.
You can damage your gums
Biting your nails can leave dangerous fragments stuck under your gums. This could lead to gum damage, swelling, and infection. Definitely not a sexy look!
Try kicking that nail-biting habit for good by posting reminder notes, recruiting an accountability partner, identifying and eliminating the triggers, cultivating mindfulness, and distracting yourself with other activities.
Then, take pride in your nails and make them beautiful so that you’ll never want to bite them again!
Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘spassion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.