The habit of biting your nails, also known as onychophagia, can become an addiction, as can cuticle picking. People who bite their nails or pick their cuticles are often nervous or stressed, and tend to bite or pick more often when they’re confronted with stressful events. Some nail-biters just nibble mindlessly when they’re bored or focusing on something intently.

In addition to stubby and unattractive nails, excessive biting can cause painful side effects, such as splitting and fractured nails, bleeding and tearing of cuticles and infections. And, since cuticles protect the nail bed, picking them can lead to fungal or bacterial infections, as well as bleeding around the nail.


If you’re ready to stop biting your nails or picking your cuticles, the first step is to figure out why you do it in the first place. Maybe it’s just an old habit and you do it without thinking—or maybe it’s the result of stress or tension in your day-to-day life. You could be nervous about something, or maybe you’ve recently quit smoking and picked up nail-biting or cuticle picking as a substitute. In some cases, nail-biting and cuticle picking can be triggered by another activity, like watching television or talking on the phone.

Once you’ve determined your reasons for biting your nails or picking your cuticles, spend some time monitoring yourself, especially during your “trigger” moments. Notice when you bite or pick, and try to intentionally stop doing it.

If that doesn’t work, you can try one of the foul-tasting formulas on the market that are designed to help you stop biting—or just buy the hottest pepper sauce you can find and dip your nails in a few times a day.

It helps to keep your hands busy. For example, if you’re a telephone nail-biter or cuticle picker, try keeping a piece of paper and a pencil near the phone so you can doodle while you chat.

Keep your nails short, and carry around a small nail clipper and emery board. Most nail-biters are more tempted to nibble when there is a jagged nail or one that’s longer than the others. Keeping nails short and clean will help.

Take good care of your cuticles. Try massaging a cuticle cream when you get the urge to pick. In a week or two, your cuticles will look 100 percent better.

Visualize yourself with long, beautiful nails. And consider heading to the salon to get acrylic overlays—your nails will look better and you’ll be less likely to bite an artificial nail.