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nail biting

Nail biting has long been considered one of the worst bad habits you can develop, but all that might be about to change as a new study has revealed that having a cheeky chew might actually be good for you.

Researchers in New Zealand have found that children who bite their nails or suck their thumbs are less likely to develop allergies than those who don’t because all that under-nail bacteria we’ve been so long warned off actually seems to have a strengthening effect on the body’s immune system.

The investigation – which has been published in the Pediatrics journal – is based on the hygiene hypothesis which states that the more germs and bacteria you are exposed to in childhood, the stronger your immune system is likely to be in adulthood.

The study – which involved 1,000 people – assessed thumb sucking and nail biting habits at ages five, seven, nine and eleven and tested for allergies in 13 and 32-year-olds.

Almost one third of the children involved were found to be regular thumb suckers or nail biters and these children were significantly less likely to be allergic to dust mites and pets in their teens than their non-nail biting counterparts.

This effect was also found to last into adulthood but does not apply to asthma or hay fever at any age.

While there are still obvious disadvantages to biting your nails, the study does show that even the worst of habits can have their benefits.

Feat image: Maxcure Hospitals 



Biting your nails is one of the hardest habits to quit – something I know because I did it. It took a long time but by the end of it I could wear nail varnish and didn't have to turn my hand into a claw for photos – yay!

As nail biters, we can be painfully self-conscious of our nails, often hiding them under sleeves and always out of a camera’s sight.

I started biting my nails when I was seven and didn’t quit completely until I was 21 – more significantly, my 21st birthday but more on that later.

My parents always insisted it was a ‘nervous’ thing – that when I felt anxious, scared or worried, I would bite my nails. While there was an element of that, naturally, it was also when I felt angry, happy, sad or just plain bored.

Here is how I finally beat my nail biting habit once and for all. While it may or may not work for you, you might find some points helpful and some not. Just don’t give up – one day pretty nail polishes and even (gasp!) a manicure could be yours for the taking!

Pinpoint WHEN you nail bite
While you may bite your nails continuously around the clock, it’s important to realise that time at which you do the most damage. For me personally, it was when I was watching TV. So, I took to using further distraction while watching TV – flicking through cookbooks, making lists, that kind of thing. If you bite your nails when you’re worried, try to find another way of dealing with that feeling – write down why you feel worried or fidget with a hair bobbin instead.

Don’t waste money
If you find that buying those disgusting nail polishes designed to help you quit your habit helps you, so be it. For me, I found that after a while I actually got used to the taste (gross, I know) and just bit away anyway. If you take time to allow you to stop biting, you shouldn’t need anything like this.

Pick an event
Have you got a wedding, birthday or some event coming up that you want to look your best for? I chose my 21st birthday and told myself I had three months before that date to make sure I could paint my nails for that night. It helps to have a goal, just as many people would do with weight-loss.

One by one
For me, going cold turkey was never going to work. I’d tried before numerous times and failed…hard. So, I decided I would stop biting just one nail on my hand and it wouldn’t be so bad because I’d still have the others (as strange as that sounds!) Then, when I saw the progress with that one, I was spurred on to do another one and then another and another until there was only one nail left I was biting. At that point I had lost interest in biting my nails at all so giving up that one was easy. Don’t rush and it will come in time.

Social media
Use sites like Pinterest to keep you on track. Make a ‘nailspiration’ board of pretty manicures and colours you would love to try if you stopped biting your nails. It won’t be long until you can…promise!

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