Google “Nail Biters Anonymous” and you’ll get a few 100,000 hits. But when I was a kid, there was no Nail Biters Anonymous. If there was, I would have stood up and said, “My name is Neal. I bite my nails.” I confess, I, the fearless leader of DermTV, was a nail biter, but happily I have corrected my wayward habit! And now knowing what I do about the medical affects of nail biting, I’m very happy I did.
Seriously… nail biting isn’t just a bad habit with visually ugly consequences. It’s actually the cause of many infections of the skin around the nails and even skin cancer.
The way nail biting promotes infections of the skin around and even under the nails is by causing small scratches or breaks in the upper, protective layer of skin… That layer, the epidermis in an unbroken state prevents germs from invading the skin and causing infections… but biting induced breaks, even tiny ones that don’t bleed and that you don’t see, they allow whatever germs are on your skin or in your mouth to invade into the top two layers of the skin causing different types of infections.
For example, you can get warts, and easily spread them from finger to finger through nail biting. And then you’ll need to get them surgically removed.
Or, the herpes virus, which many people carry harmlessly in their saliva, with the help of nail biting, can cause cold sores on your finger tips, which are painful and recurring. These need to be treated by oral antiviral pills.
If you let bacteria like staph and strep in through nail biting, they can cause acute painful red swelling of the skin that needs to be lanced or drained to remove the pus and also needs to be treated with antibiotics.
Sorry, but it gets worse!
Back to warts. When they spread under the finger nail, they can become cancerous and cause squamous cell carcinoma, which requires surgical removal and often causes disfiguring scarring of the finger nail and tip.
Now clearly, many of you have bitten your nails and what I just mentioned hasn’t occurred. But it can and does. So if you’re a nail biter, make one of your new year resolutions to stop.
Of course, like any habit, nail biting is a tough one to break. But I’ll tell you what worked for me, which also happens to be the easiest and least expensive cure: purchase and coat your nails with any of the clear topical products that are bitter and just awful tasting. They’re safe yet taste bad enough to keep you from even thinking about putting your fingers in your mouth!