Whether you bite your nails when you're nervous, or it's a habit you've had for years, it's not something you should keep up. Hordes of bacteria are specially adapted to live under your nails, and the moment you start to chew off the corner of your thumb, those colonies jump ship and land in your mouth. Gross.
Hopefully these facts about nail-biting are enough to help you kick the habit:
1. Some serious germs call your nails home
Along with dead skin cells and dirt, nasty germs like Klebsiella (bacteria that cause pneumonia and urinary tract infections) and Candida parapsilosis (a yeast that causes wound and blood stream infections) can be found under fingernails.
Salmonella and E. coli are also found under your nails, Richard Scher, M.D., an expert on nail disorders at Weill Cornell Medical College explains. Who knew such nasty organisms were hiding under your glossy gel nails?
Even if you keep them short, there are hundreds of bacterial colonies that thrive in the warm, moist environment under your nails. Long nails are even more susceptible to these germs. A study in San Francisco stated that 100 percent of health care workers with long nails (nails that extended three millimeters or more above the finger tip) were surveyed and had bacteria and yeast growing underneath. Only 18 percent of workers with short nails had the same organisms under theirs.
3. Nail biting can make you sick - really sick
"Your fingernails are almost twice as dirty as your fingers. Bacteria often gets stuck under the nails, and can be transferred to the mouth, causing infections of the gums and throat," says Michael Shapiro, M.D.
Not only that, but BBC News also found that bacteria found under nails can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. If you believe washing your hands before chewing on your nails will get rid of the germs, you're mistaken.
In a BBC article, researchers discovered that washing your hands with persistent scrubbing doesn't sterilize your nails. Also, "significant numbers of bacteria in...this hand region may be relatively inaccessible to antimicrobial agents during normal hand-washing." That's right - the vomit-inducing and diarrhea-provoking bacteria can't be easily banished with a thorough hand washing.
Children and adults who bite their nails run the risk of chipping, cracking or wearing down their teeth, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. They also warn that nail-biters are more susceptible to bruxism - or the "unintentional grinding or clenching that causes facial headaches, tooth sensitivity, recessed gums and tooth loss."
If you chew your nails, you certainly aren't alone. About half of the worldwide population starts biting their nails around age 10, but most stop at age 30, according to WebMD. If knowing what horrors are lurking under your nails isn't enough reason to stop, talk to your doctor about other ways you can kick the habit.
Emily is putting her English and Humanities degree to use editing and writing all over the world. Trying to see all 7 world wonders (while visiting as many countries as she can in between), Emily loves wandering alleyways, beautifully photographed food, stumbling upon impromptu flea and food markets. She can usually be found camera in hand, munching on a street food and never has her headphones out of reach.