Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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How to Stop Picking Your Nails

Just stop! Seems simple enough, right? But if it were that simple you wouldn’t constantly be getting harped on by your mom, your sister, your friends, your colleagues, and anyone else who happens to observe the madness! 

And it may not just be your actual nails, but also your cuticles and skin on your nails. And if you’ve been picking long and hard enough, you know the pain associated with such an unhealthy activity.

Approximately two to five percent of the population are nail-pickers. Seventy-five percent are women. It shouldn’t be too shocking, though – we’ll discuss a variety of reasons this happens in the first place. Some might surprise you!

No one particularly wants ugly nails, but you may think you simply cannot help it. That’s where you are wrong, there are some effective ways to battle the self-destruction! Here are a few strategies that might make a world of difference for your hands and your mind.

Be Mindful of Your Actions

Gain awareness of your not-so-wonderful habit. Maybe you zone out and don’t realize you are doing it. It may be a habit you gained in childhood (it is for many) and now it’s become so normal that it’s old hat. 

There may be some familiar environments where you are doing this – in the living room just watching tv, standing in line at the post office, waiting for a cashier to ring you up at the grocery store. Start paying attention to when you pick and the environmental factors around you.

Improve Your Mood

Sometimes incessant picking is the result of negative thoughts – and we all know our thoughts affect our behavior. If you have been feeling down and out, try to understand why and modify things in your life to rid yourself of negativity. 

Perhaps it’s a conflict with a friend, colleague, or family member. Maybe you are unhappy with not meeting your fitness or career goals or maybe traffic is just too much to handle on any given day. When you can work to turn negatives into positives, your nails can definitely benefit.

Think About the Consequences

Ugly scars, bleeding, bandages, pain worst of all – the bacteria! If that isn’t enough to scare you out of this nonsense – well, it should be! The consequences could be so grave, you don’t even want to leave the house due to the appearance or agonizing achiness. 

But moreover, if you have a bacterial infection it could affect the color or shape of your nails. A staph infection could force a trip to the doctor to get antibiotics due to the accumulation of pus or an abscess (gross!).

Create a Blocking Barrier

It might sound a little silly, but this method works for a lot of people! If you block your nails with something physical, they are harder to get to and you might be pulled back to reality to make you realize what you are trying to do (and stop!). Gloves and bandages work for some, or there are gel finger sleeves or protective hand cream, which creates a clear protectant (and if you are a nail biter, it won’t taste very well!).

Keep Yourself Busy

The more active you are, the less time you will have to pick! Perhaps you could learn to crochet, take up a graphic design course, take your pup out for a stroll – there are plenty of things you can do to distract your hands so they won’t be available for the picking. The hope is that you’ll forget entirely about wanting to pick. And you may find an enjoyable new hobby in the process.

Invest in Acrylic Nails

When you spend a whole lot of money (not to mention time) to beautify your nails, you may be less likely to pick. Plus, acrylic nails make it a lot more difficult to make any sort of picking progress. When you get into the nail salon, you are often treated to ultra-hydrating cuticle oil which smoothes the skin so you won’t have any frayed skin to latch onto. 

Try an N-acetylcysteine Supplement

There is no magical pill to instantly stop your picking, but a 1,200-mg daily dose of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) helped skin picking behavior in 47% of patients with excoriation (or skin picking) disorder, likely due to NAC’s ability to affect mood-regulating neurotransmitters. Glutamate and dopamine are active in helping to reduce irritability and treat any underlying behavioral disorders.

Ask for Help

While it’s best to learn habits to stop the destructive behavior, sometimes it may require an outsider to help you realize when you are picking and remind you why you don’t want to pick. Make a pact with your friends or family and ask them to make you aware (even if it might make you mad!). If you really want to be successful, you might need a bit of tough love.

Seek Out Some Professional Therapy

Find a specialist who focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be treated with a practitioner to target your unwanted behavior and replace this with healthier thoughts. This will take a bit of motivation on your part, but it could be a life-changing impact.

Reward Yourself!

Whether it’s been three days, a week, or a month – give yourself some props! Treat yourself to a relaxing manicure, buy yourself a beautiful new ring, or snap a few pictures of your now-gorgeous hands and post to Instagram to elicit some kudos! You deserve to be rewarded!


Nail picking, put frankly, is an undesirable habit. It hurts, it trashes your nailbeds, it affects your self-esteem and it’s likely an effect of an underlying issue. Utilizing some of these methods can have you on track and progress is the best motivator. Your hands do so much for you, treat them nicely!

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