If you pick at your cuticles, peel or rip hangnails, scratch or scrape or bite your fingers or nails, my new video is for you and will discuss all sorts of tips, tools and strategies to help you stop or greatly reduce these behaviors. If you prefer a written article, you can read my previous post on finger picking. I have also included a transcript below the video:
Hi, I’m Annette Pasternak, the Stop Skin Picking Coach. Today in our body part series, we’re focusing on finger picking. So whether this is picking at your cuticles, peeling hangnails, scraping the sides of your fingers, even biting the skin around your fingers, or biting your nails even, this should help all of those things. I’m going to give you a bunch of strategies. Putting some of these in place, you can greatly reduce your behaviors. I help people stop skin picking and related behaviors. And you can find all my info in the notes below as well as any products I discuss in this video.
So first of all, one of the biggest triggers for picking at skin is dry skin. So mostly it’s like the dry skin, the rough skin, you’re feeling for things to smooth out. So, taking a step back, it really helps to keep your skin protected so it doesn’t get dry. And then, of course, to moisturize when it is dry. So as far as protection, make sure you’re wearing gloves when you wash the dishes or clean the house. That can go a long way because those soaps – detergents – are very, very drying. Then of course, you want to treat your dry skin, so moisturize like crazy. So it’s that dry, rough skin you’re going for.
So if you moisturize and it’s slippery, then it’s not interesting to you, or your fingers, or your brain, whatever’s doing this, it’s just like you just slip along and you stop doing it basically because it doesn’t feel right, or it feels fine so you stop doing this motion. So you could keep a hand cream dispenser, do like a little pump every time you’re have a meeting or every time you’re studying. Think of some kind of a regular thing throughout your day, or you can set an alarm for every hour, just kind of keep your skin like so ridiculously moisturized.
And make sure you’re taking breaks. So you might be doing these behaviors just automatically. And the longer you sit still, the more you’re going to be fidgety and doing these kind of behaviors. So take breaks, walk around, use the bathroom, drink some water, have a snack, whatever you need to do, but take a little walk, do some exercises. That should help as well.
You can use also a cuticle cream or a cuticle oil. I like this. Burt’s Bees Lemon Cream. It smells so good. Oops. You can just put a little bit just around the cuticles, doesn’t have to be on your whole hand or anything. And that could be like something you do periodically when you take a break or certainly before bed. Before bed you might actually want something that’s even more moisturizing. Another one of my clients told me about this Bag Balm. This is a lanolin based thing that has been around since 1899, and bag is referring to cows udders because this was used by farmers on the cows chafed udders. But the farmers also used it themselves because it works so well.
And another of my clients really has been using this at night, just putting it on your hand. It smells really odd. So for me, I wouldn’t want to use it during the day. I wouldn’t want to use it without gloves. It’s just kind of a strange smell. I don’t even know how to describe it. But you can use this and then put some white cotton gloves right on top and that will really hold the moisture in for the night. And then go to sleep with the gloves on your hands, which can also help if you tend to do this at night. And my client that’s being using the Bag Balm and the gloves, says her hands are like they’re 15 years old again. And she’s some decades older than that. So, that’s really cool. It heals up your fingers really quickly. And when they’re healed, there is so much less to pick at. So it’s really going to decrease your picking or biting behaviors.
So another thing you can do is to gently use some tools, if you feel you’re able to use tools mindfully and without doing any damage. So for example, for most people, cutting and hang nail is going to be better than just ripping it off. So if you can have a bit of mindfulness to be able to say, “Hmm, let me go get the scissor and cut it off with a little nail scissor,” that’s going to be better. Another thing you can do if you’re just picking at rough skin is gently, gently file it. Gently, gently with a file. Gently. My client who I just mentioned before, she’s also been soaking her cuticles and pushing them back very gently with one of those cuticle pushing tools. Then she puts her cuticle cream, or I think she’s using some cuticle oil on, and that’s good. If you’re finding this video helpful so far, please give it a thumbs up.
Now another great strategy is simply giving your fingers some positive attention for change. In other words, instead of doing these negative things to it or these damaging behaviors to them, giving yourself or getting a manicure can be really nice. Making your hands look prettier or more handsome can have several consequences. One is that you’re kind of proud of them, you like the way they look, and so you are motivated not to do the damaging behaviors. So that can be a great strategy. Another benefit to a lot of these manicures, so acrylic, gel, and maybe even the press on nails, I’m not sure about that, is that they have less sharp edges to them. So your nail will be blunter, they’re thicker. And so you won’t be able to do as much damage with whatever you doing.
Now another strategy similar to the gloves is to just keep your fingers covered, quite simply. And then you won’t be able to do that, those behaviors. So if you’d just do it on your thumbs, you’re lucky because you just have to cover your thumbs. So these are things called gaming finger sleeves. And they’re just like these little fabric covers that you can wear. I’ve got two different colors now, but you can just put them on your fingers and they are… I’m going to put one on two different fingers. They’re fabric so they’re pretty comfortable, but they work on your touch screens. So if you need to pick up your phone and be on the phone, or you want to, then these will be quite fine to do with that.
Of course at work, you might not like that. Although, if these behaviors are so common and so many people bite their nails too. So, I would just at this point just wear them, and if somebody asks you about them, just be like, “Oh, I keep sticking my finger in my mouth,” or something. Or, “I keep picking at my skin.” Most people… Like you might feel really embarrassed and ashamed about it, but most people, if they told you that they would be like, “Oh, okay, it makes sense.” Like it’s not a big deal to them, and they very possibly might be doing the same thing or something very similar.
Now I did hear from an 80-year-old viewer who mentioned that he was wearing just the little latex finger cuts, and they’re so uncomfortable he took them off after 20 minutes. But he realized that after 20 minutes when he took them off, he was so much more aware that he didn’t pick anyway after that. And he did it again the next day and it worked again. And so he really feels like he’s on his way to just being free of these behaviors, because for him it was a total like just being absent-minded. And when he did some of this practice becoming more aware, that was a game changer for him. And now he’s really confident that you can break this decades-long habit. So I thought that was really cool.
Another strategy is to keep your hands busy doing other things. So from putty to worry stones, to squishy balls, to fidget toys of all sorts, these are something else to do. It’s just like redirecting your hands to be doing something else in the situations that you’re picking. So, very important to become aware obviously of when and where you’re doing these behaviors, and then using some optimal strategies for those different situations. I’ll also link a great video here of an artist who uses quick sketching just to prevent herself from picking her fingers. And that’s actually a really interesting video, so I would definitely check that out.
Okay, so which strategies are you going to implement right away? We’re always more likely to do something if we have a plan. And if we write it down, even better. So please comment below on what you’re going to do and what strategies perhaps have worked for you in the past that maybe you’ve forgotten about and want to go back to.
Definitely check out my other blog post on finger picking, where you’ll also meet two finger pickers and learn what works for them.