I had horrible nail biting habit for as long as I could remember. Sometime in my early 20’s, I found a way to overcome it by keeping my nails painted all the time. I would wear all kinds of colors from blue to green to black. It was fun and eventually, my nail biting habit was broken.
At the same time, I decided to quit an eight-year, pack-a-day smoking habit, cold-freaking-turkey. Yeah, I know. I tend to push myself to my limits without really thinking. I probably should have planned things out a little better because I ended up replacing two bad habits for one big one.
It is very common for nail biters to pick at their cuticles and I found that as my nail biting and smoking habit waned, the skin picking got worse and worse. It got to the point where my fingers would be raw, red, peeled and sometimes bleeding. You would think that bleeding and pain would trigger my mind to stop, but I couldn’t. My brain would then go into a warped “fix-it” mode. If I kept picking at the pieces of peeled skin, it would eventually look better. Of course, in reality, it never did.
The worst part is that most of the picking was unconscious. I would find myself doing it while watching TV or when I would talk on the phone. Other times, I would find myself picking if I was experiencing a high level of stress. Considering the events that I experienced in my life over the past 40 years, I had a lot of stress. On the flip side, I would also find myself picking when I was extremely bored or needed a distraction.
So what is skin picking exactly?
Skin picking or Dermatophagia “is a type of Impulse Control Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder wherein a sufferer compulsively bites their own skin… typically bite the skin around the nails, leading to bleeding and discoloration over time. Some may consume the flesh during the episode.” (Wikipedia)
Yes, you read that right… I would swallow what I bit off.
I know… on the outside, it is gross and embarrassing. On the inside, I would feel relaxed and calm. The relaxation won out.
Over the years, I would try to keep my nails polished because once my nails looked pretty, I wouldn’t pick. Unfortunately, the polish would last for all of two days, if I were lucky, and eventually, it would start to chip off and I would be back to picking.
I didn’t know what else to do.
Then last year a friend turned me onto gel nail polish. Gel nail polish is a special kind of polish that will last upwards to two weeks without chipping. Hallelujah! With gel polish, there would be no chipping, and no chipping meant no picking. No picking meant that the skin around my fingers would get a chance to heal!!! Hallelujah again!!!
So I tried it and it works! As long as I keep my nails painted with the gel, I don’t even think about picking. It’s been about 8 months now and my fingers have never looked better. Yes, I do experience relapses, like when the gel polish starts to chip (which it does eventually) or you get that space between the cuticle and the polish because your nails have grown. That is when I experience some moments of weakness. Even this morning, my two-week-old polish started to separate from my nail and peeled off and I could feel the urge to pick come over me. I immediately went to the salon to get it fixed.
Outside of cost, because it certainly not cheap, I’m sure there are health concerns to keeping your nails polished with the gel, but for the night now, my fingers look awesome (see picture below). I wish I had a before picture so you could see how bad it was, but it’s probably a good thing that I don’t.
Best case scenario, that I will lose the urge to pick like I lost the urge to bite my nails, but only time will tell.