I bite my nails. Actually, that’s not accurate. I bite everything—anything—around my nails. When I’m not nibbling on my cuticles, I pick at them relentlessly with my other fingers. It’s not easy to talk about. Self-inflicted cuticle mutilation is a nasty, nasty habit, but one I’ve been able maintain for years with a simple justification: hey, at least I don’t bite my nails.
Recently, I decided my hands had had enough punishment. I asked different beauty experts for advice and they all recommended same thing: get a manicure. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it (there are “reluctant” groomers and then there are “stubborn” groomers, I suppose). A manicure, in my case, just felt like a cop out. It felt defeatist. I believed I should be able to conquer this problem on my own. So I resolved to take this problem into my own…finger tips
A few minutes of web research provided me with plenty of motivation to give up my chewing habit. I learned that when the area around my fingernails turns puffy and red, it’s likely an infection called paronychia. The best way to prevent this infection is (surprise, surprise) to stop gnawing on one’s cuticles. And the best way to stop gnawing on cuticles is…to hide them from teeth.
There are lots cuticle-care products—oils, balms, salves, goo-filled gloves—that I’m too proud, cheap, and embarrassed to add to my medicine cabinet, but I found a couple that did the trick and without screaming “mani-pedi party!” to apartment guests. They all do basically the same thing: Keep my cuticles hydrated and soft enough that I don’t want to put them anywhere near my anxious teeth.
Here’s my new weekly bad-habit-busting routine: After a hot shower or a five-minute hand soak in a bowl of warm water, I rub some Burt’s Bees lemon butter cuticle cream (which comes in a tin of lip balm and doesn’t smell at all girly) all around my cuticles. Then I gently push my cuticles back under the nail bed with my fingernails or a soft cloth. During the rest of the week, if I catch myself bringing a finger up to my teeth, I rub some more hand cream onto my fingertips. The slickness of the hand cream is gross enough to make me stop. This routine, I’ve since been told, is part of what happens during a manicure, but I guess I’ll never find out for sure.