Photographed by Winnie Au.
Just about anything can trigger it: a stressful day at work, a tense argument with your S.O., or just a particularly mind-numbing binge session on Netflix. Before you even realize you're doing it — you're picking at your cuticles. "Sometimes it has to do with a nervous habit," dermatologist Dr. Jeanine Downie says. "But, it's also out of boredom."
According to Downie, cuticle picking as a syndrome is part of a larger issue, called prurigo nodularis. "Prurigo nodularis is a condition where people pick at their entire body," she explains. If cuticle picking gets to the medical point, it's usually accompanied by these other symptoms: "Large nodules appear on the sufferer's body, and then they pick and scratch at them." With intervention and medication, those who suffer from prurigo nodularis can be cured.
The tricky issue with cuticle picking is that there isn't always a cut-and-dried reason why people do it. "Many times it's stress, but many times we don't even know why people do it," Downie says. It's especially difficult because cuticle pickers won't always realize they're picking until they're well into a session. So, identifying triggers isn't always easy.
And, while it may seem like a lesser vice, regularly plucking at your fingers can lead to some serious health hazards. "It can lead to infections, which range from just a little bit of pus to permanent deformation of your fingernails," Downie warns. "Your nails can actually fall off if you continue to pick."
Feeling guilty about your bad habit? Downie says there are tons of things you can do to win the battle of the cuticle pull. "I always tell my patients to first try and identify what's bothering them," Downie says. "Then, we can deal with it from there. I like to suggest exercising more, but sometimes they just need to sit on their hands!"
Downie also says it's a common misconception that cuticle pickers can't get their nails done — but she actually suggests going to the salon. "Pretty nails mean that you're less likely to pick," she says. "Plus, if you've got a good manicure, you're less in the habit of hiding your nails." That's one tip we can always get behind. Who said a manicure can't cure what ails you?
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