Kate Sullivan, Allure magazine
My friend Lauren has been biting her nails forever, or at least the 12 years that I've known her. But her habit didn't affect me until recently, when I suggested we get manicures on our weekly date night. She told me manis were out: She was too embarrassed by the red, mangled mess of her hands. "THIS IS GETTING IN THE WAY OF OUR LIVES!" I wrote dramatically in our Gchat window.
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Seriously, though, Laur, you need to end this: "Biters often wind up damaging the cuticles that protect them from infection," says dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, who has seen this a lot. To help heal the cuticles, she suggests hot water soaks with a dash of vinegar to gently cleanse and soothe the area.
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In the meantime, how can Lauren (and you) quit this nasty habit? Manicurist Ji Baek of Rescue Beauty Lounge suggests keeping manicure tools on-hand: "Put together a kit holding cuticle cream, cuticle scissors, a Band-Aid, and an emery board, and keep it in your desk," she says. "Then, if a cuticle frays or a nail snags, you'll have no excuse to bite it off. At the very least, I tell my clients to carry a file and cuticle cream in their purses-even Vaseline or lip balm will work."
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It makes sense that keeping your nails nice would, well, keep your nails nice. If your cuticles and your nails cared for, there's no easy target. Baek takes that idea even further: "Get a manicure every week for 12 weeks," she says. "Spending money on your nails will give you an incentive not to bite them. I've found that every nail-biter will complete three manicures, but then they have a busy week or have to travel, and they start to relapse. But I promise you, if you can get through 12 manicures, you will break the habit."