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Can Picking Cuticles Cause Nail Damage?

Have you ever noticed that you find yourself picking at the skin around your nails? It might not seem like a big deal, but did you know that this seemingly harmless habit can picking cuticles cause nail damage? In this article, I’ll let you know how picking cuticles can affect the health of your nails and what you should do to prevent long-term nail damage.

Woman trimming her cuticles with a pair of cuticle scissors at a nail appointment

What Is Cuticle Picking?

I have done ‘cuticle picking’ since I was a child. It’s just something I’ve always done, and I often don’t even realize I’m doing it. I’ll look down, and notice my cuticle is bleeding or hurting, and be surprised that I did it because I kind of zone out and don’t consciously sit there and do it.

Cuticle picking, also known as picking at the skin around the nails, is a type of compulsive behavior that can cause significant physical and psychological harm. It typically involves pulling or biting flaps of skin around the edges of nails and cuticles.

While it may seem like an innocuous habit for some, for those suffering from this compulsion it can be difficult to control.

As well as causing physical damage such as broken skin or bleeding, cuticle picking can lead to feelings of shame and guilt because people often feel embarrassed when they are caught engaging in this behavior in public.

It can also affect an individual’s self-esteem as they become aware of the physical markings on their hands associated with this issue.

Due to its repetitive and ritualistic nature, individuals who engage in this practice can begin to experience feelings of anxiety when unable to pick at their cuticles, which could lead to even more feelings of distress or inadequacy if not addressed properly.

What Are The Reasons People Pick Their Cuticles?

Cuticle picking, or skin picking, is a body-focused repetitive behavior that causes physical damage to the affected area. It’s estimated about 30% of adults suffer from this condition.

While it does not have a single cause, psychologists believe it can be triggered by stress and psychological factors such as anxiety and depression.

People who are prone to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) might also find themselves puling on their cuticles in an effort to achieve order and symmetry.

According to dermatologists, nail biting and cuticle picking can often be related to low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. People may pick their cuticles to relieve tension or boredom when there is not much else for them to occupy their minds with.

In some cases, it is also thought that people may simply do it out of habit due to an unconscious desire for discomfort or pleasure; some individuals even use skin picking as a way of coping with uncomfortable emotions they’re dealing with – as strange as that may seem.

Whatever the cause may be, it’s important for individuals suffering from cuticle picking behaviors to seek help if they feel like their behavior has become uncontrollable or excessive; otherwise they run the risk of potential infection caused by bacteria accumulating under their fingernails which could further complicate matters if left unchecked.

Woman trimming her cuticles with a pair of cuticle scissors at a nail appointment

What Are The Downsides Of Picking Your Cuticles?

Picking your cuticles has some serious drawbacks that can cause permanent damage to your nails. The nail matrix is the root of the nail, where new cells are produced to create healthy nails.

When you pick at or bite your cuticles, you can damage and disrupt this essential area, resulting in weak and brittle nails that may easily break or become infected.

It can lead to a condition called paronychia which is an infection affecting the skin around the edges of your fingernails as well as the affected nails themselves.

This type of infection can be quite painful, uncomfortable and unsightly due to symptoms such as swelling and redness of the skin around the nail, warmth near the site of infection, fluid filled pockets on either side of your nail, puss drainage and discomfort when wearing gloves or using your hands for work.

Picking at cuticles also damages any artificial manicures such as gel nails since it causes open wounds and increases the risk for diseases like warts or bacteria entering into these wounds, leading to even more severe infections.

To avoid these risks associated with picking at your cuticles, make sure to use proper hygiene methods like regular handwashing before touching them, but also try to keep busy with something else when tempted by boredom, so you don’t get into bad habits that could harm both physical appearance and health.

How Does The Health Of Our Cuticles Influence The Health Of Our Nails?

Picking my cuticles is a compulsion that many nail biters and pickers are familiar with, yet it can have a serious effect on the health of our nails.

When we continuously traumatize the nail by picking our cuticles it can cause deformity and frayed cuticle may which could lead to infection or even permanent damage.

If there is always trauma to the cuticle, the nails do not have time to recover and become brittle and weak. In turn, this causes them to easily break or form ridges due to the lack of protection from their surrounding layers.

This has been known to trigger unpleasant aesthetic changes such as discoloration in certain individuals; however, this can be reversed when the trauma stops in most cases.

The role that our cuticles play in protecting our nails cannot be ignored as they provide a moisture barrier for them which keeps them hydrated and healthy looking.

Without proper care for our skin, dirt can accumulate easily near the nail bed, which further contributes negatively towards its overall health.

As anyone who has suffered from an infection around their nail knows, this can be incredibly painful if left untreated for too long.

Taking good care of your cuticles should always take precedence over any other task when caring for your hands; otherwise, you may end up with serious consequences that will require professional help later down the line.

Woman pushing back her cuticles with a cuticle stick

How To Stop Picking At Your Cuticles

Breaking the habit of picking at your cuticles can be a difficult and time consuming task.

It is important to understand that it is not impossible, however, as exploring techniques such as habit reversal therapy can help you overcome this urge, and using a physical barrier, like a bandage, might help for the cuticle and the surrounding area.

Habit reversal therapy is an effective treatment for changing unwanted habits used in cognitive behavioral therapy. It works by helping a person become aware of the behavior (in this case picking at your nails and cuticles) and replacing it with an alternate response, to help you resist the urge.

Start by identifying the thoughts or feelings that come right before you feel the urge to pick. Explore why you may be engaging in this behavior – triggers could include stress, boredom or feeling anxious, while cutting them down to size can give you a sense of satisfaction even if it’s only temporary. Keep your hands busy.

Reflecting on this will help bring awareness to the destructive habit being picked up in the first place, which will ultimately increase one’s chances of success when trying to stop picking at their cuticles altogether.

This awareness allows individuals to better recognize when they are about to engage in their nail-picking behavior so that they may choose an alternative activity instead.

Once these triggers have been identified, brainstorm activities and situations where these impulses come up most often, and then work through potential solutions for each scenario.

Create distractions such as counting backwards from ten or doing something else with your hands, like squeezing a stress ball or playing with Play-Doh until the urge passes away completely.

Make sure not to leave yourself vulnerable – try wearing gloves while washing dishes or keep nail clippers nearby so that cutting down nails becomes easier than biting them off later on down the road.

Can Picking Cuticles Cause Nail Damage?

Picking cuticles can cause serious damage to the nails and the lunula. When trauma is inflicted on the nail, such as when a person picks or bites their own nails or skin around them, it can cause infection, pain and, in severe cases, weaken the nail bed.

This type of skin-picking disorder (SPD), can take on several other forms, but one of the most common is cuticle picking. People who engage in this behavior may be referred to as “cuticle pickers” due to their repetitive use of cutting tools or their fingers to tear away dry skin from around their nails.

The process does not just stop at physical damage; people who suffer from SPD often experience profound psychological distress that oftentimes leads to isolation and depression.

The destruction of healthy cuticles also leads to further detriments like redness and swelling around the edges of the nails and even bacterial infections that arise from pushing bacteria deep into its pores with dirty fingernails. These are all serious conditions that require treatment if they will be avoided properly.

In addition to seeking professional help for SPD, sufferers should immediately cease skin-picking behaviors if they want to minimize potential damage.

Doing things such as wearing gloves while performing activities where hands are likely to come into contact with dirt can reduce exposure and encourage abstaining from biting or pulling at surrounding skin areas.

Talking openly about destructive habits and developing positive coping mechanisms like deep breathing exercises has been demonstrated by numerous studies as an effective way of breaking these unhealthy patterns before any serious harm is done.

It’s important for anyone struggling with SPD or other similar disorders related to picking at one’s own skin to understand that there is help available if it begins damaging your nails — so act quickly before any serious conditions occur.


Cuticle picking, nail biting and other habits of pulling at the skin around our nails can cause serious damage to our nails and the lunula.

When trauma is inflicted on the nail, it can lead to infection, pain and weaken the nail bed, leading to peeling nails, inflammation and hangnails.

People may engage in these behaviors due to feelings of stress, anxiety or boredom; however, there are healthier ways of dealing with those emotions instead, without destroying your manicure.

Picking cuticles should be avoided to prevent health issues such as discoloration of the nails, infection or even deformity of them.

If you find yourself frequently picking at your cuticles, it is important to seek help from a professional who can help you address underlying issues contributing to this behavior, as well as provide guidance on how best to break this habit for good.