Hands and nails

I’ve taken off my wedding ring. So has my husband.

It’s not the end of anything, it’s just that in these days of constant and thorough hand washing, it doesn’t make sense to wear a ring. It’s either going to get soap trapped in it or become a potential hiding place for germs where it’s snug against your skin. It’s surprising how long the ‘ring ghost’ stays on your finger. Three weeks now and I still have a definite indent from my ring.

All this thorough hand washing means my hands feel dry, despite me rubbing moisturiser onto them at least twice a day. And yet, despite the constant washing and the dryness, my nails are in pretty good shape. I feel a small sense of pride in that.

I used to chew my nails when I was at primary school. My nails were small, ragged stubs at the end of my fingers. My mother was exasperated by my nail chewing habit. She tried all kinds of things to stop me, nagging at me, shouting at me, hitting my hands whenever she saw them near my mouth, even painting my nails with some revoltingly flavoured chemical goo that was supposed to put me off chewing. (It didn’t. I would still tear strips of nail off despite the revolting chemical taste.) (Although I feel a little sick, thinking back at that.)

Somewhere in my early teens I made the decision myself to stop chewing my nails and start taking care of them. Actually I remember that moment very well. We were on holidays by the beach. I used to buy magazines from the second hand shop and do scrapbooking with them. In one magazine there was an article about how to stop chewing your nails. I still have a general memory of the instructions in my head:

  1. Cut and file your nails so they are smooth around the edges. No rough edges, less temptation to chew. And they will immediately look better.
  2. Rub moisturiser into your hands and particularly your nail beds. Do this regularly to stop your hands cracking and getting dry, triggering your urge to chew. Regular massage will encourage your nails to grow back. (Not sure about the science behind this but still…)
  3. Have a picture of what your hands will look when your nails grow back. Keep a picture from a magazine nearby for motivation if you need to. Focus on that.
  4. Treat yourself to a professional manicure when your nails are long enough. If your nails look good you’ll want to keep them that way.

Since then I haven’t chewed my nails. It took some time to get my nails looking normal, but I did it, and I did it off my own initiative, not because someone tried to make me (sorry Mum).

What my problem is these days, is when I get little bits of dry skin around the nail bed that flake up and catch on things. Then I have the urge to bite these rough edges off. Of course, that starts a cycle because each time I bite on something, there is a bigger volume of rough skin and it keeps getting worse. And sometimes I find myself at work, having chewed off a loose bit of skin, with blood oozing out of my finger. (Thinking about that, I also feel a little sick.)

I’ve noticed the only time this seems to happen is at work.

The only time I don’t have these dry corners on my fingers is when I’m on holiday. Or – it turns out – when I’m starting my fourth week of working from home due to Covid19. So is it something about the office that causes this – work related stress? the brand of soap in the bathrooms? Or is it just that I have better access to hand cream while I’m at home? Or a combination of those factors?

My hands and fingers and nails are healthy right now, all smooth edges and no dry skin (amazingly). Although I’m not a nail polish fanatic (I am definitely not a regular at any nail bar), it occurs to me that this might be a good week to paint my nails.

Using as many different colours as possible.

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