Hand Over Hand

Have you ever thought about being a hand model?

How much do you value beautiful hands?

When you get married hands are important, aren’t they? You put rings on each others’ fingers and admire the shiny shiny.


My hands have always been horrible. I remember being 7 years old and thinking that my hands looked like adult hands compared to those of the other children. They’re not ugly shaped or anything, and they’re dexterous and strong – good for making things – but, because I make things, they are very worn, very damaged. I cook a lot, and will always burn myself rather than ruin the food; in labs, I work at temperatures of several hundred degrees, sometimes over 1000. I use knives for cutting and carving; I use tools and saws for making furniture and doing DIY around the house and I’m a climber and have been for the last 3 years. My hands are not a pretty sight.

And I bite my nails.

I thought that that was all it was, but not very long ago the Fiance turned up this article, and I learnt more. It is basically parallel to a cat excessively grooming until it’s fur starts to fall out. Whilst I’m not as bad as the author, yes I do bite and I do pick. I have this problem. This disease.


It’s easy to fob something off as an illness or a disease, isn’t it? To say, I do it because I have this problem. It has a name, so it isn’t something I should just sort out by myself any more: that’s a doctor’s job. I don’t feel like that. I’ve spent most of my life assuming that picking and biting was just a bad habit and that I am responsible for it, and I still feel like that. Knowing that it is recognised is simply a reassurance that there are other people out there with the same freakish problem.

I have enough willpower and psychological understanding of myself to manipulate my own behaviour, if I want to enough, if I have good enough motivation. In fact, with motivation I can stop easily. You probably wonder why didn’t I stop ages ago, then? Well, because I didn’t have a good enough motive, that’s why. “I will stop so I have nice hands for the wedding” is a motive. “I will stop so I have nice hands” is not. My targets need to be measurable, achievable, with an end point in sight and of large enough importance to make me feel conscious of other people’s awareness in the process. My mum looked at my hands a few weeks into the wedding planning, noted that my nails were growing and pointed out that she’d wondered what I was going to do about them. On a day to day basis, nobody will remember to ask me to stop every time I bite, and nobody will be wondering about if I don’t let them get nice in time for… um, let’s say… Tuesday.

I used to bite mynails down until they bled and it hurt to pick up a pen, but somehow the pain wasn’t motivation enough to stop. Pain is transitory, an annoyance. And it will go away of it’s own accord in time.

Then I started climbing. If you bite your nails right down, you simply can’t doing fingery climbs. The pain from putting your fingers under that much pressure is just too much, you open your hand and come off the wall. My nail biting was actually LIMITING my climbing. I was furious. I stopped biting down until they bled. I still bit, but I established a stop-point.

I haven’t had that problem since.



Climbing also did my hands another favour – I started using moisturiser.

My mum and grandma use hand moisturiser from time to time and have it lying around their houses. I am occasionally given some, but before climbing I never really knew what to do with it. There were times, usually when it was raining, that my hands would dry out and be annoying, but other than that I sort of used it because I felt I should, because it had been given to me with the expectation I would use it. Some of the moisturisers would dry up before I’d finished with them and have to be chucked away.

I now use moisturiser on my hands every week. This is the one I have currently, which is the favourite of the ones I’ve used so far, and which my grandma gave me:


I use it a couple of times after my weekly climbing session.

I’ve got strong fingers and I do lots of fingery climbs, so I can damage them. I can rub the skin off, dry it out from using chalk and build up hard, dry bits near the joints. Using moisturiser a couple of times after a session repairs all the damage done within about two days (and I do tend to steer clear of washing up the next few hours too – which would wash off the moisturiser and cause further damage through making the skin dry then wet then dry again – like onion skin weathering!). Sometimes I think it more than repairs the damage, and that my hands are in better shape now than they ever were before.

I also have some moisturiser in my desk at work. I don’t know what kind it is, though, because I refilled an old bottle with a new cream. I don’t use it very often, just sometimes after I’ve done washing up. We chemists frequently use acetone (nail varnish remover) to wash out our glassware or dry it off after washing with water. Acetone is pretty nasty and can dry out the skin a lot. Mostly I’d be wearing gloves, but not always, and on those occasions I might squirt some acetone on a tissue and hold the tissue in my hand whilst I wipe my name off a flask in permanent marker (not so permanent when acetone is around!). If I do this regularly and don’t moisturise my hands, the skin can dry out, die and turn white.

So, yeah, I moisturise if I’ve used acetone.

I’ve also bought myself a 99p nail file from Boots in the hand-grooming in wedding preparation. I’ve never owned one before.


I’ve got good with it. In fact, I think I’ve almost worn it out. Filing the nails, and especially the cuticles, partly took the place of biting, and partly the results make my hands look nice enough for a short time that I am too pleased to bit them. I’m never going to have long luxurious nails and beautiful hands, and frankly, they’d be impractical, but I’d like them to be normal.

The last thing I have to help my hands look good is a pair of nail clippers which originally came from a Christmas cracker. I used them for cutting things that weren’t nails until my campaign against my hands began (or should it be “for” my hands? Or both?).


I mostly use these for cutting off the cuticles, which can get quite nasty and dry and clumpy. When I used to use my teeth I would cause tearing and splitting and even after months and being good they are still in pretty poor shape, in need of regular care.

On the run up to the wedding day, I reckon I’m going to take some vitamin supplements as well, although nail strength hasn’t exactly been the major issue here. Anyway, I might as well. I have some lying around…


About RowenaFW

I am a Fish. But you wouldn't know it just from looking at me. View all posts by RowenaFW

2 responses to “Hand Over Hand

  • thebitchybride

    Uhg, I bite my nails too. And I work in a coffee shop. I’d never really thought about how my hands looked until I tried to take a picture of my engagement ring. I hated every single image I snapped. Thanks for all the good ideas for getting my hands in shape, I hadn’t even thought about vitamin supplements. x

  • The Wedding Affair « shapingpromises

    […] car for photos (I’ve seen a few brides doing this and it’s awesome – and I love climbing!). Maybe I will have to be good and do something more like “leaning”, but it […]

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