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How to stop hair pulling... How to stop skin picking... AND how to stop nail biting!

How to stop hair pulling... How to stop skin picking... AND how to stop nail biting!

September 02, 2020

by: Ellen Crupi, HabitAware Keen Family turned HabitAware Director of Awareness


Want to know how to stop hair pulling... how to stop skin picking... AND how to stop nail biting?

Well we have the answer and it starts with recognizing that "STOP" is a four letter word. So, stop asking, "Why can't I stop?" and instead ask, "How can I manage?"


Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) are a chronic disorder that can be compared to Type I Diabetes. My mother became diabetic at age 65. Managing her illness didn't happen instantly. She didn't just take insulin and "poof" she was cured. No, she had to to learn to manage this chronic condition. It took time to learn how to use insulin, how to prick her finger to check sugar levels, and how to take care of herself when her blood sugar spiked or dipped. She had to figure out what worked, what didn't, and make changes along the way.  

The same goes for us in learning to treat our BFRBs. You don't just go to one therapy session, or buy one fidget toy or put on Keen for a day and "poof" you are cured. No, in the same way my mom had to work to create a daily diabetes management plan, we too must work to create our individual BFRB treatment plan.

I bought HabitAware Keen in May 2017 and went from Keen Family to Keen team three years ago this September. When I first opened the Keen boxes and trained both bracelets, the vibrations were a bit, well, inconsistent.  I was convinced that Keen didn't work, but I was wrong. 

The problem wasn't Keen. The problem was me. 

I am living proof, along with Aneela and hundreds of you, that we can Manage Our BFRBs.

How to manage trichotillomania, dermatillomania and other BFRBs:

The key is in creating a dermatillomania / trichotillomania treatment plan that allows you to:

  • INTERRUPT your unwanted behavior with Keen's vibration
  • PAUSE & REFLECT on what is happening in the moment
  • REPLACE the hair pulling, skin picking, or nail biting with healthier self-soothing strategies

Let's break that down:


Keen's gentle vibration interrupts the unwanted behavior. That is Keen's job. BUT, how YOU think about that interruption matters. That is YOUR job. I like to associate Keen's gentle vibration as a "hug on my wrist," cheering me on and letting me know where my hands are.  

Game Changer Tip:  Associate EVERY Keen vibration with whatever brings you joy.  

Keen will give you about 80% true positives when your hands are engaged in your unwanted BFRB & about 20% false positives when your hands are doing something else.  BOTH types of vibrations are GOOD VIBRATIONS. The goal is to be AWARE of where your hands are. 

Just like we all pick and pull differently, we also will like different Keen settings. I enjoy more false positives, like when my hand rests under my chin. 

Game Changer Tip:  It might not be Keen that needs an adjustment; it might be your mindset and how you perceive "false alarms."


BFRBs are your "restless" mind translating to "restless" hands, where you soothe yourself repeatedly with your body. These "restless" hand movements are compulsive, trance-like, repetitive actions using the body to self-soothe and reach homeostasis (balance).

Keen's gentle interruption gives you that moment to simply pause and notice what's going on.  Once you are aware of what is happening you can "use the clues" to take care of yourself. Ask yourself:

  • Where am I?
  • What time is it?
  • What am I doing?
  • How am I feeling?

The answers to those questions are your clues to what your body & mind need in that moment. Here's an example of how I used the clues:

  • Where am I? My desk
  • What time is it? 2pm
  • What am I doing?  Writing a blog for my Keen family
  • How am I feeling?  Pressured, I have a deadline


I could give you a long list of replacements, and I bet you already have a few favorites in mind. The "replacement" is just one part of the solution. The other part is YOU. You have to determine what YOU need at the moment.  And then make it happen.

Here is what I do: The clues tell me that I'm trying to self-soothe and rebalance because I'm concentrating & under a time constraint. While my hair pulling self-soothes, it also leads to awful side effects. When Keen gives me a gentle hug, I celebrate that I'm training my awareness muscles!  As I pause, I think, "What do I need at this moment, at 2pm in the afternoon, at my desk with a deadline looming?"

MY answer is to grab my furball keychain, as that texture satisfies my hair pulling urges. Yours may be different! 

The answers to those questions matter, as the clues help you decide your replacement plan of action. So what would happen if all the clues were the same, but the time changed:  

  • Where am I? My desk
  • What time is it? 10 pm 
  • What am I doing? Writing a blog for my Keen family
  • How am I feeling? Pressured, I have a deadline

What do I do?  Well, with the different time of day, it means I need to acknowledge it's late - and I'm tired. For me, concentration, time constraint, and being tired is a triple whammy. The clues tell me it's better to go to bed and get up early & rested to finish the work. The work will still be there, and so will my hair, and my self-esteem. In the morning, I am rested and able to tackle my work with a fresh mind and fresh eyes.  

Game Changer Tip: Watch out for excuses! 

Excuses are statements in your mind that start with "I can't stop because" and end with "(fill in the blank)." Excuses are also simply an active decision not to solve a problem.  

I believe there is a solution to everything. You just have to make the decision to actively solve a problem. Some problems are easy to solve, others are more challenging.  That is life and I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Let's put your BFRB treatment plan together:

Build your awareness with Keen's good vibrations! 

All vibes are good vibes. Every single time Keen vibrates, consider the gentle vibration a "HUG" on your wrist, reminding you that your hands are not where you want them to be.

Celebrate every vibration! Every time you feel that gentle hug, give yourself a high five, as you are training your awareness muscles to recognize where your hands are - or are not! 

Keen is your "self-care alarm," reminding you that you need a moment of pause to take care of you at that moment.

No Excuses: Having trouble training Keen? Solutions: read this, or schedule a free Keen set up training session with me. And, did you know we offer one-on-one peer coaching sessions too?  

Pause. Reflect. Replace!

Keen's good vibes lead to healthy pauses. Healthy pauses leads to positive change.  Use the clues to replace the unwanted behavior with healthier ones that work for YOU. 

No Excuses: Having trouble with replacement ideas?  Read this.   

So, tell me what do you think? I'd love to know How Do You Manage Your BFRB?  Email me your story. I love hearing from my Keen family.

Taking control is possible & you are not alone. The entire HabitAware Team is here to help you get the most out of Keen.  Feel free to reach out by setting up a one-one call here. 

wishing you love, strength & awareness,

About Keen by HabitAware
HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, skin picking, and other body focused repetitive behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits. Order now & sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates:

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(images not to scale)