Replacement Behavior for Nail-Biting, Skin Picking, and Hair Pulling

So you have your Keen bracelet, your “self care alarm,” as per our Keen family member, Adrienne. Now what?

Well, now it’s time to acknowledge your need for self care when the alarm sounds. How can you do that? Simple, practice replacement behaviors for hair pulling, skin picking or nail biting. These are essentially alternatives to skin picking, hair pulling or nail biting – things to do INSTEAD of engaging in these behaviors that send us into a vicious cycle of negativity and loss

Here are some of my favorite replacement behaviors that have been helping me reduce my hair pulling. These substitutes either help me generally reduce stress in more positive ways than hair pulling does or have helped me replace my hair pulling behavior during the exact moment of need — when the Keen bracelet “alarm” sounds! 

I hope you will try some of these replacement behaviors for hair pulling, skin picking or nail biting for yourself and let us know what your favorites are in the comments to spark some creativity for others in our Keen family.

 < Not part of the Keen family yet? Get your Keen bracelet for trichotillomania, skin picking or nail biting TODAY! >

 All in all, it’s basically about taking care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is a lot harder said than done, because let’s face it, day to day of life gets in the way! But, if you can find even some balance, it will go a long way to helping you reduce your skin picking, nail biting or hair pulling tendencies.

Even if you don’t have the Keen bracelet for trichotillomania, skin picking or nail biting YET, these ideas should still be able to help you!


7 Replacement Behaviors for Trichotillomania, Dermatillomania, & Onychophagia

 Replacement Behavior #1: Sleep – I have always been a night owl, usually not sleeping until 2 or 3 in the morning, as you may have read about in one of my #WearYourAwarenessWednesday newsletters. For almost a decade I did not realize that sleep was my biggest trigger. Now it’s my #1 replacement behavior for hair pulling.

It is only in using my keen bracelet – and tracking my hair pulling behavior with the app – that I was able to see the data sounding the alarm that I really, really, needed to be asleep.

Replacement Behavior #2: Exercise – So, I personally don’t make it to the gym. EVER. Instead, I’ve found subtle ways to ensure my body is getting some movement each day – especially training myself to stretch when I sense my hands 

But, I have found other ways to ensure my body is getting some extra movement each day. I try to take the stairs when I can & at night, while putting my son to sleep I stretch, plank and do sit-ups. At work, I try to use a standing desk to help with my posture. And of course, having my sons & chasing them around keeps me very active!

If you don’t think there’s time in your day to go to they gym – that is ok! Perhaps all you need is a shift in mindset of how your daily activities are really giving you the exercise you need. One of my faves is doing stretches to put the dishes away as I unload!

Replacement Behavior #3: Deep Breathing – Among other things, Keen’s button will actually initiate a deep breathing guide within its charging light. Essentially, the light breathes in and out with you.

The beauty of deep breathing is that you always have it with you! My personal favorite technique to help me, as taught to me by twitter-friend & psychologist, Dr. Ali Mattu, is thinking of it as smelling a hot, delicious slice of pizza (breathing in) and then blowing out birthday candles (breathing out).


Replacement Behavior #4: Therapy – I’m not afraid to say that I can’t overcome trichotillomania alone. A few years ago I went to a therapist to help me uncover and face deeply rooted traumas and negative beliefs from my childhood. In the past few years, I have overcome these issues, which in turn reduced my need to pull out my hair.

Replacement Behavior #5: Block the Hair Pulling, Skin Picking or Nail Biting In the past, I have tried to simply make it harder on myself to get to my eyebrows or eyelashes and engage in compulsive hair pulling behavior. These are a few of the methods I’ve used: 

  • Vaseline
  • Fake Glasses
  • Bandaids

Of these, Vaseline is still very much in my arsenal. Not only does it make it slippery, but it also keeps the prickly regrowth smooth, which is a huge trigger for me. 

 Replacement Behavior #6: Gratitude – Each night I take a moment to pause and give thanks for one good thing that happened. By focusing on the good, I am able to build my happiness muscles.

My BIG TIP here is to not just focus on good things that already happened, but to give  also give thanks for things that have yet to happen.

All you have to do is complete this sentence with a goal you want to attain in the future:

“I am happy and grateful now that _________.”

And of course, one of my “now that” statements of gratitude is “I am happy and grateful now that I have full lashes & brows.”

 < How to stop pulling or picking: See how I freed myself of a “pull-free” mindset and learn how you can to >

 Replacement Behavior #7: Being Nicer to Myself – I definitely suffer from severe negative internal self-speak. I have the perfectionistic tendencies of a Trichster and I tend to beat myself up, often blaming myself for things that are actually out of my control. With the help of my psychologist, and by instituting self affirmations, I was able to reverse this chatter and not be so hard on myself.


Replacement Behavior for Pulling Others' Hair 

If you find yourself frequently tugging on someone else’s tresses, you're not alone. Like skin picking or nail biting, pulling others' hair can be an unconscious behavior triggered by various factors. But with similar approaches discussed above, you can redirect this behavior. 

  • Deep Breathing Techniques: Just as the Keen bracelet's light pattern aids in maintaining a deep breathing rhythm, develop a habit of pausing and taking deep breaths whenever you feel the urge. Picture inhaling the aroma of your favorite scent and exhaling any stress. 
  • Wearable Reminders: Consider using wearables, like the Keen bracelet, tailored to alert you when your hand moves towards someone's hair. These gentle reminders can break the cycle and cultivate awareness. 
  • Therapy and Counseling: Much like addressing trichotillomania, seeking professional guidance can uncover the root cause of this behavior. Therapists can provide coping mechanisms and strategies tailored to your needs. 
  • Tactile Substitutes: Carry a small tactile toy or stress ball. Whenever the urge strikes, use this item to engage your hands, offering a safer and less intrusive outlet.
  • Affirmations: Create a personal mantra or affirmation. When the urge strikes, repeat this positive statement to recenter your focus, such as, "I respect personal boundaries and choose kindness."

Using Keen daily was also one of the nicest things I could have done for myself. It has been a huge help in making me more aware of where my hands are when I pull – and with that new found awareness I am able to truly take advantage of the 6 ideas above and practice, practice, practice until they are now becoming my go-to, automatic responses for my trichotillomania triggers.

Click here to learn why others choose Keen! >

About Keen by HabitAware
HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet that helps manage nail biting, hair pulling, thumb sucking, and other subconscious behaviors. Customized gesture detection brings you into awareness and helps you develop healthier habits.
Order the Keen2 Awareness Bracelet today. Be sure to also sign up for our e-newsletter for helpful strategies, news & important product updates.
Back to blog
A woman sitting on a couch with a laptop.

Read our Blog with Awareness

Is reading a BFRB trigger for you?

The Keen2 bracelet was created out of personal need. It's gesture-detection technology allows it to vibrate when it detects you doing your behavior, and sends you a signal to take care of yourself. Identify triggers, find patterns, and redirect urges with Keen2.

Buy Keen2