I Will Never Quit My Destructive Beauty Habits

There’s no feeling on Earth that I would trade for the satisfaction of peeling off nail polish, and then peeling the layers of nail that once suffocated under said polish.
Publish date:
August 4, 2014
habits, nail picking, split ends, beauty habits

I would have started this essay sooner had I not sat in front of this document for 20 minutes, picking my OPI Mod About You nail polish off my chipped nail beds. It doesn’t matter that I spent the majority of my Tooth Fairy money (read: latest freelance check) on nail supplements brimming with 5,000 micrograms of biotin, 500 percent more than the recommended daily amount.

I remember the moment I realized I was addicted to splitting my split ends. A friend passed me a note in grade 10 physics class that read “Of course you’re picking your split ends, lol! Even when I think of you in my head, you’re picking them! <3 xoxo”

If the girly embellishments at the end of the ripped looseleaf letter were intended to appease me in case I was offended, they were unnecessary, because I didn’t care what she thought. Doing it made me happy. It was a natural reflex when I was sitting in physics class with bored hands.

And with that realization came a slew of other destructive beauty habits that I couldn’t stop. They were fairly innocuous and repetitive, and when you’re a journalist, you’ll take any economical way to show yourself a good time.

I never once bombarded a Sephora sales associate with a grocery list of beauty ailments and questions about how to rectify my hair, skin and nail damage. Chances are, if I were to ever approach a cosmetician, aesthetician, or make-yourself-prettier-tician, they would ask me –- no, implore me –- to stop picking my split ends instead of getting a haircut, prodding at blackheads instead of using those Biore strip things, peeling layers off my nails as if there were a prize underneath, and not being honest with myself about how diligently I wipe off my mascara at night.

Sometimes I think about what I would look like if I didn’t do these things to myself. My hair would be so long I wouldn’t have to wear a shirt; but I’d rather the coarse mess that is my current hair than have a stranger fiddle with it (I haven’t had a proper haircut since August 2007, and the experience was as traumatizing as a visit to the dentist). As it stands, I need a whole rainforest-worth of organic coconut oil and about a keg of Redken serum.

Besides, I like to define beauty as an active choice we make about priorities. The most beautiful women I’ve met don’t have a single eff to give about what you think of their beauty routine, their Starbucks-stained teeth exposed as they wink at you coyly.

If I actually left my nails alone, they would not crack on contact with the lid of a Diet Coke can (yet another deliciously delicious habit), but there’s no feeling on Earth that I would trade for the satisfaction of peeling off nail polish, and then peeling the layers of nail that once suffocated under said polish. I’ve somehow convinced myself that acetone-based remover is poisonous, and that I’d rather sabotage my nails than dry them out. Makes total sense, I know. Thanks for being on board.

And if I truly, really cared enough about my skin looking like the Willow Instagram filter in its natural state, well, I’d stop searching for the meaning of life within my face craters. I don’t even know the Sephora lady I’m mad at, but I’ll be damned if she ever tells me to stop touching my face/hair/things that belong to me and not her.

A lot of things fell into place in grade 11 when I had a cat-loving Freud-obsessed English teacher who convinced us that we keep transitional objects, like childhood blankets our mothers give us at birth, to help us cling onto childhood. This made a little too much sense to me given that my teddy, Goldie, had been the first thing I saw when I came into this world. I’ve held onto her ever since. I would stroke the hair off her cotton torso when the going got tough (like when I wanted more snacks and dresses and play-time than I was allowed) and held her at night when the skeletal goblins from "Ghostbusters" infiltrated my dreams.

As I got older and I started to travel more, I didn’t have room for Goldie in my suitcase, or really in my life for that matter. I resorted to stroking the second-closest soft and golden thing I had: my own head. And cue a constant source of solace, feeling like I’ll always be home and still in my mother’s womb or whatever it is Freud tried to prove -- at the expense, of course, of my once down-to-my-ass shiny hair.

If you were to measure my brainwaves when I do these things to myself, I bet the scan would be comparable to that of an addict getting his/her fix. It’s that good. A wave of calmness rushes through my bloodstream. I’d have to go on the patch to make me stop, and even then, I bet I’d sneak in a few picks of the split ends, as I so often do when I pull over to the side of the road because I “have to send an important text” but really we all know the text can wait a few more miles.

Women always talk about our own beauty in the context of what’s wrong with it, what it lacks. I don’t see a lack. I don’t see a particular medical need to stop, either. I see a girl, Krusty the Clown hair and all, who is fine and good.

That’s why I will feel the same about myself no matter what these habits do to my appearance. Because when my boyfriend grabs a chunk of my over-picked hair and says “Your hair is so solid and strong,” I feel that same warm rush I get when I pick my ends, and that rush flows through my bloodstream like a warm cup of Starbucks. My solid, not-as-pretty-as-it-possibly-could-be hair.