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Can’t Stop Touching Your Face? Paint Your Fingernails

Not touching your face is a key step in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. This is not the easy. One thing that might help: Painting your nails.

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There are many precautions to take to prevent the spread of coronavirus: Keep your distance, limit trips outdoors, wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, stock up on disinfectant. One of the most useful precautions, however, is also one of the most difficult to follow: don’t touch your face. But here’s something to help everyone touch their face a bit less: paint your fingernails. 

We are creatures of habit. One we don’t often consider is how regularly we touch our faces. Studies show that the average person touches their face at least 16 times an hour. As our hands touch a wide variety of surfaces throughout the day, surfaces that are covered with germs, touching our face — particularly noses, mouths, and eyes — allows the germs and viruses to enter. 

Be that as it may, stopping this behavior isn’t easy. Particularly because it’s a largely unconscious habit. We don’t know we’re doing it until we’re doing it. One health official from Santa Clara, California, went viral (no pun intended) last week when she advised people to stop putting their hands on their face and then promptly licked her finger to change the page on the script she was reading.  

So how do you not touch your face as often? Paint your fingernails — and your family’s fingernails — a bright color. Having highlighter-yellow fingernails won’t stop the touching wholesale, but it will reduce the desire my making you acutely aware that your hands are coming towards your face. 

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I’ve been an anxiety-driven picker of my fingers and fingernails for over a decade. Habits run deep. In my own experience, this has helped me stop the incessant picking from time to time in moments of anxiety and realize what I’m about to do before I subconsciously do it. I painted my nails last week in the same vein — because I was concerned about picking my skin in the outbreak of a virus but also because I needed a way to stop touching my nose — and it has helped tremendously.

So grab nail polish and paint your fingernails and your kid’s nails (there are plenty of great kid-friendly nail polishes). And if you’re squeamish about painting your nails, the reality is that almost no one at this point will see your fingers except for your family. Also: Who cares? If this helps, this helps. 

In any event, this also serves as a silly, fun way for families to stop touching their faces. And in a time when many families are cooped up with their kids who can’t have playdates, regular classes, or any fun group activities, painting your nails doubles as an activity to do with the whole family. Make it fun. Everything helps.