Human grooming by Daniel Laberge
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Don't scratch your itch,
groom it

Your claws have evolved into flat nails
so that you can groom the cause of your irritation

Click on an image to enlarge it
Scratching tiger   Scratching bear   Scratching cat   Scratching cow
Scratching tiger   Scratching brown bear   Scratching cat   Scratching cow
© Ryan Poplin   © Lake Clark National Park   © hehaden   © garden beth

Scratching deer   Scratching duck   Scratching elephant   Scratching heron
Scratching deer   Scratching duck   Scratching elephant   Scratching green heron
© Mara   © John Haslam   © Bentley Smith   © Sasha Vasko

Scratching kangaroo   Scratching lama   Scratching pelican   Scratching horse
Scratching kangaroo   Scratching lama   Scratching pelican   Scratching horse
© Norm Hanson   © Niall Kennedy   © Iain A Wanless   © StarWatcher307

Scratching bear   Scratching rabbit   Scratching reindeer   Scratching rhino
Scratching white bear   Scratching rabbit   Scratching reindeer   Scratching rhinoceros
© contemplative imaging   © John Benson   © Eric Kilby   © Lorraine R

Grooming gorilla   All these animals are scratching
except the last one.

The gorilla is a primate
and primates groom
because they have flat nails.
Scratching white bear  
© Steven Straiton  


Two misconceptions:
scratching and itching

Scratching   The real response to itch
is to  groom  it,
not to  scratch .

Itching   Most often, your itches
are  low level pain 
and should be treated accordingly.







What to do when you itch

The correct response to an itch is to apply pressure on the skin, not to scratch it.

Scratching and grooming strokes
Use pressure grooming techniques to calm your itch.

Scratching, or repeatedly scraping your skin, doesn't suppress the cause of your irritation.
The sting is only temporarily relieved; and that's because touching your skin anesthetizes it.
Nothing has been accomplished because the itch is situated beneath the surface; deep in the folds of your skin.

Where is the itch?
The itch is beneath the surface
Your itch is not at the surface of your skin

Reaching and eliminating the itch

Responding quickly to a skin irritation is definitively the right thing to do, but you have to do the correct gestures if you want to reach your itch.
Instead of scratching the surface, peck your skin with pressure strokes.

Scratching and grooming strokes

Only pressure grooming techniques
will let you reach the source of your itch.

Try to refine your position with every press until you feel that your nail is exactly on top of your itch.
When you reach that precise spot; stay right where you are and increase the pressure on your finger.

Scratching and grooming compared

You use your brain when you groom,
you don't when you scratch.


GOAL - Get rid of the itch - Find out
why you're itching
- Solve the problem
SPEED - Very fast - Very slow
PRESSURE - Light - Medium to strong
MOVEMENT - Back and forth - Digging and exploring


In places where you itch; only use pressure grooming strokes. Superficial grooming is too similar to scratching
and should be avoided in those areas.







Scratching is the wrong response
to itch

Only primates have the right tools

Animals resort to all kinds of scratching techniques to relieve their itches.
Just think how badly outfitted you would be to respond to an irritation if you were equipped with pointed claws, webbed toes or hooves.
For animal with claws, scratching must be a fairly perilous adventure, even if they pull them in.
Primates nails have evolved gradually, starting with the index fingers (called toilet claws) to extend to all digits.
Nails let you explore and mend the itching area, rather than brutally ravaging the skin.

The anesthetic effect

Touching your skin will desensitize it for a while.
When you groom or scratch, an anesthetic effect takes place that causes a temporary loss of sensation in the immediate area around where your nail strikes.
When you scratch, only the anesthetic effect takes place because the source of the itching is not removed.
You feel relieved, but you've done nothing at all.
At any occasion the itching will return.
But just wait; it's preparing that terrible ache, that chronic pain, that disability that will ruin your future days.

Scratching is detrimental to your skin

You don't scratch for long before your nails penetrate the epidermis.
You hurt your skin.
However, when you scratch the same location over and over again, your skin may get badly irritated and your itch may get worse.
Don't do it.
Groom your skin instead to locate the itch precisely.
Peck the area with your nail to crush the entangled skin.







Itch is low level pain

Old definition: An irritating skin sensation
a desire to scratch
New definition: Low level pain
a desire to groom

Sources of itch

When you see an animal scratching, you immediately conclude that it is infested by fleas or another parasite.
This may be true in many cases.
Yet, scientists know that they see their laboratory rodents scratch even in a parasite free environment.
In your case, when your finger hits your skin in search of the cause of an itch; insects are easily found and eliminated.

Damaged skin is readily recognizable when you investigate the itching area with your finger and nail.
While exploring, you can usually feel some differences in texture and evenness between the healthy and the wounded areas; along with the acute pain that injured skin produces.
You want to let the skin heal and you should not touch it.

When you reach the itching spot and that no insect or wound can be found; folded skin is generally the culprit.
If this is the case, the itch should fade and disappear when you touch and work on your skin, not increase.

Itch is pain

Itch and pain have always been considered as two distinct phenomenons.
But, grooming the skin proves that the two sensations are simply different stages in the evolution of the same cutaneous deformation.
Itching is low level pain.
If left unattended, it will develop into full-blown pain.
The itch and the pain both come from the same folds and their crossings in the skin.
Folded skin feels like it is being pinched continuously.

Itch and pain are signals to groom

Itch is a perfectly well-designed natural sensation, telling you where your body needs attention.
It is not to be ignored.
Your body is urging you «Groom me there!»
When your nail explores the itching location, it will find a fold crossing.
It is best to groom the spot immediately because the itch may not come back for a while.


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