What Twirling Your Hair (and Other Habits) Says to Others

Wendy Rodewald
twirling hair

Photo: Getty Images / Corina Marie Howell

We all have our little quirks. Maybe you tend to play with your hair, or have a habit of biting your nails. For me, it’s picking at split ends—not cute, I know. While some absent-minded habits may just mean you need to step up your beauty routine (fresh manicure = no cuticles to nibble, right?), you might actually be sending a subtle message to those around you without even knowing it. We consulted body language expert Tonya Reiman to get her take on what five common tics really say about you

The habit: Scratching or rubbing your skin
The reason: Dryness is making your skin itchy
What your body language says: “Scratching or rubbing the skin typically indicates that we need to be soothed due to anxiety or high levels of emotion. Self-soothing gestures are a signal that an individual is uncomfortable, so it is a red flag for deception.”

The habit: Flipping your hair
The reason: You’re dying to show off your fresh blowout
What your body language says: “The hair flip is an unconscious message sender. It tells the world that you want to be noticed: As animals, we are attracted to movement; when we flip our hair, we draw attention to ourselves. Often this is done in order to gain attention from the opposite sex, however, it can also be done in an aggressive manner to make an individual appear larger and more threatening.”

Don’t want to look anxious or (worse) make the wrong person think you’re flirting? Soothe dry, itchy skin with a rich body lotion, like Jergens Daily Moisture Dry Skin Moisturizer ($7, drugstore.com) or switch out your drying lip color for a tinted balm like Korres Lip Butter ($12, sephora.com).

The habit: Biting your nails
The reason: You’re in desperate need of a manicure
What your body language says: “Biting the nails is a signal of stress and frustration. When we feel a loss of control, we chose self-soothing acts that will offer us a sense of comfort and security.”

The habit: Twirling your hair
The reason: Your hair is amazing; obviously you want to touch it
What your body language says: “Twirling the hair is a cue of innocence. Women often employ hair twirling as a way to flirt. Of course, twirling the hair also feels good, so we do it at times when we are preoccupied as a means of relaxing. If you are a twirler, you will notice you tend to twirl your hair at similar times. For example, some twirl when they are tired, others when they are reading or watching television, and some when they feel nervous.”

The habit: Licking your lips
The reason: You misplaced your lip balm.
What your body language says: “This has several different meanings and is context dependent. For example, the lip lick can be a sign of high anxiety where your mouth and lips dry up. Tension reduces saliva flow and you unconsciously feel the need to moisten your lips. Licking your lips is also a way to indicate your desire for something, whether it be a kiss or a piece of chocolate cake. As a deliberate signal, it can be quite the flirtation device as it.”

So what can you do to keep from sending mixed signals when all you really need is some hand cream? “Become self-aware,” Tonya says. “You can use these habits for personal gain in the world of flirting as you can make each one appear sensual—it just must be context appropriate.” Work it!

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