What is Skin Picking, and How Do I Stop?

Skin picking is a compulsive tendency to pick at any acne, bumps, or imperfections on the skin. It is mostly targeted towards the face, but it also transpires onto the arms, and rest of the body as well. Fingers are the most common tool of choice, but many people also resort to using tweezers, safety pins or whatever object will work. This compulsion is directly related to anxiety and stress and is also known as Dermatillomania. While it seems a simple solution for this habit would be to stop touching your face, it is definitely not that easy.

I have struggled with face picking since I was about 13 years old. I never understood it as a problem until I was much older however. I thought it was normal for a teenager to mess with the bumps and acne on their face. Apparently not in the same way I was doing it. Basically I just never stopped and now it’s an unconscious compulsion that I find myself taking part in even when I am telling myself to stop. I will literally sit on my couch, hands clawing my face and in my head be saying, “stop, stop, STOP!” but my body resists. I am not satisfied until I have rid my face of every bump and consequently it can leave quite the red, raw, and sometimes bloody mess. Not to mention, it hurts! It stings like crazy when you wash your face afterwards.

These are some of my go-to products for helping my skin.

Due to the fact that I have struggled with this for so long, and have actively been trying to quit, I wanted to write out a list of some tips that can help you stop if you are also struggling with this. Let me preface this first by saying I am still continuously working on quitting and still struggle daily. I am not a doctor and I know that it isn’t an easy task to stop but these are tips that have worked for me.

If you try out or find any of these tips helpful, or have any advice for me, please leave me a comment below! Now without further ado, let’s get into my How to Stop Skin Picking Tips:

  1. Get fake nails – having fake nails was a hack I stumbled upon by accident. I don’t get them very often because they are quite pricey and can also wreak havoc on your nails but if you have the funds and are committed to saving your face, this may help you. The tips of artificial nails are a lot softer than our actual nails and therefore make it harder to get a good grip on the bumps you’re trying to pick, and because they aren’t as sharp they don’t cause as much damage.
  2. Exfoliate often – When you exfoliate your skin a couple of times a week it removes all of the dry skin (duh!) but if you have any remaining scabs from old pimples, or previous picking sessions using the exfoliator to remove the dead skin from those spots will be much better than using your fingers. Once you’ve removed the dead skin, there will less likely be any “lifts” in your skin to pull at.
  3. See a dermatologist – if what you’re picking at is acne, I highly recommend seeing a dermatologist. I never thought my skin was bad enough acne-wise to go to a dermatologist, but after years of cystic acne I decided enough was enough and spoke to my doctor about it. He put me on some basic topical creams and set me up with a dermatologist and I just had an appointment with her last week. I am going to write a post about my acne journey another time though so I’ll keep this part short. All in all, a dermatologist is going to see the damage that picking has caused your skin and if there is a way to stop the acne from happening there will be less for you to pick at. They don’t WANT you to scar your skin. I highly recommend it!
  4. Find out what type of skin you have – I am still working on this one myself, as I went through the majority of my life believing I had dry skin, but am now learning I may have combo skin. Regardless, learning what type of skin you have is super important because it will help you better take care of it. Using the right products for your skin type will really benefit your skin, and the better your skin looks –you guessed it!—the less there is to pick at!
  5. Keep your hands busy – a huge thing for me is finding something to do with your hands! Things like reading a book (hold it with both hands!), painting, drawing, colouring in a colouring book, get a Rubik’s cube, or a stress ball even. Unfortunately my idea of keeping my hands busy is to eat something, or play on my phone. They work, but aren’t the healthiest of options!dsc_0537-2
  6. Reward yourself – when you have a day, or week, or even an hour if that’s a milestone for you, that you have gone without picking, make sure to reward yourself! A reward can be anything. Whatever it is that will motivate you not to pick. Run yourself a bath, order your favourite drink from Starbucks, buy a cute mug or notebook etc. Let yourself know that you are doing a good job and this is the behaviour you want to instill within yourself!
  7. Talk to your doctor – skin picking is an anxiety induced compulsion. It also can be related to a plethora of other mental health disorders and it will benefit you a lot to speak to your doctor about it. It can feel embarrassing, but just know you are not the only one who struggles with it and doctors see this type of thing all the time. They may prescribe anti-anxiety medications that will help you with more than just face-picking.
  8. Breathe – Everyone gets zits and pimples and spots, and so many of us struggle with picking at them. It’s a shitty feeling especially once you’ve destroyed your face and are left to face the world afterwards, but you are not alone. It is okay, and you will get through it. Just like you did the last time, and the time before that. Every day is a new start. Try to be nicer to yourself and don’t beat yourself up about it. I used to think I was the only one who picked at their face and now I know I am not. We can control it, until we can’t. And that’s okay too. Any second spent resisting, is progress made.

Quick Tip for Relapses:

Take care of your skin once it’s been wounded. Wash and cleanse your face, apply polysporin or some sort of antibacterial ointment, and make sure you moisturize well. If you are going to be handling your face, make sure to wash your hands to avoid infection.

8 thoughts on “What is Skin Picking, and How Do I Stop?

    • justasarathing

      It definitely can be! It’s a hard habit to kick honestly. Anxiety comes out in such weird ways doesn’t it?! I’m glad you liked the idea though! Thanks for the comment 🙂


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