The Truth About Picking

skin pickingI am a recovering skin picker. My “joke” is that I went to esthetics school because I ran out of stuff to pick out of my own skin. I relapse occasionally, like I did last week when I improperly picked a blackhead and turned it into a nasty mark on my chin. When my acne was at its peak, I struggled not to pick. And I still get frustrated when I get a spot that I can’t seem to let go of.

Skin picking, or dermatillomania, the clinical name for extreme skin picking, can be a serious problem for many people. It can be an annoying problem for even more people. It’s easy to beat yourself up when you succumb to picking. I know from my own personal experience and the experiences of my clients that many people struggle to stop picking their skin.

Picking is more than just wanting to pop a pimple. It can be rooted in causes such as anxiety, depression, stress, boredom, and even anger. Picking a spot can feel like a release, a stress relief, and a feeling of satisfaction. It may give you a temporary high.

I’ve managed to (mostly) conquer my picking with soul-searching, tough love, and some serious skin care. Here’s what I can share about what’s helped me control my picking.

  • Get to the issue behind the picking. When you catch yourself, try to stop and ask yourself what’s really going on. What’s causing you to obsess over this spot? Is it textural? Are you bored? Are you stressed? Are you angry? Just being aware that something else is going on can be a huge help to decoding this habit. As you start to figure out the emotions under your picking, you’ll be able to come up with healthier alternatives.
  • Invest in some solid skin care. The fastest way to stop picking is to stop having stuff to pick. Ultimately, I didn’t conquer my picking habit as much as I conquered my acne. I found that investing in products that worked for me gave me a feeling of control so that I didn’t feel so helpless. And not having the bumps simply removed the temptation.
  • Pick in a healthy way. If I have that bump that’s screaming at me, I make sure to go through my proper picking protocol. Investing my picking time in a method that won’t cause scarring still gives me the satisfaction of doing something about my blemishes, and keeps my mind off further digging.
  • Reward yourself for not picking. Investing in a facial can be a reward for not picking, as well as a deterrent to further picking.  It encourages you to keep your hands off your own pores, as you are spending money to have someone else handle the problem. It also relieves the stress of having that feeling that something is stuck in your skin and needs to be removed.

These tips are not intended to replace the advice of a licensed professional. If you suffer from extreme picking, dermatillomania, trichotillomania, or any other compulsions, help is available. Please reach out if you need help.



I make a conscious effort to control my picking. Do you struggle? What works for you to stop? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and tell me what you think!

The Worst Critic

I had an experience last week that drove home a point that I have spent a lot of time thinking about in the last few months.

Tulips near Central Park, I needed some nice shots for this website. So I went out to the park and had a little photo shoot with myself. I posted one of these pictures on my Facebook profile. My friends all loved my picture, and I was flattered to receive several compliments. But even after seeing my friends’ responses, I looked at the photo and realized that I still see only my flaws. I see that I took over 250 pictures that day and deleted over half of them immediately. I photoshopped the three or four that I felt were passable. I also see that I walked into the bathroom the next morning to see that I had a big pimple on my chin and a sheet mark on my face.

I am telling this story, not to fish for compliments or to complain about what I perceive as my Violets near Madison Avenueflaws. I am telling this story because I know I am not the only woman who does this. I notice this all the time in my treatment room. Women come in and immediately start listing all the bad things they see on their skin. And maybe their list is longer because I start off by asking what their concerns are. It’s an invitation to mention every flaw you see when you look in the mirror. But often, I don’t see the flaws they mention- the huge pores or the wrinkles. And I never really know how to respond. I don’t want to belittle my client’s feelings, but I also don’t want to give her more reasons not to see how beautiful she already is. Ultimately, I want to help her feel good about her appearance, and through that, to feel better in general.


In Fort Tryon Park, near the CloistersYears ago, I read an interview with Uma Thurman in People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People issue. I think they had asked her something inane, like “What’s it like to be so beautiful?” She stated that when she gets up in the morning, all she sees is her face. Partly I find that humble response refreshing. Someone as beautiful as Uma Thurman would be insufferable if she was always aware of her appearance. But partly, I found it sad. Does she think she’s beautiful at all? Does she look in the mirror and only see the lines around her eyes, or the pimple on her chin?

As someone who works in the beauty industry, I struggle with my role. I got into this business because I loved the transformative power of makeup. I loved it when someone walked a little taller when they felt better about how they looked. But I hate that I also play into a business that can women feel worse about themselves. I want people to believe in themselves, and sometimes I’m afraid I just validate their feelings that they aren’t as beautiful as they want to be.

Join me on my soapbox. What do you think? Are you seeing flaws in the mirror that aren’t noticeable to the rest of the world? Do you see your own beauty, or do you always compare it to someone else’s? Are you your own worst critic?

Speak your mind! Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and tell me what you think!


All photography in this post is mine. All rights reserved.