I 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.