Having good skin is hard enough – but why make it harder on yourself by picking at your face all the time?
We know, we know – easier said than done. But as a chronic face-picker-turned-beauty-writer, we know a thing or two about curing this obsessive-compulsive disorder.
And in this article, we’re going to give you 7 pro tips on how to stop picking at the skin on your face – straight from people who have kicked the habit already.
What causes skin-picking disorder?
There isn’t a single cause of skin-picking disorder (also known as dermatillomania or excoriation disorder), but there are some factors that can contribute to it.
- anxiety or stress
- feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem
- a history of abuse or trauma
- skin conditions like acne or eczema
We’ll go over this later, but skin picking is just a really poor coping mechanism. Once you understand that, it becomes much easier to break the control it has over your life.
Do you have obsessive-compulsive disorder?
If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), you may be more likely to develop skin-picking disorder.
This is because people with OCD often have a need to complete rituals or routines, and skin-picking can become a ritualistic behavior. It is often viewed as a nervous habit, but can be a sign of a deeper mental health problem.
Whether or not you choose to seek professional medical advice or fix your problem on your own is up to you.
What is body-focused repetitive behavior?
Body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) are a group of disorders that involve recurring, compulsive behaviors that focus on the hair, skin, and nails.
Examples of BFRBs include trichotillomania (hair-pulling), onychophagia (nail-biting), and dermatillomania (skin-picking).
These can manifest themselves as a bad habit, oftentimes developed as a natural method to relieve stress. Unfortunately, giving yourself skin lesions is probably not the best way to get rid of stress. But you already knew that.
How do I know if I have a skin-picking disorder?
If you have skin-picking disorder, you will:
- pick at your skin even if it’s not sore or irritated
- pick at your skin until it bleeds
- feel like you can’t stop picking even if you want to
- find that picking soothes or relieves anxiety
- feel embarrassed or ashamed about your picking behavior
The dangers of picking at your face
If you don’t stop picking at the skin on your face, your face and psyche will suffer the consequences. For some people, picking your skin can even cause a significant disruption to one’s life.
Acne can leave permanent scars on your face, but so can excessive picking.
If you have a breakout and you can’t resist the urge to pop or pick at your pimples, you’re more likely to be left with permanent scars.
These scars are called “icepick” scars, and they show up as small, deep indentations in the skin.
Another danger of picking at your face is that you can easily get an infection.
Picking at your skin can introduce bacteria into the pores, which can lead to a skin infection.
The most common type of skin infection associated with picking is called cellulitis, and it can cause fever, swelling, and redness.
Picking at your skin can also cause bleeding.
If you pick at a scab or an open wound, you can damage the blood vessels under the skin and cause them to bleed.
Acne and more frequent breakouts
Picking at your skin can also cause acne.
When you pop or pick at a pimple, you’re damaging your skin and causing inflammation.
This damage can lead to more breakouts, as well as the formation of scars.
So, if you’re looking for clear skin, it’s best to leave your pimples alone.
Anxiety and depression
Skin-picking disorder can also cause anxiety and depression.
The shame and embarrassment associated with skin-picking can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Some people even avoid social events because they’re so ashamed of their face. They’re aware that they have a problem and think that everyone is aware of it as well.
That said, it’s unlikely that anyone actually cares (other than you), because people spend most of their time thinking of their own problems, not yours.
Skin-picking can also cause inflammation.
When you pick at your skin, you’re introducing bacteria and other irritants into the pores.
This can cause the skin to become red, swollen, and irritated. Which leads to more pimples (and then more picking) – and the cycle continues.
People with skin-picking disorder can often feel like they’re stuck in a cycle of self-abuse.
They may feel that they’re not good enough or that they’re ruining their appearance. These negative thoughts can lead to depression and even more anxiety.
So, if you have skin-picking disorder, it’s important to seek treatment. There are many different types of treatment available, including therapy and medication. But we’ll go over those in the next section.
Tips to stop skin picking
The good news is that skin-picking disorder can be treated. Here are our 7 tips for how to stop picking at your face:
Keep your hands busy
If your hands are busy, you’re more likely to stop skin picking. Try carrying around a stress ball or fidget spinner to keep your hands occupied.
Wearing gloves can also help to prevent picking. The physical barrier of the gloves will remind you not to pick and the gloves will keep your hands clean.
Put Band Aids on your face
If you can’t resist the urge to pick, put a bandaid over the spot. This will create a physical barrier between your fingers and the skin.
Try to relax
Stress and anxiety can trigger picking episodes. So, it’s important to find ways to relax.
Try yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. Go to the gym and work out. Work on something that will allow you to relax after a job well done.
Talk to someone
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by skin-picking disorder, talking to someone can help.
Seeking professional help is the best option, but you can also talk to a friend or family member about your struggles.
If you find that your skin-picking is caused or exacerbated by anxiety or depression, medication may help.
There are many different types of medication that can help, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find any over-the-counter meds that will help with this, so if you want to go this route, you’ll need to consult with a doctor.
See a therapist
Therapy can be an effective treatment for skin-picking disorder.
Therapists can help you to understand the causes of your picking and to develop strategies for how to stop.
There are many different types of therapy available, so it’s important to find one that works for you.
Keep your nails short
Long nails can cause more damage to the skin. So, keeping your nails trimmed can help to prevent picking.
In fact, many face pickers will also develop a habit of biting their nails – sometimes to prevent themselves from picking at their face!
Try habit reversal training
Habit reversal training is a type of therapy that can help to change the behavior.
The therapist will work with you to identify the cues that trigger your picking.
Then, you’ll learn different techniques to help you to stop picking.
For example, you may learn how to distract yourself when you feel the urge to pick, or how to replace the picking behavior with a different activity.
Play with Silly Putty instead
This last tip sounds silly (no pun intended), but many people pick their faces just so they have something to do with their hands.
If you keep a little egg of Silly Putty with you, then any time something triggers you to pick, you can just play with the putty instead.
Skin-picking disorder is a serious mental health condition that can cause a lot of distress. But it is treatable. And you don’t need to have gone to Harvard Medical School to know how to fix it.
If you’re struggling with skin-picking, try some of the tips above. And if you find that you can’t stop on your own, seek professional help.
With treatment, you can learn how to control the urge to pick and start living a healthier life.