Tips On Stopping The Picking

Hey guys,

Now I know everyone is different and we all have our own methodologies and routines. I happen to pick at my face excessively, my back less often (because I can't see my back) and very mildly my chest area. My back and my chest I am not too worried about because it appears that I don't obsess with those parts (mostly because I don't see those parts blatantly staring back at me in the mirror). I have been trying to seriously get clean for the past  6 months (because it was only about a year ago that I realized what I had was a condition, not just a bad habit). I have had some recent progress and I think it's worth noting; I am able to control my urges/go pick free for a few days here and there. I'm working on lengthening those days to weeks and maybe to months. Hopefully, I will be able to control this habit in the very near future.

My longest stretch of time going pick free recently has been 1 week. Previously, before the onset of dermatillomania was so strong and controlling, I remember picking at my face for several months during my senior year of high school then quitting for the whole summer (that's 3 months) before picking it back up in college what with all the stress, etc. For some reason, over the summer I was able to control myself and listen to my brain when it said "don't do this, it's not good for you." Now, I resort to other tactics.

I am a visual person. I mostly pick at what I can see in the mirror, sometimes I'll run my hands over my face and feel something that needs to be scratched, but that technique is not nearly as compulsive or damaging as picking in front of a mirror. These have worked for me in preventing my skin picking and I urge you to at least try them. I hope some of them will work for you:

- Have a bedside mirror/portable mirror in your room? Get rid of it. Put it in the drawer, closet, or wherever and don't bring it back up.

- If you have a large mirror in your bedroom, try to position it (if you can) in a position that you will not be able to see yourself wherever you are in your room. My mirror stands on a desk in the corner of the room, so I actively have to move to that corner to see myself.

- Try to actively stay away from mirrors. This is hard but very possible. When you pass a mirror and catch a glimpse of yourself in your peripheral, just keep going.

-Another way to stay away from mirrors: Buy facial cleansing cloths. These guys come in packs of 30-50, you can buy them at any local drug or beauty store and cost anywhere between $5-10 dollars. Some of them also have dual action in which they cleanse & remove all makeup, or cleanse&exfoliate or cleanse& moisturize. The reason I suggest this is that you can get into bed and gently wipe your skin clean without using a mirror. It is also convenient for when you are too tired to get up and wash your face.

- When you go to the bathroom, turn on the dimmer set of lights (the ones where you can't see your face very well). If you don't have that option, then turn OFF the bathroom lights and turn ON the light in the hallway/room near the bathroom; this will give you enough light to see what you are doing without actually seeing your face/chest/back very clearly.

-Limit your time in the bathroom/bedroom. Where you do pick most often? Try to avoid those areas because you know it's a pitfall.

- Put alarm reminders on your phone. These are nice because they can be titled. When do you pick most often? I pick early in the morning when I get up before work, in the afternoon when I get back from work, and mostly, at night. So I have 3 recurring alarms on my phone:
one at 8am, one at 5pm, and one at 930pm. They are titled something like "NO PICKING- You're Worth More Than That" or "STOP PICKING- YOU ALWAYS REGRET IT". These have really helped me, guys.

- Put up little post-its that are inspirational around the areas where you pick, like "STOP!" or "You can do it!" or "Go Find Something Better To Do".

Read these blogs. Read everyone's stories on here. Reading a few of your stories every night reminds me why I'm here, why I'm doing this and why not picking at my face IS as big a deal as I think it is. Whenever I start forgetting and falling into that destructive path of "it's not that bad", these stories always remind me what's waiting for me. This support group has helped me immensely and I would not have gotten past 1 day pick-free without you guys. Thank you.

- FIGHT THE URGE. This seems so obvious, right? So simple. And you're probably thinking "wow, thanks for the obvious". You don't KNOW how often we fail to do this. We tell ourselves, once we're in front of that mirror, in prime pick-mode, that it's over-- it's gonna happen and there's nothing we can do to stop it. DON'T DO THAT. Tell yourself "No, i'm NOT going to let myself do this again, I can control this urge and I don't NEED to do this". Remember why.

- Let the people you love know what you're going through, and think of them whenever you are tempted to pick. Think of what they would do, what they would tell you if they could see you right there.

- LOVE YOURSELF. Tell yourself that you are BEAUTIFUL, inside and out. Highlight your best assets. Dress up! Wear makeup, or if you are a boy, wear your good clothes. Don't save them for a special occasion. You have a right to look good, and when you look good you feel good. People who feel good are less likely to pick. Tell yourself that a few pimples/blackheads do not hinder your image and that EVERYONE gets them, even those celebs who have seemingly flawless skin. Learn to LOVE your imperfections and let them be because they are part of you.

- Try to track down, either on paper or on the computer or mentally, when you pick and what you were feeling at the time, i.e. what was the trigger. Identifying the source of your compulsion (e.g. stressed before work, anxious, bored at night, angry after talking with mom on phone) will REALLY help you understand what makes you tick and how to control it/remove yourself from these situations better.

- Mandate a bedtime. Go to bed EARLY. Don't stay up, creating unneccesary fears and troubles in your head. Make yourself wash up and go to bed as early as you can after your work/etc. is done.

- If you are a girl, try getting ACRYLIC NAILS! I know you might not like them (some of you), but you have no idea HOW HARD it is to pick with fake nails! A psychologist I met with once recommended that. And wow, it really helped. I personally don't like them but if you can swallow your pride and try getting them for a few weeks, that might just be the push you need to get yourself out of the picking funk!

- Try to exercise. It takes your mind off things, gets your endorphins up, and makes you feel better about your body. The better you feel about your body, the less temped you feel to pick at your skin (because you feel more confident and beautiful). Exercise also reduces stress and helps improve your blood circulation and complexion. It really helps me relax.

- Be ambitious. Create a list of things you want to do and places you want to go. Remind yourself that combatting dermatillomania IS ONE OF THEM. Have faith that YOU WILL STOP. And know that controlling this compulsion will make achieving your other goals easier and less cumbersome.

- DON'T MAKE CLEAR SKIN A GOAL. Did you guys hear me? If not, I'll repeat it. DON'T MAKE CLEAR SKIN A GOAL. Do I have your attention? Ok good. Look-- many of us skin-pickers are perfectionists. I am. And obsessing with my skin's appearance has been my greatest downfall. Many people want to quit skin-picking for the wrong reasons: i.e. if I stop picking my skin will clear up. Chances are, if you started picking, then you had acne prone skin. And acne prone skin is something that doesn't go away. So if I stop picking, find my skin clearing up, and then break out for whatever reason, then I will get really frustrated and start picking again because I want the acne to go away. So please, don't make clear skin a goal. It is a luxury, and having it occasionally is fine. Contrary to popular TV ads, you do NOT NEED TO BE CLEAR ALL THE TIME. You don't maintain the same weight throughout your adult life, do you? And your hair isn't perfect-looking every day, is it? WHY DO YOU HAVE SUCH HIGH STANDARDS FOR YOUR SKIN?? They are UNREALISTIC. Love your skin, on its good days and its bad. Make controlling the compulsion  a goal, and you will find that you are not only generally happier, but actually care less about having a break out because you are not obsessing with your skin constantly. And oh, what a liberating feeling that is.

- Ladies, Wear Foundation. Heck, even boys, go for it. The main reason I suggest this is because you can't clearly see your pimples/blackheads or scars through foundation (especially liquid/cream coverage), and if you try to pick with foundation on you'll make a big smudgy mess. So you're more likely to not pick for most of the day while your foundation is on. Plus, it makes you feel better about your skin and face the world a little more confidently.

- This is a tip for both sexes: Vitamin E Oil. This stuff is really incredible at helping reduce hyperpigmentation (red marks) due to picking, and also helps heal sores and wounds. You can find this at most drug stores (CVS, Rite Aid). The higher the concentration, the better the oil is, I think they go all the way up to 56,000 IU (that's what I have). It's a bit pricey, mine was $10 but you can get the lower concentrations for cheaper. Anyway, I'm not recommending this solely for it's healing properties; while those are great, it has a much more helpful property: It's incredibly sticky and gooey. Ew? Yes. Works? Yes. I used to put this on my face when I got home from school and leave it on for as long as I could stand (usually until night time, when it was time to go to bed). It's so sticky and greasy that you will find it impossible to pick at your face while this stuff is on; it is slippery and hard to maneuver. I liked putting it on because I felt that not only was it helping to fade scars and heal current sores, but it was also preventing me from touching/damaging my face  (can't do it now because I don't have time in the afternoon). But if you have the time, this is a great investment. If you don't want to go out and buy anything, look around your house for neosporin (it has some vit E in it). While you can't slather this on your face, you can dot it all over your pimples and it too will make it harder to pick at your face. Another alternative is honey-- a lot of people talk about making honey masks because of its soothing, antibacterial properties. You can look up some recipes for a honey mask and leave it on, or simply slather it on and rinse it off after you can't stand it. I haven't tried it but it's supposed to make your skin very soft.

Ok, that's all I can think of right now. I need to go to bed because I'm tired. I'm thinking of you guys. Let me know if you've tried some of these before, and what was succesful/unsuccessful for you. And please let me know if you do try some of my suggestions, how they are working for you. 

Much love and luck,

filful filful
18-21, F
29 Responses Jun 14, 2010

Your story made me feel so much better. It's so easy to feel completely alone with this problem. My dermatillomania has started getting really severe like it always does when school gets stressful, and tonight I was feeling some pretty intense self-hatred after finally tearing myself from the mirror at four in the morning. This has happened consistently for the past week and is getting progressively worse. I've had derma since I moved and started middle school. I am now a freshman in college. I'm glad I finally looked for help and found this, these tips are very helpful to me. Best of luck.

Thankyou so much for this post! I always feel so alone about my skin picking until I read stories like this online and it reminds me I'm not alone. At the moment I haven't gone a day without picking for over a year and it makes me so depressed, I always tell myself I'm going to stop but once I'm in front of the mirror it's like I lose my mind and I can't help it and then I regret it so much afterwards. Hopefully these tricks might help even if I can break the habit for just one day to start off with!

Hi I have just found all this info on skinpicking. I use Vitamen E alot. I hope you are getting out of the habit, I know I shouldn't do it. But it is a compulsion. Thanks for the tips.

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Wonderful tips!!
Thank you so much.

Thank you so much for those tips. I'm at my worst these days en Reading this is really helping me to feel a little better

great suggestions! i will try the vitamin E oil and many of your other suggestions!

This is great. I love that you said "do not make clear skin a goal" because that is what I tell myself every morning and get so incredibly upset when I find something I want gone on my face asap! really great optimistic post. Thanks! I might go get acrylic nails later ;)

Thanks so much for these :)
I've been skirting around a true effort to stop picking for months but now I'm really gonna try hard and hopefully have nicer skin in 6 weeks.
Thanks so much for the tip about the goal. I am a total perfectionist and I now realise that I've been setting myself too high a standard. I'll try to focus on getting clearer skin with no spots. Not perfect, flawless, blackhead free skin.
I'm definitely going to try the acrylic nails. I'm an art student so they won't last looking pretty but why not try it? It's summer after all :D
I have a bed sheet I use to cover the mirror in the bathroom and it has helped kick my habit from daily picking to maybe weekly.
I'll keep it up :)

This post has really helped me. You've hit the nail on the head with this one.

"So if I stop picking, find my skin clearing up, and then break out for whatever reason, then I will get really frustrated and start picking again because I want the acne to go away."

I have the SAME problem. Longest I've gone without picking was about 3-4 weeks -- then I have a major picking binge :-( . Wearing acrylic nails did help me not pick as often but unfortunately I've "mastered" around that and now they actually help me pick better (I don't know if anyone else has that problem). Trying to tackle this one day at a time.
Good Luck Everyone.

wow i cannot believe how helpful this was. I actually went out and got some gaudy acrylic nails done solely for the purpose of not picking, and wow. it really helped a lot, because they make it near impossible to do anything to your skin. its like those rubber cat claw caps :)
thank you so much for this list!!

THANK YOU SO MUCH. I have struggles with acne my whole life and have been to 5 dermatologists and gone on accutane and lots of other scrips, nothing really worked. I feel better knowing that this is a real issue and that I'm not the only one who has to battle it. I have a low self esteem and I get stressed very easily and that is what triggers the picking. Your story really helped me, thank you

i am struggling with face picking too, i don't have severe acne but picking at whiteheads causes acne and hyperpigmented skin, i am on accutane for nearly a month now, it improved my skin, but i still relapse in picking my face, i feel stressed cause my wedding will be in august, didn't accutane help you ????

I too suffer from this frustrating compulsion. I have been picking for about six years. I feel so out of control,I can go for a couple of weeks without picking my face or body and then I relapse and go to town. I have infected my skin and have had to have lumps removed by doctors. I have yet again infected my face and antibiotics had no affect,so I am now headed for an apointment with a plastic surgeon next week! I really need some help.

I have had the same problem, removed on face and arm. Bout the same amount of time has well.

Thanks for this.

These are all really great suggestions, many of which I have already tried! While I'm not happy that there are so many people who are also struggling with this OCD, It's nice to be able to share our own suggestions to help one another. I very recently created a webpage and a picture blog documenting my experience with dermatillomania that might be helpful to some people. I just started using some new medications for my skin that I'm hoping helps to clear things up so I'm not as tempted to pick at my face. Please feel free to stop by the site and leave some comments and suggestions to others who might be needing some advice!

Thank you for your helpful suggestions. I have made it a resolution to stop picking on myself, inside and out! I like your point about not making clear skin the goal. I am a perfectionist, and think that every blackhead has to be removed.

Thank you so much for this! I knew I had a problem but putting a name to it makes it more real. I really think trying your solutions will really help me. Keep updating your progress!! It'll give me hope that I can do it too :)

This post is awesome! Thank you so much for the ideas. I like the alarm clock one especially. I have an issue where I tend to disassociate and look up to see that an hour has gone by (when it feels like a minute). I will also be trying some other tips. It's so nice to see that I'm not alone out here.

Great advice! I found I was at my worst in my teenage years when I guess you are at your most body concious and obsessed with how you look - well as a teenager I was! I am now 33 and although have the odd relapse they are few and far between now and not so bad. I know when to leave a spot now and have the control too or it will scar. I carry the pits and scars of previous episodes so don't want more. I think this is a problem I will always have a little bit as I'm still obsessed with wanting my skin to look perfect and always wear foundation. It was also my face I picked. I have 3 young kids now and think they helped me a lot, simply not having so much time on your hands to spend picking helps. Def put the mirrors away or set a timer for doing your makeup etc so your not tempted to pick. Try to wash your face etc without looking in the mirror - this is when temptation sets in. I found when I moved in with my now husband it helped, he never knew what I did so I couldn't do it as much or he would see. Its so tempting to slip back but avoiding mirrors and spending as little time looking at myself as possible is the biggest tip I can give. Good luck to all suffering this. x

I don't know who to talk to about my picking problem because my parents don't take it seriously. I feel so depressed and helpless. The compulsion to pick comes and goes. There are days when I'll spend hours and hours picking. I've tried to coach myself. I've created signs in my bathroom. I've hidden tweezers, scissors, and any sharp edges away but it isn't enough. Ive never shared this with anyone openly because I feel terrible about it. I feel gross and I can't seem to shake off this feeling ever. Please help me.

hi, i face the same problem as your, also my parents and sister also never take it seriously, every time after i pick and have a badly broken and bleeding skin, i keep crying for days, hate looking in mirrors where i see a monster, i went to many dermatologists but in vane, i am trying to get rid of that ugly habit,of coarse i have relapses and feel so so bad about it, but still i am trying, not to look in a mirror, covered the bathroom mirror especially, trying very hard not to touch my face or skin, i did today and popped two blackheads, very depressed, but i hope will not do it again, i'll keep trying, don't worry you are not alone, if you need to talk i am available, don't give up, keep trying as i tell myself.

I find a lot of this very easy to relate to. I have teenage skin so I get a few baby pimples from time to time. The only problem is that I continue to pick the tiniest of blemishes and create huge red bleeding marks, all over my face. I can stop for about 2 weeks without picking but it always comes back! I am on the way to stopping for good at the moment. I have already tried getting rid of mirrors but I still found time to pick, I think it's important to face the issue rather than avoid it. I believe that it's due to some sort of stress so I am dealing with that. I've kept on saying to people that it's not that simple to just stop but maybe it is? Trust that you can and will stop and your skin will heal. When you think about it, you control your hands, not your pimples. You're probably thinking its not that simple. Stop, don't think that. Will power is stronger if you let it be.

Your post was great. I pick my face and recently started dating a nice guy. I told him about my dermatillomania. He tells me he gets sad when I hurt myself. (I pick till I bleed). I can't wait to try these tricks and make him smile. :-)

I tried honey masks, but you have to be careful because some people may be allergic, your skin may react differently than mine, but it worked for me. I saw a difference, my skin was healing and i picked less.

Thank you SO much for sharing all these awesome tips. Until about a week ago, I didn't even know that what I was doing had. a name. I certainly never knew that there was a whole forum of people dealing with it! I thought I was the only one! (and I'm 48 years old!). So, I really appreciate these tips. I'm going to try them! I don't know if you're ever tried this, but I ordered some rubber squeeze balls off - they have all sorts (gel-filled, foam rubber, etc.), and I'm going to keep them all around - in my purse, etc - and when I see them, it will remind me not to pick and it will give me something else to do with my hands :-) Good luck to all of us :-)

thank you so much, i might try some fake nails one of these days.. ugh? hahaha we can do this

fake nails definitely help! :D

Thanks so much for this post! I am desperate right now. Hugs

These are all awesome tips! thank you so much! i finally think i am on the road to recovery and the neosporin and vitamin E work wonders! :)

This is very good. I love the fake nails part and the messages on your phone part. These are great and I know I will try a few, and it's nice to know other people go through this too. Thank you for posting this!

I love this! Great positivity and very hopeful. Thanks for posting :)