Question: Help! I can't stop picking at my face! What should I do?


Picking at your skin will do nothing but make it worse. You probably know this, but sometimes it's just really hard to stop picking at pimples or spots on your face.

Here are some tips to help you avoid this bad habit:

  1. Don’t touch your face. If you don’t touch your face, you won’t feel any pimples. If you don’t feel any pimples, you won’t pick at your face.

  2. Use dim or friendly lights in the bathroom. Fluorescent lights can really make your skin look worse, so try to install a yellow light so things look warmer.

  3. Don’t spend too much time in the bathroom. The longer you are in there, the higher the chance you will notice something on your face that you want to pick. Go into the bathroom, do your business, and leave as soon as possible.

  4. Avoid mirrors whenever possible. If you are going to look at yourself in a mirror, keep a distance of 3 feet. This prevents you from getting too close and noticing things you want to pick.

  5. Throw away all magnifying mirrors and comedone extractors. No one needs to see their skin that up close. These mirrors drive people to pick at their skin because they "show" all the things there are to pick. But just because something looks like it can be picked, doesn't mean you should do it.

  6. If you wear glasses or contacts, remove them whenever you are in front of a mirror. Fuzzy vision will make your skin look better to you and remove the impulse to pick.

  7. Every time you feel the compulsion to pick, do something else with your fingers. Fidget, play with your pen, pick your nose. Whatever it is, make sure you distract yourself long enough for the compulsion to pass.

  8. If you can't distract yourself, impede your ability to pick at your skin by wearing fake nails or gloves. Or stick gummy bears on your fingers. Or put chili powder under your nails (this makes me feel sorry for your eyes). Or trim your nails so even if you want to pick, you won't be able to.

  9. Educate yourself on how bad it is to pick at your skin. The severe consequences of picking at your skin (more acne, scarring, etc.) should serve as a proper deterrent.

  10. Make sure you have realistic expectations about your skin. Super photoshopped magazine ads give people unrealistic expectations about getting "perfect" skin when in fact, it is completely normal to have visible pores, blemishes, and fine lines. Don't pick at your skin because you want to make it look like something out of a magazine, especially since most people don't walk around with professional makeup, good lighting cast on them all the time, and expert computer re-touching.

Picking or scratching your skin can also be psychological. Don't pick at your face in order to feel some control over your skin. You can't control when and where you will get breakouts, but you can control when and where you decide to pick.

But just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Don't let picking turn into the one constant in your battle against acne. Doing so will only make the acne treatment process that much more difficult.

Last updated: September 17, 2012

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