Learn How to Break the Habit of Picking

Learn How to Break the Habit of Picking

As a society, we tend to idealize smooth flawless skin. We admire individuals with beautiful, clear skin. Having immaculate skin is a picture of health right? So why do we self-sabotage, and engage in habits like touching and picking the skin which tends to worsen texture and spread bacteria?

Do you find it hard to keep your hands away from your face, and more specifically your acne?  Being a face-toucher or picker is common, but detrimental for the health of your skin.  Not only does it prolong the life of active blemishes, but it spreads bacteria causing new blemishes.  Picking can cause bacteria that otherwise sits on the surface of the skin to penetrate deeper into the pore triggering a breakout.  It can also cause pigmentation (pink and brown marks left behind) and lifelong scarring.

The clinical name for repeated picking of one’s own skin is called Dermatillomania, or Excoriation Disorder.  This is a common compulsion among acne sufferers and even those without acne.  The impulse to pick may stem from the desire to flatten out unwanted blemishes, be in control of the skin, or simply be an unhealthy habit for managing stress.

In times of stress, people can often be found with hands looming near the chin, cheek, or forehead.  This kind of repetitive behavior can be a mild form of OCD.  It’s like a reflex without conscious control.  Often times people don’t even notice that they’re doing it.  There can often be a rush of relief with the sensation of scraping off a bump or blemish, however, it is causing much more damage to the skin in the long run.

There is also the factor of mirror neurons.  We tend to mimic the people around us, so when they are touching their faces, or leaning on their hands, we are more likely to engage in the same behavior.  Kind of like the impulse to yawn when someone around you yawns.

If you think about the number of things our hands touch throughout the day, from our phones, to bathroom stalls, to door handles, to other people’s hands, it is quite understandable how easy it is to transfer unwanted bacteria and oils to our face.  And even if your hands have just been washed, there is still the factor of friction causing irritation to the pores. This friction can spread current blemishes and cause new ones.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to help break these detrimental habits of touching and picking.

First and foremost, become conscious of these compulsions.  Use a pattern interrupt like a loose watch or bangle bracelet.  When we lift our hands to our face the watch or bangles slips down the arm, jarring your attention it can help make you aware of the habit.

  1. Place a rubber band around your fingertips. When the fingers touch the face, the unusual sensation of the rubber band can help act as a pattern interrupt before picking ensues.
  2. Tap a light layer of Vaseline in areas that are continuously a problem area for touching. Just like the rubber band, the sensation of the Vaseline can draw attention to the touching or picking.  Especially for picking, the sensation of Vaseline under the nails rather than skin can act as a negative reinforcement to touching. And no worries, if it is plain petroleum jelly, it will not clog your pores or break you out.
  3. In times of stress, take 10 deep breaths, or practice a minute of meditation rather than engaging in picking or touching.
  4. Pay attention to those mirror neurons, and make sure not to mimic the bad habits of those around you. Engage a friend or relative to help monitor your actions and point out when you are engaging in these behaviors.

At the ABQ Skin Care & Acne Clinic, it is our goal to create a supportive environment that helps our clients break acne triggering habits and lead an acne-free lifestyle.  Not only do we help clients get clear, but we can also help eliminate pigmentation marks and old acne scarring.  For more information give us a call at (505) 369-1680.  Change your skin, change your life!