Updated 04/26/22. A skin-picking habit can be really hard to break. Over my 30+ years as an esthetician, I’ve seen people with scarring and discoloration caused by years of chronic picking. And I get it. I, too, picked at my skin when I was growing up. I struggled with breakouts, and I would only make them worse by poking and prodding them.
Eventually, I was able to stop the cycle and get it under control. Now, I can use my experience and expertise to educate others on how to break this habit. Keep reading to learn how you can stop picking, once and for all, and achieve clearer-looking skin.
Why Am I So Tempted to Pick at Blemishes?
First, you have to understand the reason for skin-picking. If you pick at a blemish, more than likely it’s because you want it to go away faster, right? When you feel a painful bump forming under the skin, it’s easy to fixate on the fact that there’s something there that needs to come out. You’ll then act on it, thinking that you’re helping the blemish come out faster so you can get this whole ordeal over and done with.
Unfortunately, picking a blemish doesn’t help it go away. Instead, it creates irritation and scabbing, which leads to a post-breakout mark that can linger for months. You’re effectively interrupting the life cycle of the blemish and making it last way longer than it would otherwise. That’s why it’s imperative that you understand this life cycle and work in sync with all stages of a blemish. After all, you always want to be an ally, not an enemy.
Note: If you pick your skin compulsively, regardless of whether there is an active blemish on your face, you may have a condition called dermatillomania. In this case, I suggest you consult a physician to find ways to get this under control. In some instances, medication may be needed, as this condition is closely related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
How Can I Stop My Skin-Picking Habit?
1. Keep Your Hands Busy
Some people start to pick without even realizing it, which is why keeping your hands busy can make such a difference. Some people wear rings they can turn and play with. Other people use little fidget toys. Personally, I recommend the No Picking! Twisty Toy. It’s a fun, twirly gadget that helps keep your hands occupied and off your face. It’s ideal to use when you’re sitting in traffic, working at your desk, or anytime you feel the need to pick. (Even if you’re not a picker, it’s a great stress-reliever).
2. Sign the No Picking Contract
Accountability makes all the difference when setting and meeting goals. That’s why I created a free downloadable PDF contract that you can sign in an effort to commit to breaking your habit. I recommend taping it up on your bathroom mirror as a daily reminder in moments of temptation.
3. Set a Reminder on Your Phone
Technology makes our lives easier. Why not use it to remind you to keep your hands off your face? Think about what time of day you’re most tempted to pick. Is it when you’re standing in front of the bathroom mirror in the morning? Is it when you’re driving in the car? Whenever it is, set a reminder on your phone that says something like, “I want clear skin, so I will stop picking!” or “Don’t do it. It will only make the blemish worse!” Use whatever works for you.
4. Use Personal and Professional Resources
Don’t go at it alone. Ask a close friend or family member for support and help to stay accountable. That way, when you’re in a moment of temptation, you can call or text them. Sometimes that alone is distraction enough, helping you interrupt the cycle and eventually stop your skin-picking habit.
You can also turn to a skin professional for help. They might have specific recommendations to help you break your habit. At the very least, they can help keep you accountable too. As I said, accountability is everything!
5. Prevent Blemishes from Appearing in the First Place
I know that this is easier said than done. However, it’s important to know that you’re fighting a losing battle if you just focus on spot treating a blemish once it appears. Preventing them from appearing in the first place is essential. With the right type of pore-clearing products, you can definitely lessen breakout activity. Imagine if you had nothing to pick at!
Using products that are formulated for your specific skin type is key. If you don’t know your skin type, take the Skin Type Quiz to find out! At the end of it, it will give you personalized product recommendations. To help you get started, see a few products I generally recommend for breakout-prone skin, below.
Renée Rouleau Products I Recommend for Breakout Prevention:
- Rapid Response Detox Masque
- BHA Clarifying Serum
- Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum
- Skin Correcting Serum
- AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser
The Bottom Line
The most important thing to remember when trying to break a skin-picking habit is to be patient. After all, change takes time! It’s like a muscle; it has a memory, so you need to exercise it in a new way. Willpower, along with keeping your eye on the prize, is what it takes to overcome this.
Once you start to see improvement in your skin, it will give you encouragement to keep going. I know you can do this!
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Her hands-on experience as an esthetician and trusted skin care expert has created a real-world solution — products that are formulated for nine different types of skin so your face will get exactly what it needs to look and feel its best. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”