At some point in your life you’ve heard or been told first hand “Don’t pop pimples” or “Don’t pick at that!” but did you really listen? The act of skin picking is not unknown, however, the truly disastrous effects which it creates are. While skin picking can range from occasionally popping a pimple to an actual disorder (Excoriation disorder) its effects are always negative. Skin picking can be brought on by stress, anxiety, boredom, disorders such as BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) or just out of habit. Regardless of the cause of it, it is counterproductive and damages the skin.
I decided to write this article because I personally have dealt with compulsive skin picking for years and I have finally put an end to the vicious cycle that it is. For me, skin picking meant spending hours of unintended time in front of a mirror scrutinizing what was on my face and attempting to pick it away. By this I mean extracting every possible blemish that met my eyes, even if it was extremely unnecessary. I referred to skin picking as “counterproductive” because while the goal is to ‘perfect’ imperfections, you only exacerbate the problem. This is because a pimple is basically a little ‘sack’ under the skin that contains oil, bacteria and inflammation. Squeezing or touching it can result in the ‘sack’ rupturing and these contents being spilled out and pushed into surrounding skin, ultimately multiplying the problem. *Apart from the cosmetic impact of recurrent skin lesions and scarring, skin picking can lead to serious infections, anxiety, shame, and depression (Lisa Zakhary MD,PhD). These results are what makes it so vicious; you start by trying to eliminate an issue and find yourself creating so many more- on your face no less!
Once I realized I was the cause of my clearly worsening skin state, I developed some skills that would help to manage the urge to pick, pop, or squeeze. I began to make it harder for myself to be in an environment that allowed me to act on my impulses, meaning staying away from mirrors as much as possible. Standing in front of a mirror with the intention of quickly washing my hands or brushing my hair turned into a face examination analysis every time, without fail. This inevitably would lead to a session of skin picking that would last from minutes to hours and leave me feeling worse than I initially did. By forcing myself to look away from the mirror and focus on/think of anything else I created a different environment for myself, one where my skin picking urges could not thrive off of my trigger(s).
Aside from mental fortitude, some physical skills to use as an alternative to picking include handling your blemishes in the proper and safe way such as using ice. You can use an ice cube or a sanitized ice pack (I personally use a Soothie Q) and ice the blemish for about a minute or so. This helps to alleviate inflammation and sometimes can even stop a pimple in its tracks. After this, I apply a spot treatment such as Face Reality’s Sulfur Spot Treatment followed by an application of PRIIA’s Calm Down Anti- Blemish powder.
End the skin picking cycle and treat your skin like the fragile, beautiful, organ that it is.