Are You A Chronic Skin Picker? How To Pull Yourself Out Of A Spiral, From Experts

mbg Beauty Director By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director. Previously she worked at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.
Cellular Beauty: How to Naturally Support Skin Health From the Inside Out

Certainly, I've been there: Standing in front of my bathroom mirror, fingers raised to a blemish, knowing I shouldn't be doing what I so desperately want to do—pick at my skin. I know all the reasons I shouldn't. I know that it will only cause the pimple to stick around longer. I know that it may lead to scarring or a dark spot. I know that the best thing I can do for my skin is to walk away. And yet, sometimes temptations still get the best of me. 

It's not just the face that people hyper-focus their attention on. Some people pull at their cuticles and nails. Some may have scars or inflamed patches of skin they can't leave alone. It's estimated that chronic skin picking affects around 2 to 5% of the population, and of these people, 75% are women.

It's a hard habit to break. So that's why when I was chatting with holistic esthetician Hayley Wood in a recent episode of Clean Beauty School, I loved her sage advice she gives to her clients who pick at their skin. 

How to pull yourself out of a picking spiral. 

One of the most valuable things you can do, Wood says, is to reframe how you view your skin. "Anyone that's a chronic picker, this is usually the first thing I'll say: 'I don't see you picking and poking at your liver or at your heart. I'm like, would you do it to any other organ?' No, just because this one is the outermost organ, like there's usually some element of control, fixation, or even boredom," she says. It's important to remember that your skin is an organ, and when you damage it—you're damaging you.

Obviously, a mindset shift is one of the largest hurdles to tackle when you get over your skin-picking habit. But that's, of course, not all you can do. Here are some additional tips to help you stop poking and prodding your delicate and precious skin: 

  1. Start a skin gratitude practice. Another tip from Wood, skin gratitude practices help you feel thankful for all that your skin does for you. As you grow in gratitude to your skin, you may find less of an urge to self-criticize. 
  2. When you get the urge, move. "One theory is that picking is a self-regulating behavior—it stimulates us when we are bored or sedentary (watching TV, at the computer, talking on the phone) and calms us when we are overstimulated (whether by negative emotions or stress or positive excitement)," says Jennifer Raikes, executive director of the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.
  3. Breathwork. Breathwork is a powerful tool that can ground us and calm us in the moment. And the best thing about it is that all it takes is you and your lungs. Try this simple technique for help.

If your skin picking habit is more serious, we do recommend seeing a dermatologist, doctor, or therapist—they’ll be able to guide you with professional help.

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The takeaway. 

Most of us pick our skin from time to time—and a portion of us do it chronically. When you find yourself wanting to pick your skin (be it face, nails, body, whatever), try one of these techniques instead. 

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