Five Ways to Stop Skin Picking and Make Peace with Your Face


Your professional skincare therapist will be kinder with her extractions than you are to your own face.

Your professional skincare therapist will be kinder with her extractions than you are to your own face.



In my work as a health coach and holistic skin care therapist specializing in mood and self-esteem, I meet a lot of “pickers.” Now, Skin Picking Disorder (or Dermatillomania) is a very real and serious condition associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and it requires the help of a qualified mental health professional. I’m writing today about the lower-level picker who goes after her pores in the bathroom mirror, sometimes causing bleeding or even scarring. You may be descended from apes, and your grooming may be unkind to your skin at times, but the behavior isn’t an obsession or a full-time job

If that sounds like you, here are some ideas that have helped my clients. Long ago, these ideas helped me too.

1.      Wash your face the minute you come home for the evening.

Use products you love, ones that feel good and smell delicious and that are right for your skin. Cleanse, tone, and moisturize. Do these three steps lovingly, and then go do something else. If you have a self-care ritual for honoring your body and yourself— and then you step away from the mirror— you will be less likely to torture your skin in your quest to vanquish imperfections.

2.      Keep your nails short.

I have clients who pick unconsciously as they watch TV or surf the internet. If this is you, you may find it very helpful to file your nails down as short as you can. If you still find yourself able and wanting to pick, try wearing light cotton gloves. Put some lovely hand lotion and cuticle oil on before your gloves and your behavior modification tool has become a self-care ritual resulting in soft, beautiful hands.

3.      Try mindfulness.

A recent pilot study showed promising results when Mindfulness meditation-based cognitive therapy was used to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (of which Skin Picking is one). A simple way to employ mindfulness in your own life is to take a simple three-minute pause. Breathe in through your mouth, filling your belly—not your chest— as you do. Breathe out through your mouth, focusing attention on your breath and the sensations in your body. If thoughts come up, simply notice them and breathe them out without judgment, and then return your focus to your breath. Picking and stress, depression, and anxiety often go hand in hand. It is often a stressful or sad time that comes right before a picking session. By taking a few minutes to pause and focus on breathing, we may stop our hands from harming ourselves unthinkingly.

4.      Busy those idle hands

Handwork: it’s not just for crunchy mamas. If you find something to keep your hands and brain busy, you’ll be less like to pick. Try knitting, crochet, puzzles, crosswords, or cooking. Or go for a walk or jog or do a few yoga poses on the living room floor. Stay busy and stay present. Stay away from the mirror.


5.      Baby yourself.

One very effective way to control the urge to pick is to imagine yourself as a small and helpless baby. You would never pick a baby or child to bloodiness. You’d want to preserve her beautiful skin and you would do anything you could to protect her wellbeing and her feelings. Nurture yourself the way you’d nurture a child, the way you should have been nurtured (and so often we weren’t, despite our parents’ best intentions). You owe yourself that same love and care, and you deserve it.


In researching this article, I came upon a very useful online questionnaire that helps readers determine if their picking is normal “grooming” or disordered behavior. If you think you may suffer from Skin Picking Disorder, you may find this site and its online course (with which I’m in no way affiliated) helpful. If you are not a picker of the obsessive compulsive variety, I hope the advice in this article has been helpful for you.


Kirsten Quint Fairbanks is health coach and holistic living expert who loves offering real-world holistic coaching for mamas who want to beat the blues and build self esteem, helping and consciously cultivate big lives that get them totally fired up.  Kirsten lives happily, works gratefully, dances inexpertly, paints badly, cooks traditionally, and rocks a tiny homeschool in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She believes that connection can change your life.   Read more about her here.




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