I have a confession. When I was younger I would pick my face. It wasn’t until around the time I was in college that I quit for good. How did I do it? It was with the help of an aesthetician in Los Angeles. To quickly jump ahead, I spoke with New York Licensed psychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez’s to learn ways others could stop picking their face, and the different reasons why we do it. But, before we get to that, here’s how it worked for me:
I began seeing an aesthetician named Gohar for microdermabrasion to minimize the scars I had because of said picking. I then took preventive measures and would schedule regular visits regardless of whether or not I had breakouts. But what really changed my skin—and life—was when she offered for me to drop in any time I had a major blemish, and allow her to do the extraction, instead of me. What a novel idea to let a professional do it, right? This shifted my relationship to how I cared for my skin. But what I didn’t understand or think about was why I picked my face in the first place.
This was a lesson that came in New York on a beauty assignment at Dangene The Institute of Skinovation. I remember the visit vividly. During my appointment with Samantha I explained to her that I would pick my face when I was younger… and I said that I couldn’t tell her why I did it. I explained that it didn’t fit my personality: I am Type A, disgusted of germs (I’m that girl on a flight who sanitizes the tray table), hyper-aware of good hygiene, and etiquette.
She shared that she has the same personality, suffered from adult acne, and scarring too (which you’d never know if you saw her porcelain skin). She explained that because of this aspiration for perfection, there was a sense of necessity, and satisfaction to smooth skin immediately. In that moment it all made sense. Understanding why I would do this helped me tremendously. I understood that I was striving for clear skin, but what unblemished skin meant to me was distorted.
Of course, my journey is different than others, and to help others who pick their face to quit, I asked Dr. Hafeez, whose areas of expertise include body image, workplace stress, and anxiety, among many more for her professional advice. Ahead, I asked Dr. Hafeez the secret to how to stop picking your face for good.
Three Common Reasons People Pick Their Face
Feeling anxious? Dr. Hafeez says, “Oftentimes people pick their face when anxious about another aspect of their lives. It's in the same realm of OCD and an impulse disorder.”
Another common reason for picking is because of concentration. Dr. Hafeez shares, “Sometimes people pick while deeply focused on other tasks such as watching TV, reading, driving, or at their desks.”
Finally, she says, “Others claim to feel a sense of satisfaction when they spot a pimple and go into their bathrooms to extract on their own. The problem is that it can lead to infection, additional pimples and scarring.” Guilty.
Spoiler: Everyone is prone to picking.
Dr. Hafeez says that we’re all prone to picking our faces. She adds, “Obviously people who don't struggle with breakouts won't have much to pick. Picking is a form of control so it's common for people who tend to break out when stressed to then pick. They feel stressed so they break out. Then they stress out over the breakout, which leads to the picking. It's a vicious cycle.”
Six Tips To Help Quit Picking Your Face
- Journal about any frustrations and emotions that cause self picking.
- Get rid of the magnifying mirror. These mirrors do nothing but reveal every flaw on a face and no one looks good in them.
- Enlist the help of a dermatologist to heal the skin and determine a healthy skin care regimen.
- Consider therapy if the picking is leading to scarring and perhaps even is interfering with other aspects of life or if it leads to self sabotaging thoughts, low self worth and even depression.
- Keeping nails short makes picking more of a challenge, yet some pickers resort to tweezers and other extractors.
- Squeeze balls or Silly Putty can also be used to occupy the hands.
Click here to see seven fixes for your summer skin issues.