We’ve all been there before. Without even realizing it, we get lost in that trance-like zone, viciously picking and prodding at our skin—maybe obsessing over one particular blemish, maybe going at an entire area. And before we know it, we’ve gone way, way too far. Our skin is red, irritated, and probably even bleeding. Obsessive and perfectionistic, it's a manifestation of the darker side of beauty.
While picking will invariably wreak havoc on skin, there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage.
“The skin has an amazing capacity to heal itself, we just need to help it along,” explains Judit Galambosi, owner of Je'Derm Skin Care. To make sure your skin doesn’t scar and to speed up the healing, you ought to first cleanse the affected area. By picking, you've already introduced bacteria from your fingers onto your skin—opened skin, which is also now exposed and susceptible to germs. Even if you've washed your hands first, it's a bad scene.
You have two jobs here: wash away all the potential bacteria, and bring down the inflammation. Don't use any product that has the chance of inflaming the area even more. Instead, use a super gentle cleanser that won’t sting or inflame skin further. Here are a few gold-standard products when it comes to gentle cleansers:
After cleansing the area thoroughly, Galambosi says to use a toner with antiseptic properties. She recommends Erno Laszlo’s Light Controlling Lotion ($60), which is a skin balancing toner that will remove any bacteria on the surface of the skin.
You shouldn't be alarmed if the blemish looks worse than it did before, says Galambosi. “The swelling is a natural protective reaction from the skin and it will start to calm down in a few hours,” she says. “The following day you might see a scab forming, which is part of the healing process.” Which brings us to what is maybe the hardest part: remember to keep those paws away from the scab! An obvious part of the healing process is no additional picking—no matter how much you want to, or what excuse you can come up with. Don't do it.
Though you might be tempted to treat the picked spot like you would acne, Galambosi says to stay away from applying acne products like spot treatments over the blemish, as they can be drying. Instead, keep the affected area moist. She suggests using a calming, soothing balm like Erno Laszlo’s Phormula 3-9 Repair Balm ($255), which has anti-inflammatory and hydrating properties to shield and protect the skin while it’s healing.
And here are some products for before you get to that point: