For a fan of DIY (or non-professional) skin treatments, I really haven’t had too many bad experiences. I waded slowly in to the process of at-home experimenting, and you really can’t do much harm slathering honey on your face, even when you start adding in oats, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I did manage to get some permanent stains on my pillowcase from an attempt to use Vaseline as a heavy duty, overnight moisturizer (did not work), but I’ve mostly managed to avoid doing serious harm to my skin. There’s just one problem.
I am a compulsive skin picker. And I’m not using “compulsive” lightly here, I’ve been diagnosed and everything! I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a mental illness which convinces you that you’re hideously ugly and gets you obsessed over real or imagined flaws in your appearance. Among other things, I became hyper-focused on my skin. It needed to be perfectly smooth, even-toned, and basically poreless. If I saw the slightest bump, I had to pick at it until I had torn it into a cut, got distracted by another one, or successfully managed to extract it (which happened maybe 0.5% of the time). I really, genuinely, honestly felt like I HAD to. This is called dermatillomania! I still struggle with the urge to pick and dig at any imperfection I see, even though I know it’s an illogical compulsive behaviour, and a symptom of my body dysmorphia.
I won’t go on too long about just how much damage you can do by squeezing and poking at pimples, unidentified bumps, or even blackheads. Even during my worst periods of skin picking, I was pretty aware that it wasn’t helping my skin get any better, but that didn’t change the fact that I felt compelled to do it. I’m just lucky that the acne I tend to get is fairly superficial, so I didn’t do too much damage trying to pick away the bumps and pimples I had. Despite that, I do still have one fairly noticeable scar from a bad pimple I had on my cheek a few years back..
So take my cheek scar as a reminder to stop picking at your face if it’s something you can control (no matter how many Dr. Pimple Popper videos you’ve watched, you could still do serious damage), and if it’s not, then consider looking in to professional help. Skin picking can be a disorder all of its own, or part of another mental illness, and there is help out there for you! In the meantime, here are some tricks I use to stop myself from poking at my skin:
- invest in some anti-acne dots to physically cover the spot so you can’t pick (band-aids work too)
- use a face mask for the same purpose as above (except the dots are supposed to be left on for a minimum of 8 hours, while face masks are typically only 10-30 minutes)
- wear gloves (when possible, obviously this one has its limits)
- use a face oil or moisturizer that absorbs slowly, as the slippery layer on your skin will stop you from being able to squeeze at anything
- put post-it notes on your mirror that will catch your attention and remind you not to pick (inspirational quotes, cute messages from friends, DON’T PICK in big, bold letters…)
- keep your fingernails cut short
- set a time limit for how long you can spend in front of a mirror and then set an actual timer on your phone
- develop a full skincare routine so you can look at your skin and know you have a plan to improve it (a plan which doesn’t involve picking!)
The goal is to either prevent yourself from physically being able to pick, or to interrupt your thoughts as you’re starting to pick, which will give you a chance to recognize what you’re doing and stop. Anything that puts a literal or figurative barrier between you and your skin could be helpful, don’t get discouraged if it takes you a while to figure out what works best for you!
If any of you have more suggestions or have had similar experiences, I’d love to hear them!