9 Skin Care Tips for Skin Picking Disorder (Dermatillomania)

by Emma Michelle Williams

A few months ago I wrote a post about living with Deramatillomania and how much picking my skin on a daily basis deeply impacts my life. I was overwhelmed not only by the support I received but the amount of beauty bloggers, vloggers, friends and associates alike who all reached out to tell me that they too suffered. 

Skin Picking Disorder, also known as Excoriation Disorder or Dermatillomania is a psychological condition where a sufferer is unable to stop themselves carrying out a particular action.

For those who suffer, or know someone who does – the obsession to perfect the skin by picking, tweeking, stabbing and god knows whatever else is a seriously debilitating issue and often leaves the skin vulnerable to secondary problems such as infection, wounds, or permanent scarring.

So here we are, faced with not only the inability to stop ourselves from picking, but the opportunities to clear our skin via healthy skincare routines. I usually find myself getting stuck in two vicious cycles. Pick, bleed, leave well alone (total neglect) Or Pick, bleed, clean, clear with professional products, obsess over products and skin, spend hours in front of the mirror trying to heal the wound with cotton buds, pads and alcohol based products.

As leaving my house, attending social events or socialising at all is so limited for me at the moment due to my anxiety issues, I often just spend hours, if not days, picking and destroying my skin. Sometimes aware, most times in a trance. This means, the only chance I have of breaking the cycle of picking is when I have a date in the calendar by which I will use as a goal to not pick my skin and/or adapt a healing skin care routine.

At the moment, my goal is the Kingston Business Awards which falls in a few weeks. My weight, looks and hair are nowhere near where I need them to be and I’m trying to keep the anxiety of knowing there will be press at bay (no idea how I’ll cope with that trigger free) but, I need to be there to get Mental Movement on the map in the area so – nothing will stop me. Not even my skin.

mental movement magazine

Recovery is hard when it comes to Dermatillomania – and to be clear – I’m not skin specialist, dermatologist or esthetician. But I have my lived experience and from the hundreds if not thousands of products I have tried and tested, I wanted to share with you what works for me best in the hope to help you find something that may aid you in your recovery/skin care routine. I hope some of my tips along the way will aid in your healing, reduce your triggers and help you find a good skin care balance you truly deserve.

Clean your make-up brushes 

I either find this wildly therapeutic or just really inconveniently time consuming and boring. It honestly depends what mood I’m in. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a complete must! Your makeup brushes carry excess makeup, oil, dirt, and bacteria off of your contour and foundation and honestly the thought of that alone makes me a bit sick. To clean my brushes, I first wet them thoroughly with water and rub them onto a bar of antibacterial soap (I use Dettol’s antibacterial original soap). Once you’ve gone at it for a hot minute, wash them through with warm water and start adding Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. Wash thoroughly. If you want to be extra like me, add a couple of Tea Tree Oil drops. Rub it through for extra antiseptic benefits and squeeze excess out. Place on a clean dry towel to dry (on top of a warm radiator speeds process up).

Flannel for the Face

Buy a couple of these from IKEA. You can buy a pack of 4 for £1.20. White face cloths are gross to look at once you’ve used them, but this is kind of the point. As soon as you’ve used it – put it out for washing. You’ll need like 14 to ensure you have two fresh ones for each day but this really does help to keep up with a good skin care routine.

Create a First Aid Kit for Skin Picking 

Here’s what you’ll need to make a first aid kit for your emergency skin picking situations.

  • A small, easy to take around pouch or mini makeup bag.
  • Antiseptic wipes or small pack of wet ones/baby wipes.
  • Hand sanitiser. Our hands and nails are never clean no matter how clean you think they are. Avoid infection by using this.
  • A really nice Handcream. It’s harder to pick with Handcream on your hands and the cream will likely mess up your makeup if you are wearing any.
  • Plasters – protect a freshly picked area or wrap around your nails to make it less satisfactory.
  • Nail polish remover wipes. Some people pick if they have chipped nail polish. Remove chipped nail polish to avoid picking at cuticles.
  • Nail clippers and nail files to cut your nails down and make it harder to pick.
  • Snack. Protein bar, breakfast bar, bounce ball (my fav) if you are hungry, you are more likely to pick.
  • Friendly reminder: leave a nice note to yourself telling you to get your nails done. I always have acrylics or gel nails to make it harder to pick. It’s great time for you, self-care and can really help.
  • Bio  oil. Because. This is an absolute dream for soothing skin and helps decrease scars over time.

Pillow Cases

Use fresh pillow cases where you can. When we sleep, the dirt, conditioner or treatments used in our hair seep onto our pillow which then end up rubbing on our face. Nice. You don’t have to do this all the time but be mindful of how long your pillow case hasn’t been washed. At the very least, flip your pillow over to a fresh side and have a couple of spares by your bed for major picking outbreaks.

Dettol for Infection

For freshly picked, often bleeding skin – I run to the bathroom to pour Dettol on a cotton pad and dab it into my skin. It does burn a little and can be a bit uncomfortable but it’s better than getting an infection. Once you’ve done this, dab your face gently and give it a bit of air for 5 minutes. Use a non fragranced cream to soothe after and light an inscence stick to promote calm and good energy for your healing.

Night Skin Regime 

Adopt a new night time skin care routine. Our skin is constantly changing and what might have worked six months ago, might not be working for you now. Always try new products and speak to the people behind Murad or Kiehl’s counters for their advice. My favourite products to treat my skin are Cleanse|Tone, Treat|Repair and Hydrate|Protect by Murad. The cleanse and tone is so soothing. It has a lovely minty cucumber scent which only adds to its refreshing feeling. Double cleansing is so easy with this as it is SO nice but I wouldn’t recommend if you are allergic to fragrance. Murad have an incredible range and are honestly the best so, invest in your skin.

Murad

An alternative and less pricey option is Cetaphil, more reasonably priced at £9.95 from Amazon (reduced from £14.99) – this is a great cleanser. If you are removing make up first, obviously a micellar water is a must but if you’re actively avoiding sulphates then Cetaphil is not for you.
cetaphil

Bio Oil

Honestly, this is dream stuff. I always used to hear people raving about it and never took it seriously, until one day – I tried it. I’ve never looked back. This is the perfect stuff for skin self care. I use it all the time. It helps to heal scars from picked skin on my face and improves the quality of my skin like nothing else. You can put a bit on freshly picked skin, before bed, in the morning or even use it to mix your creme contours like I do. Honestly, this is a number 1 must have for your skin. Although notoriously expensive, you can pick up a small bottle in Primark for around £7 or at your local Savers for under £12 (the bigger bottle). Also available via Amazon, here.

Aveeno Cream

Another favourite of mine, especially for skin hydrating, Aveeno cream with Oatmeal. Sometimes my skin picking completely dries out my face to the point that it’s gagging for moisture. This has that covered. I use this before bed and don’t find it suitable to moisturise with before putting on makeup as it gathers into a weird rubbery film that starts to shed. Yeh. Not pretty. Don’t use this with makeup. Before bed or on your non-makeup days are fine. This is one of the only creams that heals my skin quickly too. If I can hold off picking for two days straight, using this cream – I’m often scab free by the third day. It may be different for you – but its worth a try.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Hydrating Overnight Masque

This is an overnight mask. And it’s incredible. What a way to treat your skin. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it. More than anything, this product is there to remind you that you are worth it. Take the time to love your face and all of its perceived flaws. You are beautiful. Apply the lotion onto your face and leave for 10 minutes. Dab excess away leaving a thin layer. Do not wash off. Sleep with this on your face and in the morning clean it off with your favourite cleanser. Kiel’s products are worth a try, especially if you are looking for dermatologist-recommended skincare.

  • Helps to instantly to boost skin’s ability and hold moisture for long-lasting hydration
  • Formulated with squalane, glycerin, fountain plant and fragmented hyaluronic acid
  • Suitable for all skin types

kiehls

With all of the above, I recognise how costly and stressful it can be trying and testing new products, each time coupled with that overwhelming faith that ‘this will solve everything’. I like to invest in those moments because they really do give me a boost, but I cannot stress this enough, you do not have to spend the earth to care for your skin. I’d love to know about what you use for your skin and I’d like to create a small e-book to help those suffering. If you’d like your tips or helpful pointers included. Please email me with your details and the advice you have to hello@mentalmovement.co.uk with the subject header ‘Skin Picking Advice’. For now, please tag us in your fave skincare products on Instagram @mentalmovementmagazine X

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12 comments
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12 comments

Anonymous August 19, 2018 - 7:01 pm

I’ve been told the easiest way to get rid of a habit is replace it with a new, healthy one. I found that my trigger was being in the car. I started squeezing my daughters play dough and it amazingly prevented me from my old habit. Get the extra large four pack from the toy section. Gloves, long sleeves, clipping my nails, didn’t work, but the play dough not only prevented it but releaved my anxiety too.

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Lisa Smith December 17, 2018 - 7:41 pm

Thank you for this. I’m still doing it but to read that I’m not alone and that someone else thinks and is doing the exact same things as I am is really quite overwheming – in a good way.

It’s exciting to see a list of ways to stop and to help myself and although realistically I know I am still struggling, the potential and the want to stop is definitely there and ticking things off the list of things to help does make me feel like I might have control over this.
In short, thank you. I’d love an update to hear if you’ve managed to reduce or stop the picking. And how!
X

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Mental Movement Magazine
Mental Movement Magazine January 2, 2019 - 10:59 am

Hey Lisa, thank you so much for your comment – I’m sorry to hear you struggle with this awful thing too! Argh. I really wish I could respond with the promise of being completely “cured” donning a glowing, un-picked face, but – even with this journey of skin self-care which I try to apply daily, I am still very much in the wrath of my picking disorder. I have good days and bad, but I am always hopeful and I’m currently seeing the benefits of cleansing and using bio oil, sudacrem and Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Oil (worth every penny to me). I’d gladly write a full update to help delve into these a bit deeper and continue the conversation around skin-picking. Just know that you are not alone and I feel the same level of frustration as you in not being able to stop!! Lots of love to you and Happy New Year!!! Emma X

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Amy January 20, 2019 - 10:49 am

I would also like to say if your a face picker like myself…. PUT YOUR MIRROR AWAY! I use a magnifying small round mirror to apply creams/make up etc but if I’m left alone with a mirror.. god help my face. My new routine after I’ve used the mirror is to simply PUT IT AWAY. That way when I walk into the bedroom, I don’t automatically get sucked into the mirror and spend half the day picking my poor face. It’s works for me

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Haley July 5, 2019 - 10:35 pm

Oh Lawd have Mercy! The tears be flowing. Does anyone else have issues with the mother who always tells you to “Stop picking!”. As if it were an option we wouldn’t try. For Pete’s sake, why, I never thought to just stop! Maybe I wouldn’t feel so terrible about myself all the time! I can’t believe I never thought of that, Mother!
Thank you for your tips. I too love Bio Oil. I find stress is a killer and brings the hands into action. It’s a very frustrating way to live. Gotta keep things chill. Much love to you and all of the fellow strugglers. Haley

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Julia July 26, 2019 - 12:00 am

Not my mother, Haley, my wife. I’m too embarrassed to tell her that along with all my OTHER issues, lol, I secretly pick the sh** out of my face…. And I seem so normal, lol.

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Haley September 2, 2019 - 8:32 pm

My husband once said, “would you like me to slap your hand away?”. I’m sure he had good intentions, but I said, “only if you’d appreciate getting slapped back”. He knows I struggle, and knows how much I hate myself when I do it. God love him, I sure do.
I struggle when I think of the face he fell in love with , before the picking kicked in in all its full force glory, and the face he sees now. All red spotted and inflamed. But hey, he still says I’m beautiful. So, I still have things to be grateful for.
I shared this article with my mother by the way. She hasnt told me to “stop picking” once since.
I thank you. Much love. Haley.

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Julia July 25, 2019 - 11:58 pm

HOLY. COW.

I look like a meth head! Perfect skin, small pores… but dotted tons of scars of varying color and severity. Latest fave since I don’t actually get blemishes? Threading my face. Yup. Then all the ingrown hairs (only visible 8x/10x mirror) are totally pick worthy with the sharpest tweezer I can find. And I beg myself to stop. Literally. Out loud. I’ve spent a couple HOURS a day at times, obsessing. But it’s strangely comforting. But get this: perfect tattooed eyeliner. Dermabladed eyebrows. Regular botox. Filler every 2 years. A new found love (at 54) for fine makeup and lash extensions. AND I STILL DESTROY MY FACE.

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Haley September 2, 2019 - 8:37 pm

I hate the hairs. The little blonde hairs drive me insane. And God forbid I find a dark one. I dig and dig at that until it stops coming back. The scars…..all over my chest and face. Ugh. I have them other places too. It’s awful. I too tell myself to stop…out loud. “Get away from the mirror, Haley”. My skin will ache. Just ACHE! But I keep doing it!

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Anonymous September 19, 2019 - 4:18 pm

I was just diagnosed today, I felt like and absolute mental lepper until I read this, thank you x . La Roche posay cicaplast is a life saver.

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Ellie September 28, 2019 - 1:10 am

I suffered from this pretty badly in my teens and up until my mid-twenties. I think what kept me doing it was that I was really good at hiding it, even if it sometimes caused people to ask why I was wearing pants on a hot day. I’d cake on the make up and I think people just figured I didn’t know how to do it or I was ‘experimenting’ because I was younger. Also, my mom does this so I think I always had it in my head that it was, on some level, okay.

I used to blame it on my stress, but after graduating from university, I realized how much it was holding me back still! I made it a point to identify my triggers and even though my stress and anxiety and perfectionism were key, what finally helped me cut down majorly on my picking was getting rid of all the mirrors in my home that allowed me to get a super close up of my face. It did wonders!

Now, I’m 30 and I wish I could say I was done with this but it still creeps up on me from time to time. However, it’s typically a small spot on my face that I pick on (pun intended) and not all over or on my legs, like I used to.

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Shari October 14, 2019 - 7:11 pm

UGH but the problem with me is not seeing it, whether there’s a mirror or not, It’s feeling it 🙁 I can feel it and I want to pick it because of how it feels. I have one that’s a problem right now, its just below my lip. So I can’t put a bandaid on it to stop picking it and cover up doesn’t do anything. Then it looks black and i say its fine, it looks gross, but dont pick it, then it will bleed, then its so dry that i barely touch it and the scab is halfway off, so i have to get it all off or that’s weird. and then its over and over and i think itll never heal 🙁 It’s so frustrating, I dont even want to go out because its in the worst spot and i can’t do anything to hide it and I wont let it heal. Well Obviously I have to go to work…so thats great.

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