I spent the last 30 days trying to stop picking at my skin. The emphasis is on trying because making progress is usually not straightforward. Throughout those 30 days, I had many ups and downs and I‘m ready to tell you all about them.
The rules I’ve set for myself are very simple.
- No skin picking for 30 days.
- Less time looking in the mirror.
Maybe you‘re here for the first time. Hi, skin picking has been my biggest problem. It‘s the reason I have had acne for so long, and because of it, I ended up getting hyperpigmentation, scars and overall textured skin.
Skin picking has been a part of my life from the first day I developed acne. It was something natural for me to do. And I even remember seeing my father extract his blackheads in front of the mirror when I was younger. I knew I wasn’t supposed to pick my acne but there were things on my face that I didn’t like, I had to do something about it.
Slowly that became a habit and a coping mechanism for me to release stress.
I want to mention that skin picking and acne are not interchangeable and you can pick at anything like scabs, scars, freckles, bruises.
I am just telling my story as it is but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people without acne who skin pick.
Looking at old photos is honestly too difficult because I think „Wow my skin was almost perfect, yeah there were a few pimples here and there but it didn’t look that bad. Why did I feel that way?” And back then I thought I was the ugliest, my skin was the worst and I kept picking without even wanting to stop.
To do the experiment right I‘ve set some rules for myself as always. The first thing I‘m going to do is limit my mirror use. I can look in the mirror only when I do my AM and PM skincare routine.
You know that I avoid mirrors and I don’t feel comfortable looking at myself but I have a small pocket mirror that is the only mirror I feel fine looking at. It’s mostly for damage and damage control.
The reason I want to avoid it is that I get obsessed with whatever I see that I don’t like, which triggers my skin picking and I end up touching my skin. Overall, it doesn’t help my healing process.
I know I can survive even if I don‘t look at my skin but I don’t know why I still want to check. Can you imagine if our survival depended on checking ourselves in the mirror and we had to do it every 30 minutes or else? It would be so funny seeing people frantically trying to find a mirror because their time is up.
Even though the rules look simple – no skin picking and limiting my mirror time, for people with OCD and dermatillomania these things are hard. It’s not like I want to do it. I just can’t stop.
I want to share how this experiment went for all of you who have the same struggle and have given hope that you can get better. And as I’ve said, in the beginning, this path is not straightforward but you try, you fail, and eventually, you learn and improve.
Day 1 -3
The first two days were easy. I felt motivated and even though I wanted to pick, I didn’t do it. On the third day, however, I picked so I‘m starting again. Skin picking is something that I‘ve been doing for years and I know how great of an impact it will have on my skin and confidence once I stop. It‘s so weird. I know what I‘m doing to myself, how wrong and bad it is but my brain constantly tells me that this is what I need to do, and when I pick I feel such a relief. Like I actually accomplished something important. Yeah, I got another scar for free…
I didn’t look at myself, I hid my mirror really well. It would take me a few minutes to find it and that reduces my desire to pick because even though I can touch my skin and get an idea of what it looks like I cannot see what‘s going on. This morning I tried to pick and I was so close to doing it but I said no, and went on a walk with my dog.
Day 2 -5
I still don’t know what to do with my hands, they keep trying to move on their own. I feel like I’m in a trance and the only thought on the loop is picking. And I did it. I‘m sorry guys.
Tomorrow I‘ll try again. That‘s how it goes. You keep trying until you feel strong enough to actually commit to it. That’s how I think skin picking works. I have some impulses in my brain that send me signals to pick because that gives me an emotional release similar to nicotine. It’s not the first time I’ve tried to stop, but I know that at some point it’ll be the last.
Tomorrow I’m starting on day one again. I don’t know if I’m ever going to finish this post. For many of you, this feels familiar. You try to stop, you give empty promises to yourself and never commit. During the years I found a lot of tools to stop skin picking but everything was a temporary solution like putting on a face mask.
Okay, it works for a few minutes but what happens when I take off the mask? The most ridiculous thing I tried was wearing winter gloves at home, but you can’t live with gloves in the summer like an idiot because you can’t control yourself.
That’s when I realized. It is not the technique but your determination and belief. That’s why I won’t give up trying. If I give up and I never stop picking how am I going to look when I’m eighty?
I’m gonna be the only grandma who still has active acne. Not to mention all the scars and pigmentation. I don’t want that life. For now, the only thing that works for me is hiding my mirror. Especially when I get the impulse to pick and I know my mirror is out of reach but I’m too lazy to get up and grab it.
It’s been 7 days since I updated you and I have to admit something. I never stopped picking but what I have stopped is blaming and hating myself when I do it. And my picking has reduced greatly. In the past, any of my sessions could go on for 30 minutes to an hour and leave my whole face red, now I restrain myself and pick once or twice. I apologize to anyone who came here wanting to read a success story where I stop picking and never do it again. It doesn’t work like that.
That doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop trying and neither should you. I consider these 7 days a success. If you can control yourself and pick once or twice, and in the past, you picked 10 scabs or pimples, that is huge progress and you should be proud.
If you want, check out my self-love experiment. Although I don’t look in the mirror, when I do it during these 5 minutes I have only positive thoughts and it helps me feel comfortable in my skin. Just the way it is.
It’s been 10 days. I still get the desire to pick and right now there is one pimple that really bothers me. It’s big, painful, and angry. I’m not gonna do it. I’m going to let it live. For now.
It was a good day. I didn’t touch my skin, I didn’t pick and haven’t even thought about my face. That makes me feel wonderful and it’s the reason I decided to keep everything as it is. During those 11 days, I gathered strength, and now I have faith that this is something I can do. I am in the driver’s seat. Not my compulsion.
Please don’t punish yourself if you pick. I’ve done it, I get angry at myself and ruin my day. Treat yourself well even in similar situations. It happened and you shouldn’t blame yourself for being weak and not being able to control your compulsion. It’s far from easy to stop but being nice makes it so much better.
For me, I knew it was time to stop picking when I found myself losing control and it felt like I no longer had a mind of my own, I was a slave to my compulsion. And I didn’t want to make any more excuses, I didn’t want to lie to my friends why I preferred to go home and not stay over, why I don’t like pools or beaches, and why I wasn’t comfortable without wearing makeup.
Day 12 – 20
It‘s been 20 days since I started this diet called „hands away from my face“. My skin feels smoother and I’m working hard to build my self-love and confidence. Skin picking is against everything I believe in and as much as I would want to say that I fully love myself, that’s not true and it’s better to be honest so you can improve that to lie and live in delusion.
Not looking in the mirror is, for now, the biggest help because I forget how bad my skin looks and that there was anything “ugly” in the first place. When I see myself I get reminded again.
However, it doesn’t stop my hands from touching. I can do it without a mirror just fine. I’m still in the process of learning and it’s a 24/7 struggle to stop picking but I’m getting better.
During this time I started doing face yoga and face massage. It changed how I interact with my skin and for once I was taking care of it. And as funny as it sounds I never imagined that there are people who touch their skin positively because I was so into my habit that touching meant hurting myself.
Face massages taught me that there were a lot of different ways to touch and you can do it lovingly which I never realized. I truly recommend doing face yoga and massages. There are a lot of youtube videos to get you started.
Removing a negative habit is easier when it’s replaced with a positive one. So instead of trying to stop picking at your face all together which is borderline impossible when you’ve done it for years do something to take care of your skin.
And in return, you will get clear, hydrated skin, remove wrinkles, and improve your facial structure. And when I do face yoga I establish the fact that my previous actions weren’t nice and my slow brain is like Aaah I get it.
Facial massage > skin picking. Okay got the memo.
Yesterday I picked at a few whiteheads. I knew that today I’m going to wake up with new ones because of my actions but I didn’t react negatively. I don’t hate myself and I’m happy with my progress.
One step backward doesn’t undo all the steps forward. If you decide to start the challenge and something like that happens to you, know that it’s fine. Don’t blame yourself but be grateful that you’ve come so far. With this, I want to show you that the road to clear a compulsion is not always straight forward. Sometimes you get lost, you can’t find your path but in the end, you always end up on the right track.
I still pick at my skin, not every day, and not all the time but I truly feel better and completely realize my actions. I know that there is a way out which I didn’t know before starting this challenge.
Now I feel stronger that with the right tools and the right mindset I can do it even if it takes time. I’m learning how to treat myself with respect. Now I have developed healthy habits that help me manage my compulsion. Skin picking was always a way for me to get the negative emotions out. Instead of saying what I was feeling wrong and finding a healthy way to let my anger and frustrations, I turned to pick. Because I felt like it’s something that I can control.
Picking at a scab or a pimple, it felt like the physical removal solved my troubles even just for a moment. But after I was done I always sobered up quickly and saw the true reality. I know that I didn’t accomplish anything and instead of feeling good, I felt bad. But I still wanted to do it again because it was soothing and it was the only way I know. I was getting something in return; if I didn’t get it I wouldn’t do it.
So I learned to look for that feeling in other actions. Meditation, for example, calms me down and helps me realize how small my problems really are. Try it for yourself. When you decide to stop a negative habit, find a way to replace it. There are many other useful ways to express negative emotions.
I’m going to do a proper post about how I’m doing right now because it’s been three months since I wrote this and I’m doing so much better, it’s amazing.
I mention here that I’ve discovered facial massages and I have to say that this truly saved my skin. It’s really hard to remove a habit but it’s way easier to replace one. And what I’ve done is I’ve replaced my skin picking with face massage. I personally use gua sha tools and rollers. There are lots of videos on Youtube if you’re interested.
Facial massages improve blood circulation, encourage lymphatic drainage and I’ve found that they help with acne as well. Ever since I began doing gua sha my skin looks so much healthier and I feel stunned at how easy it actually was to replace my skin picking with something positive like a facial massage.
For all of you wonderful souls who are just starting this journey. Don’t give up. It took me a while, like a decade but I got there eventually.
If you don’t know where to start read this post first, or message me. I would love to send some encouraging words down your way. And always remember you’re not alone.
There are so many people out there who have the same struggles. It’s hard but what I know from experience is that it’s not impossible. Comment down below if you liked this experiment and want to read more. Have a nice day and we’ll talk soon.